Driving on busy roads in Calgary — or anywhere else in the Alberta province — can be challenging if someone is not prepared for the traffic or doesn't know the major highways in the area and where they go. Ultimately, getting around effectively in Calgary requires a bit of advanced knowledge. The following information provides what people should know about Calgary's most-used roads, what people should expect when they're stuck in rush-hour traffic, and how they should handle inclement weather when they first move to Calgary.
Get to Know Calgary's Major Roads
Learning how to get around in Calgary isn't difficult, but it's important for drivers to know the major roads and where they lead.
North to South
There are four major roads that travel North to South in Calgary:
- Highway 2: Passes Calgary International Airport and the Calgary Zoo
- Macleod Trail SE: Main thoroughfare in Southwest Calgary neighbourhoods
- Crowchild Trail SW: Passes the University of Calgary as it heads Northwest and intersects with Highway 201
- Highway 201: Runs Northwest to Northeast until it intersects with Highway 1A and heads South through Scenic Acres to the Bowness Park area
East to West
There are three main roads in Calgary that travel East to West:
- Highway 201: Runs through the residential neighbourhoods in North Calgary until it intersects with Highway 2 at Calgary International Airport and heads South at Cornerstone. The road again heads East to West as it corners around the Copperfield area
- Alberta Highway 1: Passes Shouldice Athletic Park and Prince's Island Park
- Highway 8: Passes Heritage Park Historical Village and the Glenmore Reservoir
Other notable roads in Calgary include Memorial Drive, which runs East to West from the Calgary Zoo to downtown Calgary.
What to Expect During Calgary's Rush Hour
Like most cities in Alberta and the rest of Canada, Calgary is subject to rush-hour traffic. Knowing what to expect when travelling on Calgary's major roads and highways during rush hour can help drivers prepare for a smoother trip and potentially avoid some traffic. Morning rush-hour traffic in Calgary is typically between 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Evening rush-hour traffic is generally between 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
According to the National Household Survey, the average commute in Calgary is 27 minutes. This isn't the longest commute time in Canada, but it's also not the shortest. Canadians living in Saguenay enjoy the shortest average commute time at just 16.9 minutes.
Where is Rush Hour Traffic the Worst?
Any of Calgary's major roads can get congested during rush hour. However, the roads most affected by rush hour traffic include Deerfoot Trail, Crowchild Trail, and Stoney Trail. The city of Calgary, as well as Alberta Province, are currently working on plans to widen these roads or make improvements to interchanges to reduce rush-hour traffic.
Parking in Calgary
Part of driving efficiently in Calgary is people knowing the best places to park once they've arrived at their destination. Calgary boasts a number of parking garages and has some free parking available during certain hours.
When driving in the downtown Calgary area, street parking is offered for free by the Calgary Parking Authority after 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and all day on Sundays and holidays. For those who must pay for parking, the easiest way to do so is by calling the Calgary Parking Authority or using the Text to Park feature. They can also download the MyParking app to their mobile phone to make finding and paying for parking as easy as possible.
Commonly used parking garages include:
- CPA Lot 25 City Centre Parkade at 340 10 Ave SW
- CPA Lot 40 Parkade at 112 5 Ave SW
- Impark (The Bow Parkade) at 255 6 Ave SW
- CPA Lot 36 City Hall Parkade at 322 9 Ave SE
The Calgary Parking Authority is located at 400 39 Ave SE, which is where vehicles are taken when they are towed for parking violations. All towing and impound fees, which are around $40 a day, are due before someone can obtain their vehicle.
Other Helpful Things to Know About Driving in Calgary
Like all highways and roads in Canada, those in Calgary are subject to impact by rain, snow, sleet, and ice. How people approach driving in Calgary changes when they encounter inclement weather, so it's critical they have a plan when unpredictable weather hits.
Some additional tips for driving in Calgary include:
- Avoid driving when you know a storm is predicted for your area. While light rain is likely nothing to worry about, heavy rain can easily cause vehicles to hydroplane.
- Ensure your vehicle is equipped with good tires that perform well in various types of weather.
- Reduce your speed when driving conditions are less than ideal.
- Plan your route and what roads to take ahead of time so you do not have to rely on your GPS signal during a storm.
- Keep your headlights on so other motorists have an easier time seeing your vehicle.
- Watch for snow ploughs and trucks that salt the roads prior to inclement weather. Don't go around them unless the traffic conditions permit and until they've signalled it is okay to do so.
- Cancel any trips that aren't absolutely necessary when snow, ice, or hail is predicted for your area.
- Be aware of black ice, which may be difficult to see, especially at night.
If possible, people should avoid driving in inclement weather. If they're driving during a weather change and have very little visibility or control over their vehicle, drivers should pull over at the nearest stop or even on the side of the road until the storm has passed.
Plan Your Drive in Calgary
Once people become accustomed to driving in Calgary, getting around the city can be simple. Whether they live and work in the heart of Calgary in a downtown condo or are just staying for the weekend, people will begin to understand when to plan their trips, which roads to take in order to avoid rush-hour traffic, and how to handle their vehicle if they end up getting stuck in bad weather. Visitors and Calgary residents can benefit from studying a Calgary road map to gain a better understanding of how to get to various places within the city as quickly, efficiently, and safely as possible from their new Calgary home.