While canvassing across this ward and listening to voters' concerns, one issue that continues to come up is the future of Winnipeg Transit. Many people are frustrated by the state of our Bus Rapid Transit project, and I have been hearing many interesting solutions. While some are ready to abandon the project, others believe we lack the political courage and foresight to complete a full and final plan for the city — an innovative, sustainable plan that uses best practices from other major cities across Canada.
I recently received a questionnaire from Functional Transit Winnipeg, and I'd like to share my responses with the public. I believe we need to modernize Winnipeg Transit in order to support our growing city.
Here are my responses:
1. Public transit was identified as the most important issue facing Winnipeggers in the 2019 budget consult, followed by active transportation and roadway construction and maintenance. In your opinion, why is public transit deemed the number one priority?
A reliable, timely and well-connected public transit is necessary for any modern thriving city. We expect Winnipeg to grow to 1 million people, but we are not planning accordingly. I have been calling for a full and final Bus Rapid Transit plan to connect our entire city to a central hub. We have talked about it enough, and it’s time to work with other levels of government to make a concrete commitment.
2. If you could give Winnipeg’s transit system an overall letter grade, what would it be? What do you feel is holding the current transit system back from getting a better grade? If you could sum up your vision for the future of Winnipeg’s transit system what would it be?
I would give the Winnipeg Transit system a ‘D’. Transit should be more frequent and convenient, and there should be more dedicated bus corridors than the single one currently available for people travelling to and from Downtown. We have beautiful river banks that are being ignored and old railways that could be replaced, both of which I believe can be transformed into a full and final Bus Rapid Transit network that connects our city to a central hub that would likely be in Fort Rouge.
This will require working with other levels of government to agree on funding this vision, but it is not a new vision. I have experience contacting ministers and representatives at all levels of government, and I would have no problem personally leading this lobbying effort on behalf of our City. We need a better vision for our public transit.
3. Safety is an increasing concern for transit riders and drivers, alike. What do you feel contributes to the lack of safety in the current system? How would you improve safety?
In any major city, unfortunately there will be safety concerns on public transit. I believe the city has done well providing good protection for drivers as well as surveillance on the busses, but I'd support improvements like safety officers where needed. What contributes to these concerns are major problems in our society like alcohol and drug addiction. We need to address this issue by supporting more proactive drug rehab programs in our city while also combatting poverty and homelessness. When we get addicts off the street, everyone benefits.
4. If you could sum up Winnipeg’s current transit system in 3 words, what would it be?
Behind the times.
5. Cities like Ottawa and Edmonton contribute over $220 million to their transit networks, while the City of Winnipeg contributes just $65 million. To match these other cities in per capita terms, Winnipeg should be contributing $170 million. How will you fight for more funding towards transit?
We need a full and final Bus Rapid Transit plan for the city, and if elected I plan to advocate for funding through City Hall as well as publicly with advocacy groups like Functional Transit Winnipeg.
When it comes to city funding, more transparency is needed – especially when we talk about Bus Rapid Transit. Many are skeptical that it will ever be accomplished, and many others think it has already wasted too much money on studies with very little to show – and I am sympathetic to those voices, because there has been a failure of leadership at City Hall over decades. A project like this should not simply linger over election cycles forever with no clear vision.
I strongly believe we need modern public transit for a modern city, and our Transit fleet should be improved and expanded instead of ignored and underfunded. We should work with other levels of government to fund a long-term modernization plan, and we should look for innovative ways to increase revenue from transit that don't include hiking rates on the poor and students who rely on it most.