Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Transit misses the bus

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The City of Winnipeg and the Blue Bombers assumed the worst about Winnipeggers, namely they wouldn't ride a bike and they wouldn't take the bus to reach the new Investors Group Field at the University of Manitoba. They were wrong.

If a silver lining can be found in the opening night disaster on Wednesday, it's that Winnipeggers are more progressive than everyone seemed to think.

An estimated 8,500 people got on a Transit bus in good faith, believing it was the safest and most convenient way to get to the stadium. Another 700 fans hopped on their bicycles, only to find there was barely enough space for 400 bikes.

In total, roughly one-third of the 28,000 fans at the game arrived without a car.

The city and the Blue Bombers assumed only 5,000 people would take the bus, which means, of course, they were expecting more cars. Where did they expect all those cars to go? Officials had no answers Thursday.

The solution is not, as some have suggested, to turn the former Southwood golf course into a parking lot. The University of Manitoba should stick to its guns and continue with plans to develop most of that site into a mixed-use development. There's enough parking lots now around the campus.

The city and the Bombers had two years to figure out this problem, but judging by Wednesday night's experience, it seems like they crossed their fingers and hoped for the best.

Winnipeg Transit says it's going to work on the problem, but it will have to do better than offer promises of temporary diamond lanes and priority signals.

It's not even clear if the city has enough buses to meet demand, particularly for events that coincide with rush-hour traffic. If that's the case, the city might need to buy more buses, hire private contractors, or reinforce resources on fewer hubs, such as concentrating on movement out of the downtown, rather than points spread across the city.

It would certainly help if the southwest rapid transit corridor was finished, but given the current political gridlock, it could be many years before work begins. Wednesday's disaster will hopefully spur civic and provincial politicians to try harder.

Winnipeggers will take the bus if it is reasonably fast, easy and convenient. But they also might stay home if the city doesn't make good on its promises.

Event nights will always be a snarl and people will eventually adapt. The city, however, holds the key to making it as painless as possible, while selling skeptical citizens on the benefits of riding with Transit Tom.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 14, 2013 A12


Updated on Friday, June 14, 2013 at 9:01 AM CDT: corrects cutline

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