Support for in-house Transit Plus

City report sees merit in some public delivery

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A call for the city to provide 30 per cent of Winnipeg Transit Plus services in-house hasn’t been rejected, though it’s also not slated for immediate action.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/03/2020 (945 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A call for the city to provide 30 per cent of Winnipeg Transit Plus services in-house hasn’t been rejected, though it’s also not slated for immediate action.

Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital) has long lobbied for the city to publicly provide that portion of the accessible transit service, which is currently 100 per cent contracted out.

He welcomed a new innovation report that suggests public delivery of the service for wheelchair users could have a “high” feasibility — though the public service doesn’t recommend Winnipeg put that in place right now.

A new innovation report suggests public delivery of the service for wheelchair users could have “high” feasibility — though the public service doesn’t recommend Winnipeg put that in place right now. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

“There may yet be a big debate on this,” Mayes said Tuesday.

The councillor noted some of his colleagues have opposed the change, predicting public delivery would cost more.

The report says wheelchair service does account for about 30 per cent of all Transit Plus passengers and rides, and that specific group may be easier to transition to a new operator than a portion of the general ridership.

“This category of demand has a consistent set of needs and expectations, and direct delivery of this specific category of service could offer efficiencies from limiting the diversity of the fleet, training, and staff required,” the report notes.

The document does caution a more in-depth cost analysis is still needed.

Mayes said he’ll ask for that option to be fully studied March 9, when council’s innovation committee is set to discuss the report.

He argues some public service would create new competition for the private sector. Mayes said it could be helpful, since the city’s cost to contract out Transit Plus service rose 53 per cent between 2009 and 2016.

“Let’s take a look at bringing some of this back in-house. That way we would have a little more control, a little more bargaining leverage in future discussions with the industry,” said Mayes.

He said public delivery could also help improve service levels. Transit Plus receives thousands of complaints each year, including 4,925 filed during the first 10 months of 2019.

The sticking point on the decision could be funding. The report argues city delivery isn’t expected to produce savings. It also predicts multiple other public delivery options would prove more expensive, reduce service or have unclear outcomes.

Coun. John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry), who chairs the innovation committee, said he’d like to learn more about the wheelchair service option.

“(That) option resonated with me. Maybe there is a place for the city in that role,” said Orlikow.

He said he’s not yet sure how his committee will respond to Mayes’ call for further action.

joyanne.pursaga@freepress.mb.ca

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga
Reporter

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

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