A coalition of city labour and advocacy groups is protesting cuts to Winnipeg Transit and a 25-cent fare hike outlined in the proposed 2018 civic budget, launching a social media campaign meant to shed light on overcrowding in city buses.

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A coalition of city labour and advocacy groups is protesting cuts to Winnipeg Transit and a 25-cent fare hike outlined in the proposed 2018 civic budget, launching a social media campaign meant to shed light on overcrowding in city buses.

On Thursday, Make Poverty History advocate Josh Brandon and Winnipeg Labour Council president Basia Sokal cracked open a can of sardines outside of a bus shack on Broadway to launch the Sardine Award campaign.

The groups want Winnipeggers to share photos of overcrowded buses (with the hashtag #sardinelife) before Dec. 11, the day before city council considers next year’s budget.

The group intends to award the best post $100 — the equivalent of a monthly adult bus pass, if the fare hike goes ahead.

Pointing at a photo of a rider-stuffed transit bus, Sokal said overcrowding is an issue, and she fears buses will become much busier.

People living in poverty know outside of peak hours, buses are already crowded, Brandon said.

He said because many low-income people work overnight or odd hours, they will be affected the most.

"People are depending on buses that are already overcrowded — service cuts would heighten that," he said.

"It’s about breaking down barriers to employment accessibility issues," added Sokal.

"We want to show city council how dire the situation already is."

If someone wants to move around the city outside of peak hours, some people can just get in their car and go, but for low-income people, driving often isn’t an option, said Sandy Klowak, a member of the advocacy group Functional Transit Winnipeg.

"Everyone deserves to get service."

Klowak said she uses public transit often — having frequent and consistent service is the biggest issue for her.

"It’s actually when scheduled buses just don’t come at all," she said.

"I’ve had multiple experiences where two or even three buses just don’t show up."

But despite the issues Winnipeg Transit has, she said she is part of the protest because she is a rider.

"Transit can be amazing when it functions well — I love it," said Klowak.

"That’s why it’s so vital we stop the proposed cuts."

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman wasn’t available for comment Thursday.

However, a staffer sent a statement to the Free Press.

"Mayor Bowman certainly recognizes that a growing city like Winnipeg needs an efficient, accessible, and safe transit service."

"This requires continued investment in key transportation infrastructure while ensuring Transit passengers and operators are able to safely access Transit services," the emailed statement read.

erik.pindera@freepress.mb.ca

Erik Pindera

Erik Pindera
Reporter

Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.