#CUTAyyc – Innovating across generations

McCartney Lee

Last week, CUTA travelled to Calgary to host its Annual Conference and Transit Show, connecting hundreds of professionals dedicated to transit and integrated urban mobility. Between the Young Leaders Summit, technical tours, UITP International Rail Forum, Data Blitz, Canadian Transit Show, Leadership Awards ceremony, CEOs Unplugged and Safety & Security Roundtable; there was something for everyone. The turnout in Calgary was astounding. Over 800 transit aficionados made the journey to attend one of our events.

Read on for some of the highlights:

For the first time since 2013, CUTA brought together young people from across Canada who share a passion for transit. At this year’s Young Leaders Summit, a total of 60 delegates took part in technical tours, engaging sessions and an action-plan competition.

The responses from our Young Leaders have been remarkable. Kayla Bruce, one of the 60 attendees, sent us this passionate letter:

“As I sit here on the Red Arrow bus back to Edmonton, I feel full of excitement reflecting on the few short days at the 2019 Young Leaders Summit. It was exactly as the alumni described it - unforgettable!

I learnt an amazing amount from the sessions, keynote speakers, action plan projects, tours, and most of all, the people. Each conversation had was full of excitement, progressive ideas, or hope for the future of creating sustainable communities and it was so very refreshing.

As a young professional I truly appreciate being given the opportunity to connect with existing and emerging leaders of change - it is your mentorship that helps us to develop and grow. Thank you again for everything!”

Responses like Kayla’s are why it is so important to host this summit; to inspire a new generation leaders, users and advocates for transit towards a more sustainable future. The 2019 delegates are the transit leaders of tomorrow, and we are looking forwards to seeing the innovative things they do to shape our industry.

Another new addition to our Calgary program was the first-ever Data Blitz.

CUTA is the Centre of Excellence on transit and integrated urban mobility in Canada and is innovating in the data storytelling space by making data and research more dynamic. In this spirit, CUTA hosted its first-ever Data Blitz to inspire the transit industry on how General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) data can be leveraged to advocate for public transit in Canada.

The data our teams were given reflected the before and after of an ambitious transit network redesign undertaken by Calgary Transit in 2018. Blitzers were asked to look at the given data and challenge conventional wisdom on how they would evaluate the efficacy of this network redesign.

The TTC and WSP used data to show us the new locations that you can reach in under 15 minutes. The areas highlighted in purple are newly accessible within that 15-minute window.

ARUP was able to use data to summarize transit attractiveness by measuring the generalized cost of transit compared to that of automobiles. Along the Calgary BRT corridor, transit is the main option for riders thanks to the relatively low variability in transit travel times. Clearly data is being used to change the way we think about our transit networks.

We brought in speakers from across Canada who have innovated in their systems to improve customer experience, to enhance accessibility, and to help fight for increased modal share for transit. We also presented a global perspective by joining forces with UITP on the International Rail Forum for North America.

The CUTA-UITP rail program began with a deep dive into the design and planning of major light rail projects in Canada and the U.S. From our nation’s capital to Hollywood, transit systems are rolling out exciting new LRT services to meet increasing demands and changing user expectations.

Pat Borelli from the TTC touched on the King Street pilot. The goal of the program was to move people more efficiently and support economic prosperity through transit access. Prior to the pilot, customer satisfaction was low. It is now permanent and has boosted ridership along the King Street corridor by 16 percent.

As custodians of our cities’ breathable air, transit systems are continuing to move towards fleet electrification and greener technologies to combat climate change.

In the discussions on ‘It’s Electrifyin’, we heard about the real-life experience of operators that are making the transition to green fleets. Buying an electric bus is the easy part! The real challenge starts with having upgraded power infrastructure by engaging local utilities at the start of the process. Pierre Zivec from Transdev told us:

“it’s not about switching from combustible engines to electric ones. It’s about how-to re-design your networks and services.”

Our 2019 Canadian Transit Show was bigger than ever. As Canada's largest transit and bus exhibition, visitors enjoyed getting to know over 125 global suppliers and the products and services that they offer. We welcomed over a thousand visitors to the show!

This year, on the show floor, we presented the Rail Theatre in collaboration with UITP. This was an amazing opportunity to see how innovation is being generated in the rail industry from systems, manufacturers and the consulting community.

We were glad to welcome Minister Ric McIver to help us cut the ribbon and open the show. From both the Minister and Mayor Nenshi, we heard about the importance of transit in our communities and the need for governments to cooperate so that we can build big transit, today.

On Wednesday morning, we hosted the 2019 CUTA Individual and Corporate Leadership Awards ceremony. CUTA was able to recognize and celebrate those who make our industry successful – in the words of Mayor Nenshi, people who have gone about their daily work delivering high quality transit services and products, and the leaders who have had the vision, tenacity, and courage to make public transit work in our cities and towns.

This was a great year for the CUTA awards. We received almost 60 nominations for organizations and individuals across the country – the most we have ever received. Close to 300 people attended our ceremony, which culminated in the selection of 24 fantastic and deserving winners; it was a privilege to honour them in Calgary.


As we neared the end of our Annual Conference, the CUTA team was able to share some exciting news with our delegates about Canadian ridership.

Our research shows that transit ridership across Canada was up 2.4 percent in 2018 after several years of plateauing. That 2.4 per cent translates to a pretty significant 50 million more linked trips than in 2017.

“Increasing ridership, though welcome, puts a strain on transit systems and the mobility services they provide daily to Canadians. Investments are urgently needed to meet higher demands on our transit networks and respond to changing user expectations.”  - Marco D’Angelo, CUTA President & CEO

Overall, CUTA is optimistic about transit as we enter the 2020s. There is no shortage of talent, ideas and creativity in our industry. It will be exciting to see what transit is going to look like for the next generation, and innovation is certainly going to be at the forefront.

Our 2019 Annual Conference may be ending, but we are hard at work planning our events for 2020. We will be hosting a spring event in Ottawa et de plus, notre congrès annuel 2020 à Québec. Stay tuned for more information!


McCartney Lee

Coordinator, Communications and Grants
(416) 365-9800 ext. 127 

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