WINNIPEG – Winnipeg’s public transit system must better meet the needs of passengers today while also preparing for the transportation requirements of a city growing toward a population of one million people strong Mayor Brian Bowman announced today.
“Winnipeg is a growing city with a growing population and economy,” said Mayor Brian Bowman. “As a growing city, we’ve got to ensure we keep people and products moving, and an efficient, well-functioning and safe transit service is a key component to supporting our population growth now and into the future.”
The Mayor said Winnipeg’s population exceeded 750,000 this year, representing 52,000 more people living in Winnipeg than there were four years ago, and said the city’s population is projected to continue growing steadily and strongly over the next twenty-five years.
“We can’t afford to ignore growth projections of this magnitude,” said Mayor Bowman. “And we can’t let our city move backwards into a cyclical debate about whether and what type of rapid transit system the city needs. We need to improve the level and quality of the service today while building and investing in a transit system that can support a population we know is on a steady and strong growth trajectory well into the future.”
This summer, Council approved the consolidation of two key studies and directed the transit department to undertake a comprehensive review and assessment of its existing service network to define ongoing service needs, identify future goals for service, and to maximize efficient use of existing and future resources including the potential to introduce high-frequency networks as well as electric buses within transit’s current mix of regular and rapid transit routes.
Mayor Bowman said this review is critical because Winnipeg’s public transit service can no longer ignore the fact it is operating within a new fiscal environment marked by provincial funding reductions, declining ridership, declining reliability, and increased competition resulting from the introduction of ride-sharing services such as TappCar.
“This is why I continue to support a critical and strategic review of transit’s operations to ensure it can be best positioned for success in the future,” said Mayor Bowman. “But as we undertake this review, it’s also important that we look at ways to improve existing service quality and the passenger experience on a daily basis.”
Mayor Bowman committed to the following initiatives to help improve daily service quality, accessibility, and the passenger experience for transit passengers:
- The introduction of a low-income bus pass – to help offset the cost of accessing transit for low-income residents;
- The installation of new, heated bus shelters – to lessen exposure to the winter cold, spring rain, and summer sun while passengers wait for their bus; and
- The implementation of a bus stop accessibility program – to update bus stops across the city to better meet accessibility standards.
Mayor Bowman said he would reallocate $4.1 million that is currently allocated in the 2019 capital budget for the refurbishment and upgrading of bus garages toward the installation of up to 55 additional heated bus shelters over the next four years on high-frequency routes. This contribution could then leverage additional funding from the Government of Canada and the Province of Manitoba under the new Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.
“I think it’s important we find ways to keep more transit passengers warm and dry while waiting for their bus rather than keeping our buses warm and dry while parked overnight,” said Mayor Bowman. “By delaying refurbishments and upgrades to bus garages by one year, and reallocating this funding to bus shelters for passengers we can significantly improve the experience for passengers.”
The bus stop accessibility program is already included in the 2018 capital budget. Beginning in 2019, it proposes to invest $500,000 each year over four years to update bus stops in order to meet accessibility standards, including the installation of powered doors and paved access at heated shelters to allow better access for wheelchairs, and to examine better ways to provide information at major stops for visually impaired passengers.
“An inaccessible public transit service will always be an underperforming transit service,” said Mayor Bowman. “The City of Winnipeg has won awards recognizing its efforts in improving accessibility of its various services, and we need to extend this effort to transit.”
The Mayor said these commitments build on significant investments already being implemented in the 2018 budget. These include an investment of $28.4 million to purchase 40 new transit buses to modernize and renew the bus fleet, and $1.2 million for additional bus fleet cameras, shelters for bus inspectors, and additional transit security and point duty inspectors. These investments fulfilled the implementation of the transit safety recommendations approved by Council in 2017 following the tragic death of bus operator Irvine Jubal Fraser.
Mayor Bowman reiterated his commitment to begin electrifying the city’s bus fleet while emphasizing the importance of a phased-in, cautious approach to its implementation as recommended by a joint task force that included city, provincial, and industry experts.
“Unlike other candidates proposing to electrify the bus fleet at any cost to taxpayers and at any cost to the city’s credit rating with an unfunded half a billion dollar commitment, I am proposing to take careful, calculated, and phased-in approach as recommended by a taskforce of industry experts.”