Mayor Brian Bowman says his election pledge to build six legs of rapid transit is still alive, even though the final product may look different than what was first expected.
Bowman says Winnipeg’s latest plans for rapid transit aren’t a major departure from his 2014 campaign pledge to build the transit corridors by 2030.
"What is still being contemplated … is the six lines coming in to downtown," the mayor said Tuesday. "The specific routes, some of the thinking, is evolving in terms of where they would go."
In 2011, the city proposed to complete six bus rapid transit legs, including two northern, two southern, one eastern and one western corridor.
The latest known plans display three longer lines, which would connect through the downtown. One would stretch from Portage Avenue to the Southwest Transitway, another would extend from Main Street to St. Mary's Road, and the third would run from Grant Avenue to Regent Avenue.
"What is still being contemplated… is the six lines coming in to downtown. The specific routes, some of the thinking, is evolving in terms of where they would go." — Brian Bowman
Bowman said those plans simply proposes to use longer lines to meet the same goal. He stressed that a 2014 rapid transit backgrounder did warn some flexibility could be needed to get the lines built.
"It’s very clear that we need to be open to different ways of delivering rapid transit," he said. "It talks about contemplating not just dedicated lines like the … Southwest Rapid Transitway but other routes (that) may look different."
That backgrounder notes Winnipeg envisioned six distinct rapid transit legs in 2014. It describes those "busways" as dedicated to transit, which would permit buses to travel at 80 kilometres per hour.
The document does also note that rapid transit buses could "operate both on and off the busway to provide very flexible routes."
Bowman said innovation could also be needed to keep rapid transit construction affordable, noting it’s not immediately clear how much funding senior governments would provide for future rapid transit lines.
Winnipeg’s first rapid transit line, the Southwest Transitway, will cost $559 million to build. That tab includes a $421-million second phase that’s slated to open in April.
On Friday, the project manager of Winnipeg Transit’s master plan said the latest proposal would see the three larger BRT lines make key connections through the downtown.
"The service that would drive on those corridors is linked together through downtown so the routes wouldn’t terminate downtown, they’d continue on to another corridor," said Kevin Sturgeon.
The latest route maps indicate the rapid transit buses may frequently run along existing streets instead of bus-only corridors. Sturgeon said more detail will be released in March as to how the buses would still provide "rapid" travel while potentially competing with other traffic on those routes.
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.