Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/12/2011 (2935 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
WINNIPEG needs an arm's-length transportation authority to help advise the city on upgrades to roadways and transit systems, says public works chairman Dan Vandal.
On Thursday, council's public works committee heard from critics who said Winnipeg should investigate new ways to fund upgrades to rapid transit and crumbling roadways, including bridge tolls, tax levies and additional revenues from the gas tax.
The comments prompted Coun. Vandal (St. Boniface) to call on Winnipeg to resurrect the idea of creating a separate transportation authority — an idea that initially surfaced in late 2008. He said the city could use expert advice on how it could fund infrastructure upgrades as it moves forward with implementing its transportation master plan and rapid transit.
Winnipeg's 2009 capital budget allocated $1.25 million to explore how such an organization could work.
Vandal said nothing has been done since then, and he doesn't know why. The public works committee has asked city administration to investigate how a transportation authority could be struck and to report back within 90 days.
"It also allows that independent intelligent analysis that is often lacking and avoids what happened on the floor of council," Vandal said, referring to the recent transit fare hike.
Two weeks ago, city council voted on a last-minute idea to add 20 cents to a planned five-cent transit fare hike in 2012. The hike is meant to cover the city's share of the cost to extend Winnipeg's first rapid-transit line to Bison Drive near the University of Manitoba.
The fee hike was approved before council consulted with Winnipeg Transit, the public and the province and prompted backlash from opposition councillors and transit supporters who said it gouges passengers on a fixed income.
"I don't really have an opinion one way or the other on it," Winnipeg Transit director Dave Wardrop said of the impact of the fare hike.
Thursday marked the first time Wardrop spoke publicly since council approved the fare hike. He said he was informed about the fare hike beforehand, though he could not recall how much advance notice he received.
The province still needs to sign off on the fare hike under its existing transit funding agreement with the City of Winnipeg. However, provincial officials have hinted there may be better ways to fund the city's share of rapid-transit upgrades without saddling passengers with the bill.
Wardrop said the city is speaking with other levels of government to find out how rapid transit could be funded. He declined to comment on what alternative funding sources are under discussion and whether the 20-cent fare hike will go ahead on June 1, 2012.
Green Action Centre spokesman Josh Brandon said the proposed fare hike is unfair, and Winnipeg has not made any attempts to collect revenue from motorists to pay for upgrades to roadways. He said the city should consider a tax on registered vehicles, an increase in the fuel tax, a tax on parking lots or things such as road and bridge tolls. Brandon said these options would generate millions to complete the Southwest Rapid Transit Corridor without raising transit fares.
Chris Lorenc, president of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association, said Winnipeg streets account for 80 per cent of the current infrastructure deficit. He said other cities have introduced levies, tax hikes and tolls to pay to fix roadways, and Winnipeg needs to stop waiting for other levels of government to offer more money.
"Our street system is going to continue to decay," Lorenc said.
The latest at city hall
New councillor: Newly elected St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes will be officially sworn in at city council's Dec. 14 meeting. Mayes handily won a crowded byelection race to replace former councillor Gord Steeves.
Main Street planters: Council's public works committee approved Mynarski Coun. Ross Eadie's request to spend $50,000 to purchase planters for Main Street. Earlier this year, Eadie took issue with weeds growing out of Main Street flower planters and organized a volunteer effort to plant flowers on the medians.
Name change: Council's downtown development committee will consider a proposal to change the name of Mostyn Place to Granite Place or Granite Way. All properties affected by the proposed renaming are owned by the City of Winnipeg and include land leased to the Granite Curling Club. The committee will review the plan at a meeting on Monday.