Winnipeg Transit riders will soon be able to have their say on the city’s latest proposed rapid transit routes — including lines to and from Transcona.
The eastern corridor of the BRT system has been second in line in the City of Winnipeg’s efforts to map out improved transit, following the southwest network under construction.
"We know that our transit service to and from Transcona has been well-used for many decades, and we’ve heard from our customers that they would like to see measures taken to improve the speed, reliability, schedule adherence and so on," said Kevin Sturgeon, a senior transit planner with the city.
The latest blueprints, first made public last summer, indicate four routes that would connect riders from Transcona in the east to Osborne Village in the west. Its colourful lines propose improvements to bus rapid transit in the city’s downtown core, as well as routes in Point Douglas, North St. Boniface, and along East Kildonan and Transcona.
The city has proposed a potential route from Harkness Station to downtown; downtown to Nairn Avenue through Point Douglas and across the Red River, downtown to Nairn Avenue via Provencher Boulevard and a line connecting Nairn Avenue and Park City Commons. A revised map is expected at a public meeting in the coming weeks.
Sturgeon said there’s no guarantee BRT will expand next to Transcona, but it has been a key area of study in transit planning for nearly two decades. Transit planners have been studying potential lines out east since 2011.
At the end of last year, the city incorporated the eastern expansion study into its 25-year-long transportation master plan. The city-wide study will include maps for potential expansion in every direction.
Winnipeg Transit has yet to publish the date for the latest update on the master plan consultation, but it’s expected to take place in October.
"I’ve always seen Winnipeg as the sprawl capital of Canada. Our planning, historically, has been oriented towards automobiles at the expense of anything else, and that’s actually exacted a heavy price," said Christopher Leo, a professor emeritus at the University of Winnipeg who started researching transit planning in the 1970s.
On an average weekday, Winnipeg Transit carries about 170,000 passengers.
About 51,000 Winnipeggers commute to work on the bus, accounting for about 14 per cent of the commuter population. Meanwhile, 70 per cent of the city drives to work.
"There’s all kinds of political will behind improvement of traffic for cars and very little political will behind alternatives," Leo said, adding as Winnipeg's population swells in size, expansions to transit service will become more and more vital.
An expansion of rapid transit in Winnipeg has been in the works for 30 years, he added.
A quality of life survey commissioned by the city in the spring found transit and rapid transit were the most common suggested improvement areas, behind crime and infrastructure.
Of the more than 600 random respondents, 20 per cent of Winnipeggers who ranked life in the city as being "very good" or "good" recommended the city improve transit to make life better.
Brent Bellamy, an architect at Number Ten Architectural Group, said Transcona's grid-like community, which centres around main streets such as Regent Avenue, makes it ideal for transit.
"We have a lot of grid neighbourhoods that are really good for transit," Bellamy said, citing pre-war communities of River Heights, Crescentwood and St. Boniface.
However, he said new neighbourhoods aren't being built for transit. That — land use — and frequency are the two biggest challenges Winnipeg faces when it comes to better transit, Bellamy said.
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Updated on Monday, September 9, 2019 at 12:12 PM CDT: Typo fixed.