A drastic reduction in fares is necessary to end attacks on Winnipeg Transit employees, mayoral candidate Don Woodstock says.

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This article was published 30/8/2018 (1144 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A drastic reduction in fares is necessary to end attacks on Winnipeg Transit employees, mayoral candidate Don Woodstock says.

If elected, Woodstock said he would reduce fares from the current $2.95 for a single ride down to $2, and ultimately to $1 or free.

Woodstock, a former Transit driver who now owns a business selling and installing security alarms, said fare disputes are at the root of most assaults on buses -- and reducing or eliminating fares would eliminate such incidents.

Lower fares, he said, would also make riders feel safer, and boost ridership.

"The aggression being shown to Transit personnel requires us to think a little more along the lines of zero tolerance," Woodstock said a statement released by his campaign Thursday.

Woodstock focused on the publicized recent assault of a Transit supervisor, who was dragged off a bus by a passenger who had refused to pay a fare.

Woodstock said supervisors aren’t equipped to deal with assaults, adding, as mayor, he would have police cadets and constables in plainclothes riding on buses.

The fare-reduction promise is expensive.

City council approved a 25-cent fare increase for Jan. 1, 2018, bringing the price of a single cash fare to $2.95.

Transit says it’s expecting $73.1 million this year from fare revenue. Rolling back the fare by one-third to $2 per ride could cost Transit $23.4 million a year. Further dropping the price to $1 could mean a loss of $48.2 million.

Woodstock said making up the lost revenue from the fare cut can be done by cracking down on management at Transit, and at all civic departments.

"If management were treated the same way as the regular employees are treated, I guarantee that we’ll have a way more efficient operation that will save us a lot more than even what we think," he said, adding he estimates such a crackdown would produce $15 million to $20 million in savings annually.

The fare-reduction proposal drew a mixed reaction from advocacy group Functional Transit Winnipeg.

Joseph Kornelsen, president of the group, said fare reductions are important for affordability and as one way to make transit more attractive. However, he said it must be balanced with a plan for a funding increase -- which he said he hasn’t yet seen from Woodstock's campaign.

The Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents most unionized employees at Transit, said it wants to see a commitment from mayoral candidates for additional funding to improve service.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca