Park & Ride lots are plentiful around the Light Rail, but many offer only weekday parking because its being borrowed during that time. We parked at Crowfoot, since we drove in from the West. Upon arrival we were greeted by a TVM That only takes change. Now since we didn't have $16.50 in change, we had to walk to a nearby 7-11 to get Day Passes. Once on our way, the ride was quick, its only about 20 min to Downtown from the beginning of the line. The trains top out at about 52 mph, and appeared to be partially automated. That is where the train has its own right of way, it drove itself. It was controlled by the driver on surface streets like Downtown. Light Rail has NO Priority Downtown. As a matter of fact, it has no signals downtown either. It follows the regular traffic signal cars and peds do. In Downtown, the Trains and buses share the same travel lane, but again, no signals. It was not uncommon to see a bus pass by you while you wait for a train, and a train pull in right behind it. Then as a train leaves the station, a Bus is following it right out. This method didn't seem to cause too many back ups with trains or buses, but once in a while a train gets stuck at a light. All trains were 3 cars long and packed at rush hour, with trains 2-3 min apart. No autos are allowed on 7th Ave.
Once out of the city, the McKnight Line travels in the center of a main arterial. The ROW had cement barriers on both sides lining the tracks. Intersections had crossing arms, allowing the train to go faster than 35 mph in the middle of a roadway. All the stations have raised platforms, which are not level with the trains high floor entries. Wheelchairs still must deploy a ramp to board (similar to TriMet). Many stations had enclosed waiting areas with heaters, for Albertas cold winters. Much like TriMets (newer) MAX Stations and Sound Transits Link, there are no schedules posted at Light Rail Stations, only posters with Headways, and first/last trains of the day. The trains were partly comfortable. The older cars have no A/C, and those can get stuffy, even with the windows open. All trains had automated announcements, tho the announcements on the older cars are very hard to hear, and have no readerboards.
I only had time to ride one bus line, I picked the BRT 305. I wanted to see how it compares to our own RapidRide Line. It doesn't. They use 60' LFRs on the route, but they are in the standard Calgary Transit Livery. The seats are far from comfortable. Theres no automated stop announcements, not even next stop displays (except for the "Next Stop" Stop Requested Sign). Hardly any of the buses destination signs show their destination. Their BRT line is more like Express Service on lets say like the 18 here. There are no BRT "Stations", or glorified stops. So I guess BRT means something different in each city. But RapidRide looks pretty good compared to their BRT.
Finally I took photos of buses too, when I had the chance. MCI Classics, NF D40LFs, and D40LFRs were to be found in service everywhere. It didn't appear any buses have A/C. Most of the buses use the same seats as the D60LFRs, the older buses appeared to use the same seats as the light rail trains.
Fares are $2.75 for 2 hours, 8.25 for a day pass. The track on 7th Ave Downtown is a "Free Fare Zone". It does not apply to buses. Monthly $90. Books of tickets can be purchased for $24 for 10 tickets (providing a pre-purchased savings). Youth Passes are $54 and are not valid during Summer Break.
The Light Rail is honor based as well, and we had our fare checked once each day (once appears in the video above). Much to the complaints of Transit Sleuth about Metro, you really need to plan ahead to use the Calgary system, with buses destination signs reading only "Route 96" and nothing else, you couldn't just hop a bus to anywhere. I do think they have a text based arrival system, but its scheduled times. After riding Calgary Transit, a lot of the complaints i hear on the twitterverse and blogasphere about Transit here at home seem.....blah!
Be sure to check out my Flickr set of Calgary photos, and YouTube videos. I will still be adding videos over time since those take much longer to upload.