Critics want existing Winnipeg Transit to improve before any consideration of expansion

A Winnipeg architect says it doesn’t make much sense for the city to consider expanding transit outside the perimeter.

As the city examines the feasibility of connecting to bedroom communities, Brent Bellamy, creative director and architect at Number TEN, told 680 CJOB the existing transit system needs to get better before any expansion is considered.

The city is studying the viability of extending public transit service into regional communities like Selkirk and Headingley or building new park-and-ride stations near city limits for drivers from outside of the city.

It’s part of a larger review of how people commute between Winnipeg and neighbouring municipalities.

READ MORE: Winnipeg to study extending transit, building park-and-rides for suburban commuters

Bellamy, however, said a smarter option for the city would be to improve service within the city, especially on routes that see big delays.

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“Just comparing a place like Sage Creek — five per cent of people go to work on the bus, where in St. Boniface, it’s 21-22 per cent,” said Bellamy.

“I would expect that as we move even beyond the perimeter, those numbers are going to drop even more.”

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Bellamy said there’s currently a record number of “pass-bys” — situations where buses are so full they don’t even stop — as well as half of all rush-hour buses arriving late to stops, so much more needs to be done to fix transit within city limits.

“Winnipeg is actually the only city in Canada where transit ridership is lower than it was in the 1990s. Most cities are growing their transit investment exponentially, and we’re actually cutting funding to Winnipeg Transit.”

The potential cuts being looked at by city staff are “draconian”, he said, so creating new markets is not a step in the right direction.

“We’re talking about what are the least-impact cuts we can make instead of what are the best opportunities for growing our transit system, and you know, that’s impacting services.”

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Brent Bellamy
Brent Bellamy Twitter / @brent_bellamy

Derek Koop of citizens’ group Functional Transit Winnipeg said people in bedroom communities are underserved by transit, especially since the departure of Greyhound from the province, but that the city’s problems need to be resolved first.

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“Encouraging more commuters to take transit is always important. A lot of Manitobans outside the city had a big loss with the loss of the Greyhound bus service, but for this to come at the expense of any service inside the city…

“Expanding our transit system or adding people to our transit system that is already failing is just not a plan that we see as successful,” said Koop.

The city’s report is due June 2021, as one component of the city’s Winnipeg Transportation Master Plan — a document meant to guide transportation infrastructure improvements for the next 30 years.

Winnipeg Transit bans 28 passengers in 2019
Winnipeg Transit bans 28 passengers in 2019

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