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Winnipeg's satisfaction with transit system is waning: survey

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This article was published 20/7/2018 (512 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeggers appear to be losing faith in public transit.

An annual report measuring public attitudes towards civic services released Friday by city hall revealed a dramatic decline in the satisfaction with Winnipeg Transit between 2017 and 2018.

The community trends and performance report found 66 per cent of Winnipeggers said they were somewhat or very satisfied with Transit in 2018 – a nine-point drop from the year prior.

The difference in public satisfaction was the greatest year-to-year decline among civic services surveyed in the annual report – a decline that was not surprising to representatives of the Transit union and a local advocacy group.


"Public transit was the second-highest priority for citizens going into the 2018 budget, yet we were faced with service cuts and a 25-cent fare increase," said Joseph Kornelsen, chairman of Functional Transit Winnipeg. "We should have seen this coming. No one should be surprised that Winnipeggers are losing confidence in Transit."

Aleem Chaudhary, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505, said he’s pleased a civic document has confirmed concerns repeatedly raised by the public and the union.

What about other services?

The annual community trends and performance report is a snapshot of the hundreds of services provided by Winnipeg city hall, their cost, comparisons to other municipalities, and the public perception of the quality of the service.

The annual community trends and performance report is a snapshot of the hundreds of services provided by Winnipeg city hall, their cost, comparisons to other municipalities, and the public perception of the quality of the service.

The report is intended to “provide context and timely information” for members of council and the public for the upcoming budget deliberations.

The report provides a look at how the city’s population has grown, its housing trends, economic conditions, how its municipal property taxes compare to other municipalities, and details the process followed by council to arrive at a budget.

The citizen survey carried out for the report found 93 per cent of residents believe the quality of life in Winnipeg is very good or good, consistent with the 92 per cent rating from the year before.

However, when asked to assess the level of value they receive for their property tax dollars, 71 per cent of respondents said they were getting “good” or “very good” value for their tax dollars -- citing snowclearing, street cleaning and garbage and recycling pick-up as positives.

For the 29 per cent in the disappointed category, they cited dissatisfaction with planning and spending decisions, and fees and taxes are deemed too high.

The survey of 600 residents was conducted by telephone by Prairie Research Associates, from May 1-17, with a quota of 27 per cent inner-city residents. The results are considered accurate to within four percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The highest satisfaction level of satisfaction was with fire and rescue response (99 per cent) and major parks (98 per cent).

The lowest level of satisfaction was found with the state of the city’s roads, where 52 per cent of respondents said they were somewhat or very satisfied with the state of the city’s local streets, and 56 per cent with the major roadways. However, both were improvements from the year before.

"This is what we’ve been saying all along – the service is not what it ought to be, and we need to pick it up a bit," Chaudhary said.

The report notes the size of the Transit fleet and the service capabilities have not kept up with the growth in the city’s population, and weekday on-time reliability has continued to decline since 2013, from a high of 80 per cent to 74.8 per cent in 2017.

When respondents to the annual survey were asked what improvements could be made to improve the quality of life in Winnipeg, Transit was singled out for the second consecutive year.

Winnipeg Transit said the service did experience a series of problems in 2017 that would have impacted satisfaction levels, including challenges with service reliability, safety concerns, some system issues with the use of reloadable fare cards (Peggo) and a subsequent fare increase in January 2018 that was larger than the usual inflationary increase.


A Transit spokeswoman said several initiatives have been launched to address some of the challenges.

"Winnipeg Transit strives to continually improve its service, and is working on a variety of route and schedule improvements to encourage more Winnipeggers to use Transit for their mobility needs," the spokeswoman said. "Our next schedule change will be in September, and will include numerous updates aimed at improving on-time service for passengers.

"The Winnipeg Transit master plan... will include financial projections, service goals, performance metrics, benchmarking data, and a capital-investment plan. (It) also includes a substantial public engagement component which will allow us to engage with our riders to determine which factors are affecting their decision to take Transit (or not) for their travel needs, and will help us better identify areas for improvement."

Chaudhary and Kornelsen said security concerns following the stabbing death of bus driver Irvine Jubal Fraser in 2017 have only further undermined the public’s confidence.


The Transit spokeswoman said several safety and security measures have been initiated, including: a pilot project to test bus operator safety shields; the formation of a transit advisory committee; adding four new point duty inspectors to assist operators and passengers at strategic locations; improved reporting with police; improved response times to deal with problem passengers; and a public awareness campaign.

But Kornelsen and Chaudhary are not convinced.

"The city’s response has been, ‘We’re dealing with it,’ but clearly they’re not, and the public is responding," Chaudhary said.

Kornelsen said he’s sees little chance for change given the decisions taken by Transit administration and elected officials.

"Functional Transit has been saying for years that there are huge issues with affordability and frequency of service. It’s just not a convenient service to use," Kornelsen said.

Kornelsen said the group has launched an initiative to make Transit improvement as high priority in the 2018 civic election campaign. "It’s time to improve service and safety."

The civic election is scheduled for Oct. 24.

Aldo Santin

Aldo Santin

Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.

Read full biography


Updated on Saturday, July 21, 2018 at 12:14 PM CDT: Date fixed.

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