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Leading the Way Youth Summit

Leading the Way Youth Summit

For those with a love for transit and sustainability there’s a wonderful event happening in Calgary between May 10-12, 2013. The Leading the Way Youth Summit is put on by the Prairies and Territories Chapter and the BC Committee of the Canadian Urban Transit Association and hosted locally by Calgary Transit. TransLink put on a version of this summit in 2011 and it was a fantastic experience. Here’s a link to some of the past posts we’ve written about the summits.

Youth who attend this year’s event will have the opportunity to learn, share ideas, network, and explore career paths with like-minded peers and professionals in transit and related industries. Inspiring speakers, sessions on best practices in transit and sustainable transportation, a career fair and social activities are just some of the fantastic events to enjoy during the weekend.

If you’re interested in becoming a delegate, the application deadline is Friday, March 1, 2013. To find out more or to apply go to If you have any questions, please feel free to email the people in charge of the summit directly.

Speaking of the people in charge of the summit, I asked the main person in charge, David Cooper, a Senior Transit Planner with the Calgary Transit, a few questions about the summit and himself:

Calgary’s Transit realities are different than they are in Metro Vancouver. Tell me what delegates in this year’s summit will learn from visiting Calgary?

Calgary is a fascinating place to learn about how the importance of walking, cycling and public transit on how it helps shape cities. The City has invested significant capital in various projects throughout the city that enhance sustainable transportation. This would include the new 11 km of track and nine stations on our Light Rail Transit system that we opened last year. This includes the new West LRT Line, our first new LRT line in 25 years.

Our team at Calgary Transit is finalizing our new 30 year capital and operating plan “RouteAhead”, which outlines our transit system’s strategy on future rapid transit projects and how we provide transit service to Calgarians every day. For more information, check out the RouteAhead website.

Calgary Transit is moving forward on piloting Compressed Natural Gas buses, investing in various transit technologies to enhance the customer experience such as real time arrival screens at all of LRT stations as well as four car platform and station reconstruction projects.

In terms of active modes, The City has invested in enhancing pedestrian and cycling infrastructure with projects such as the recently completed Peace Bridge and the upcoming construction of cycle tracks in our Downtown.

Some of our realities are the same of those in the Metro Vancouver. Citizens in both Metro Vancouver and in Calgary have an increasing appetite for more transit service to move about their daily lives. Both Metro Vancouver and Calgary are rapidly growing where both transit systems need to continuously provide a safe, clean and reliable service that meet needs of community while containing costs.

What are the most important questions to ask yourself when thinking about applying to become a delegate?

For this year’s Youth Summit, we are looking for 65 engaged youth who want to make positive contributions in their communities through the promotion of walking, cycling and public transit. If you have aspirations of launching a sustainable transportation project in your community or if you have career aspirations of working in the transit industry, this summit is for you.

A key part of the application is your action plan on sustainable transportation where we ask you for your “big idea” on sustainable transportation and how you would implement it?

One of the big ideas we received at the last youth summit in Edmonton was the concept of developing a public engagement bus to travel throughout the community to have a dialogue on public transit. As a part of the RouteAhead project, we did just that where Calgary Transit turned a conventional transit bus into an engagement bus where we asked Calgarians for their big ideas for public transit in Calgary.

David, why did you get into working for transit?

Strangely, I have wanted to be a Transit Planner since the age of five. I have always been fascinated about how cities are planned, how public transit systems work as well as the land use planning and transportation relationship. I think it is safe to say that there are transit roots in my family history.

My grandfather was a Transit Operator for BC Hydro Transit/BC Transit (now TransLink) where he drove buses out of the former Oakridge Garage in Vancouver and Sperling Garage in Burnaby. While my dad was at school in SFU, he installed ads on buses at Oakridge Garage, so I think it is safe to say that I am a third generation transit worker.

My first experience in the transit industry was actually being a youth delegate at the first Canadian Urban Transit Association Youth Summit in Ottawa back in 2002 when I was 17. At the youth summit, I learned about transit friendly urban design, working with stakeholders and how to launch a project in the community.

Attending the conference reaffirmed my life goals of wanting to become a transit planner. Shortly after I pursed and completed a degree in Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University in Toronto. I have been working in the transit industry for the past seven years in various capacities and I love it.

Now that you work for transit, is it different than how you envisioned it?

Prior to working in the transit industry, I thought being a transit planner was mostly drawing lines on a map and talking about them. My first job in the industry was as a summer student in the transit planning division at Calgary Transit in 2006. Prior to joining Calgary Transit I had read all of the plans, memorized the bus routes and I had a pretty general knowledge of the system.

I was in for a surprise when I began working for Calgary Transit. I don’t actually spend a lot of time drawing lines on a map. Most of my time is spent on collaborating with my colleagues, community partners and citizens on numerous transit planning projects.

We carry hundreds of thousands of people on Calgary Transit everyday and we need to make sure the services that we are planning meet the needs of our customers and the community at large. As a service provider, I am responsible for implementing the projects I plan including communicating with our transit operators on the specifics of a service and the general public on how to use the service.

What motivates you every day to go to work?

The most rewarding part of my job is that I get to be a part of the lives of the hundreds of thousands of people everyday. Public transit is a vital part of the community where we take our customers to work, school, social engagements, medical appointments and many other destinations. Great cities rely on a great public transit system and being an integral part of that piece of running a city is really exciting.

There you have it. Those interested in being part of the summit have a few weeks to get their applications in. From my experience with past CUTA youth summits and from talking to prior delegates, it’s truly a unique, exciting and engaging experience that you won’t get anywhere else. Good luck!


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