March 18, 2019

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Proposed Portage Place bus shelter demolition not facing much opposition

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>The bus stop shelter at Portage Place on Portage Ave.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The bus stop shelter at Portage Place on Portage Ave.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/7/2018 (249 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The consensus among people waiting for buses Thursday afternoon outside Portage Place shopping centre is its notorious transit shelter won't be missed if demolished.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman and members of his executive policy committee supported the bus shelter's demolition Wednesday, as part of a proposed downtown safety initiative. The motion comes two months after the Winnipeg police chief called the space a "hotspot for criminal activity."

"I've heard a lot of sketchy stuff. There's usually people sleeping in there and drinking, and it just gives me bad vibes," Robbie Harper said during rush hour Thursday while waiting for his bus.

"And it smells. It smells bad."

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/7/2018 (249 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The consensus among people waiting for buses Thursday afternoon outside Portage Place shopping centre is its notorious transit shelter won't be missed if demolished.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman and members of his executive policy committee supported the bus shelter's demolition Wednesday, as part of a proposed downtown safety initiative. The motion comes two months after the Winnipeg police chief called the space a "hotspot for criminal activity."

"I've heard a lot of sketchy stuff. There's usually people sleeping in there and drinking, and it just gives me bad vibes," Robbie Harper said during rush hour Thursday while waiting for his bus.

"And it smells. It smells bad."

The daily bus rider works in the mall and said he avoids waiting inside the heated, enclosed shelter for those reasons, opting instead to wait outdoors or inside the shopping centre's entrance.

If city council approves the proposal next week, the structure could be torn down in the coming months and a standard, clear Winnipeg Transit structure could replace it, Portage Place manager Dave Stone said Thursday.

"I think it’s urgent and it should be done before the end of the summer," said Stone, adding he's been exploring options to remove the shelter for years.

"Now that we’re at this point, I'm super happy. We’re just waiting to see what goes down from the political front on this."

A city spokesperson wrote in a statement the next steps include council considering an "amendment to fund the decommissioning of the existing transit shelter at Portage Place shopping centre as well as the installation of a new shelter" next week.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>The bus stop shelter at Portage Place.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The bus stop shelter at Portage Place.

Around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Melissa Lee was waiting for the bus — outside the shelter. She said she rarely goes inside the structure and most people try to avoid it.

Once, she said, she saw an intoxicated women bang her head on a bench and was "bleeding profusely." Lee went in to ask if she needed an ambulance or help.

"I don't go in there very often because things like that happen. It seems to be where the people who are loitering during the day hang out."

Shawn Matthews, director of safety and outreach for the Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone, said the structure's removal became a priority when a teenage international student was badly injured in a beating in January, which was caught on camera.

When asked if he thinks city council will vote to demolish the structure, Matthews said he doesn't know of any opposition. "It's all being done with the safety of everyone in mind."

Winnipeg Police Service Chief Danny Smyth has previously stated the shelter appears to present a risk to public safety due to a number of crimes committed in and around it, public information officer Const. Tammy Skrabek wrote in a statement. "He is supportive of the mayor's public safety initiative."

There was one outlier waiting for the bus Thursday.

L.E. Bailey, a frequent public transit user, said she's seen many regular glass bus shelters shattered.

"I'm aware of the issues the city has with the (Portage Place) shelter, but I prefer a place where people can stay warm and where people who need it can have a place out of the weather if they're living a bit rough downtown," she said.

"This one is an actual structure. It's not a glass box that they've put on the side of the street. It offers a bit more protection."

maggie.macintosh@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

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