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This article was published 22/9/2017 (981 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Winnipeg Transit emerged the early winner from city hall’s version of Dragons’ Den.
Transit’s pitch for a $300,000, 12-month pilot program for free Wi-Fi on 12 buses was the only department proposal to come out of Friday’s innovation committee meeting with funding.
"This project will allow us find out where are our efficiencies are and where we need to improve things, let us test that out and make those decisions moving forward," said Coun. Cindy Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre), chairwoman of the committee.
Michael Legary, the city’s chief innovation officer, told the committee the cost of installing Wi-Fi on all transit buses could run in the millions of dollars.
Gilroy said the intent of the pilot program is to determine if such an expense is worthwhile.
"Before we invest in something like that, we want to make sure it’s going to improve the overall bus experience for our transit users, but also improve the technology we have within our buses," she said.
The committee has an annual budget of $1 million, which is to be allocated to projects considered innovative either in improving service delivery or reducing costs.
The fund was set up to provide departments with access to funds for projects often ignored because of operational priorities.
Department representatives spent the morning trying to win support from councillors for their respective initiatives, much like entrepreneurs do on the popular CBC TV show Dragons’ Den.
This is the third year $1 million is being offered to departments. The committee was told $968,000 was allocated to various projects in 2015. In 2016, the committee allocated $620,000.
The price tag for all 17 proposals brought to the committee Friday totalled more than $2.3 million. The committee quickly approved the Winnipeg Transit project, using funds not allocated from its 2016 budget. The fate of the remaining 16 proposals will be determined by the committee at its October meeting, drawing on funds from the 2017 budget.
The Wi-Fi proposal is a dramatic turnaround for Winnipeg Transit, which only 15 months ago ruled out providing free wireless hotspots on buses, arguing it wasn’t necessary. That was the position taken by the former director Dave Wardrop, who was promoted to the newly created position of chief transportation and utilities officer. He said at the time riders didn’t want free Wi-Fi because most of them had cellphone packages that provided them with wireless internet access.
Wardrop’s successor, acting director Greg Ewankiw, attended Friday’s meeting with his staff to support the pilot program, which is expected to start in January.
Free Wi-Fi will be provided on 12 buses, and not the same buses every day. Transit proposes to place those buses on different routes and at different times of the day to measure public usage.
Transit officials said the pilot program would also be used to determine if it can improve the Peggo digital-fare system and improve security for riders and operators.
Other proposals under consideration by the committee from Friday’s meeting include:
● Purchase of two electric vehicles and two Level 3 charging stations at a cost of $197,200 to determine the potential for cost savings within the city’s vehicle fleet versus traditional combustion-engine vehicles.
● Purchase of a $36,500 drone for use by the city’s insect control branch to identify and map mosquito larval development sites (standing water) in remote areas.
● A $37,222 consultant contract to prepare a study to evaluate the placement of solar panels on the south-facing exterior wall at the Pan Am Pool, which could lower utility costs and contribute to reducing the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. The study would determine the cost of the setup and the likely savings to be achieved.
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Updated on Saturday, September 23, 2017 at 7:49 AM CDT: Edited.