Winnipeg will study the idea of creating new links to bus service for those commuting into the city, possibly through large park-and-ride locations.
City hall is working on a new transportation master plan and will review regional transportation as one piece of that effort. It will explore the ways many neighbouring communities — including Stonewall, Selkirk, St. Andrews, Springfield, Headingley and Rosser — might benefit from better links to Winnipeg Transit.
"The question is, when they arrive at the city boundary, is there a way to shift their mode, get them out of their cars and perhaps on to our transit system?" said Alex Regiec, city master plan project manager.
In addition to possible park-and-ride sites at the city’s boundaries, a consultant will be tasked to explore options to create an inter-governmental regional transportation body, add public transit links between the city and region, and provide advice on active transportation.
The consultant must also figure out how much that would cost.
Regiec said creating more regional access to Winnipeg Transit could help the city in a few key ways.
"The benefits of a park-and-ride program… would be to reduce the amount of single-occupant automobiles on the road, which reduces the wear and tear on our infrastructure. It also gives people an opportunity to find a more economical way to travel within the City of Winnipeg, and it’s also a benefit to our transit system (by) encouraging ridership," he said.
The broader transportation master plan is expected in June 2021, which will also weigh in on how infrastructure can be added to support cars, buses and bikes over the next 30 years, as well as the best options to move goods.
Regiec said a series of consultant contracts to support the master plan will have a combined cost of about $1 million. He said those contracts should be awarded by early March.
While the review is slated to explore extensions of public transit past the Perimeter Highway, the project manager for Winnipeg Transit’s master plan said Transit has not received any formal proposal to do that.
"We don’t have the authority to operate transit outside city limits unless we were to operate as a contractor to another municipality," said Kevin Sturgeon.
Selkirk Mayor Larry Johannson said he expects new transportation options between Winnipeg and his community would be well-used: "I think if a bus service was predictable, it was efficient, if it was cost-efficient… I truly believe that it could be successful."
Coun. Janice Lukes (Waverley West) welcomed the effort to explore regional transportation planning.
"When I’m on Pembina Highway and I see a continuous stream of vehicles coming in (each with) one person, one person, one person — (I think) for sure there is a way that we can change this... (We) need to start moving in that direction," she said.
The councillor said she believes partnerships and funding from senior governments would be required to successfully implement a regional transportation plan.
"This is not something the city can do on its own," Lukes said.
Coun. Scott Gillingham, finance committee chairman, said the review’s cost estimates will be a key factor to determine what regional transportation infrastructure the city could actually afford to implement.