I am loathe to weigh in to the LRT/BRT debate, partly because I did dozens of depressing stories about it the first time Sam kiboshed the existing rapid transit plan and tried to give million of dollars back to the feds. Also, I have genuinely given up hope, as a citizen, that I will ride a rapid transit system in Winnipeg in my lifetime. As
detailed, with elegance, the only word for this endless debacle begins with "cluster" and ends with a swear.
But, there is one nagging point I want to raise in the BRT vs. LRT debate. Five years ago, I rode Calgary's C-Train with a young policy wonk and transit expert from the U of C. He made one strong point: LRT works best where there is already some degree of density, where you can get off the train and walk to your condo instead of waiting for another bus to take you into the depths of Canyon Meadows or what-have-you. In Calgary's burbs, just like ours, the walk from a house to the LRT station can be one of those brutal urban experiences (ahem, Portage and Main) where you can see the station, you just can't get there. A berm, a freeway or a sound wall are in your way. Or at least they were five years ago.
So people take feeder buses to the station, and in Calgary's 'burbs that is still preferable to an hour's drive on the freeway. Feeder buses are a bit of a discouragement, but ridership on Calgary's suburban LRT lines is still pretty impressive.
Would that be the case in Winnipeg, especially in the southside suburbs where the city stands to make the most ridership gains? I just don't think so. Not when the drive down Pembina still only takes 20 or 30 minutes and you can swing into Starbucks.
The beauty of BRT is that buses can deek out of the speedy express corridor and head straight into the heart of Fort Richmond or Linden Woods or Waverley West, reducing the need for a transfer to a feeder bus. Light rail can't do that, unless we build rail lines into every neighbourhood.
LRT is admittedly sexier, and its pure, big-city coolness might attract some riders who think buses are déclassé. But most riders want the simplest, fastest ride to work with the fewest number of minutes standing beside a pole in -40 C, clutching their transfer, waiting for a bus.