Mayor has friends in rapid-transit plans

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DEVELOPING an extensive rapid-transit system is key to Winnipeg's long-term growth and success, says one U.S. transit expert.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/11/2014 (2934 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

DEVELOPING an extensive rapid-transit system is key to Winnipeg’s long-term growth and success, says one U.S. transit expert.

John Norquist is a former mayor of Milwaukee and a longtime proponent of public transportation systems and walkable cities and neighbourhoods.

He told about 70 participants in a one-day summit Monday on transit-oriented development (TOD) newly elected Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman is on the right track with his plan to develop six rapid-transit corridors in Winnipeg by the year 2030.

John Norquist is on board with Mayor Brian Bowman's transportation ideas.

Norquist said a growing number of cities around the world are making the transition to a more public-transit-oriented transportation system, and Winnipeg must follow suit if it hopes to attract and retain people and encourage new development.

He said with the rising costs of owning and operating a vehicle, more people are interested in using public transit to get around their city. But to ensure greater usage, the transit system needs to be fast, reliable, easily accessible and pleasant to use, he said.

He noted some summit participants expressed concern Bowman’s plan to develop six RT corridors within the next 15 years may be overly ambitious.

“But I actually disagree with that. With the transit system itself, I’d push ahead as fast as you can.”

He said where city officials should take their time is in planning the type of developments that will be allowed to spring up around the transit stations along each route.

“It should be like a little village at each stop, instead of a parking lot at every stop,” featuring a mix of retail, office and multi-family residential components, he said in a later interview.

Eric Backstrom, Edmonton’s senior TOD planner, agreed the transit corridors should be developed as quickly as possible.

“We have a lot of good stuff to build on,” Backstrom said. “There’s a general investment in transit happening right now. It will take a while for the developments around it (the RT system) to fill in, but John is right. Go for it.”

He agreed in a later interview the transition to a more transit-oriented city won’t be easy, even with the support of the new mayor and council.

“Some tough decisions will have to be made in terms of financing. But leadership from the mayor and council is huge,” he added.

The day-long summit, which also included a two-hour public forum, was organized by the Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone to foster further discussion about the benefits of having an efficient public-transit system. Participants included urban planners, real estate developers, architects, engineers, property owners and transit officials.

“It’s important that we have these conversations at the community level,” said Stefano Grande, executive director of the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ. “It’s also about getting people to understand the importance of transit and how it could lead to alternative approaches to developing our city.”

He said a report summarizing the key points from the summit will be made available to city officials and other interested parties.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

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