Dozens of people gathered in front of city hall Monday to rally against possible cuts to the city’s transit budget.
"Unfortunately, the City of Winnipeg just doesn’t invest in transit right now," said Chantale Garand, adding that makes it more difficult for commuters to continue using public transit.
"When buses are late, when buses are too full to pick someone up, when a bus just doesn’t show and they don’t send a replacement bus, those things impact people," she said. "It has a domino effect on people who need to catch a second bus or are trying to get to an appointment on time."
The rally was organized by Budget For All and Functional Transit Winnipeg, two community organizations that advocate for better public services, and Amalgamated Transit Union 1505, a transit workers union group.
City council will table its preliminary 2020-23 multi-year budget on Friday, and people at the rally wanted councillors to know they should be investing more in the system not making cuts.
Garand, a member of Budget for All, said bus schedules are unreliable, which stresses drivers who are trying to maintain their routes and commuters whose buses are not on time.
The protesters called on Mayor Brian Bowman and city council to invest in public transit, including dedicated operational funding to introduce service every 10 minutes on major routes.
"They’re looking at cutting specific routes. They’re looking at ending rush hour (service) earlier… They’re looking on reducing how often buses are cleaned as well as shelter maintenance. They’re looking at increasing the amount of run time on buses in between maintenance cycles," Garand said.
Possible cuts to transit services are a concern not only to users but also to workers who could lose their jobs.
"We don’t believe that cuts should be put on the backs of the working class and the people who rely on our services," said James Van Gerwen, executive vice president of the ATU, which represents bus drivers, mechanics and workers who clean the buses.
"The service is struggling already. It costs everybody money when people can’t get to their jobs on time."
Many of those who attended Monday’s rally took the bus to get to city hall. Marika Prokosh had a good commute: "It was about three-quarters full, warm, fast."
"If there could be more lines like the 21 and the 11, that come really regularly and really reliable, I think that would do a lot for bus ridership in the city," she said.
The city has to consider long-term solutions to improve public transit, Prokosh said.
"We should be looking at free transit. That would be a great step towards both climate change and making the city more accessible," she said. "Kansas City just brought (free transit) in. They’re similar size and that’s something we can try here too."
A better public transit service would encourage more people to choose to use public transit over cars, said Sandy Klowak, a member of Functional Transit Winnipeg, who takes the bus to her job downtown every day.
"It’s amazing to get around without a car," she said.
"The mayor and the council have a great opportunity to be visionary and show bold leadership in the face of climate change. Make Winnipeg a city people really want to live and work in and move to. It can be a really vibrant and healthy city."