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Not-so-rapid transit

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The long and winding road toward the beginnings of a rapid transit system in Winnipeg:

1873: The City of Winnipeg is incorporated.

1882: Transit service begins on Main Street with the operation of first horse-drawn trolleys.

1891: The first electric streetcar begins running on River Avenue.

1918: Gasoline-powered bus service begins.

1934: At the peak of Winnipeg's streetcar system, the city boasts 193 kilometres of track.

1938: The first electric trolley bus runs down Sargent Avenue.

1955: Winnipeg's final streetcar line is dismantled and replaced by diesel buses.

1959: A study called Future Development of Greater Winnipeg Transit System recommends the construction of three U-shaped subway lines: a Portage-North Main-Mountain route; a Pembina-William line; and an Osborne-Chalmers route. Politicians immediately deem the plan too expensive.

1966: The Winnipeg Area Transportation Study calls for the construction of a single, 8.7-kilometre subway running along Portage Avenue, Main Street and Redwood Avenue. This, too, is deemed too expensive.

1972: Mayor Stephen Juba proposes a monorail for Winnipeg.

1976: The Winnipeg Southwest Transit Corridor Study concludes a corridor for diesel buses makes more financial and operational sense than three other options: a monorail; a light-rail track; or an electric-trolley bus corridor.

1981: The first Plan Winnipeg calls for three dedicated busways: A southwest corridor along Pembina Highway, an eastern corridor along Regent Avenue and a southeast corridor to the Trans-Canada Highway.

1993: Plan Winnipeg: Toward 2010 makes relatively little mention of rapid transit. Nonetheless, the city begins buying land for the southwest corridor.

1998: Transplan 2010 recommends the city hold off on rapid transit. Glen Murray is elected mayor and creates a working group on public transportation.

2000: The working group's final report, Direction To Our Future, recommends the construction of a rapid-transit corridor. Murray proposes a $50-million plan to finally build an abbreviated version of the southwest corridor.

2001: Plan Winnipeg 2020, calls for five busways -- corridors in the southwest, northwest, eastern, northeast and a southeast.

2003: Council sets aside $1.7 million to plan and design the Southwest Transit Corridor.

2004: In March, all three levels of government announce plans to build a $51-million, 3.4-kilometre southwest corridor by 2007. Murray resigns mid-term. Newly elected Mayor Sam Katz convinces council to scrap the project and creates a Rapid Transit Task Force to review options.

2005: Katz convinces Ottawa and the province to allow Winnipeg to redirect $43 million of bus-corridor money to recreation projects. The Rapid Transit Task Force concludes the city should build two busways, to the University of Manitoba and Transcona.

2008: After Ottawa pledges $17.5 million to transit in Manitoba, the city and province re-announce plans to build a 9.6-kilometre southwest rapid transit corridor at a cost of the $327 million over six years. But funding is only confirmed for the 3.6-kilometre first phase, a $138-million link between Queen Elizabeth Way and Jubilee Avenue at Pembina Highway.

2010: Katz announces he wants to see four light-rail lines in Winnipeg and convinces council to remove the second phase of the southwest corridor from a list of city infrastructure priorities.

2011: The Transportation Master Plan identifies six rapid-transit corridors to be complete by 2031. Council approves a plan to bump up the completion date for the Southwest Transit Corridor to 2016 -- and a 20-cent bus-fare hike to help pay for the work.

2012: Council rescinds the bus-fare hike, leaving funding for the second phase of the southwest corridor unresolved. The first phase is slated to open Sunday, April 8.

2031: Target for completing the east, north and west transitways, according to the Transportation Master Plan. It calls for southeast and northeast corridors to be completed after 2031.

 

Sources: Transportation Master Plan, Plan Winnipeg (2011), Winnipeg Rapid Transit Task Force, Master of City Planning practicum by Christopher Baker (2010), Winnipeg Transit and Free Press files.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 7, 2012 J5

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