To go boldly – light rail transit on St. Mary’s Road

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The opening words of Star Trek are often cited as the example of a split infinitive — “to boldly go.” And yet, there is something stirring about the idea – even if you have to rephrase it as “to go boldly.”

In considering the future (should I be graced with another term as St. Vital city councillor), I have been thinking a lot about the bold idea of a light rail transit (LRT) line running along St. Mary’s Road and then further north on Main Street.

Back in 2014, I voted for the extension of the bus rapid transit (BRT) line from Jubilee Avenue down to University of Manitoba. I still think this was the right vote, as we would otherwise have had a short stub of BRT. At that time, Coun. Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge–East Fort Garry) pointed out that this leg of the BRT was supposed to be part of an overall network of dedicated lines. In the intervening years, city council has moved away from this network concept, approving no new BRT lines.

In 2014, Coun. Russ Wyatt (Transcona) made the argument that — given growth in Winnipeg and the decades that had passed since BRT was first considered — the city should be looking at light rail rather than BRT. With another eight years gone, I now think Wyatt’s bold idea for LRT deserves serious consideration. I think we can bypass the BRT stage and move to LRT, at least for a St. Mary’s–Main line, and a Portage–Point Douglas or Portage–Provencher line.

It would cost — but other Canadian cities, such as Hamilton, are getting billions in federal funds for LRT. Moreover, the city’s planned extra lane of road for St. Mary’s could be eliminated, thus saving $70-to-$100 million. LRT could also spur some new development alongside the route. An electric line would also take advantage of Manitoba’s hydroelectric resources.

While I fear a call from Russ Wyatt saying “I told you so”, I think that, in its next term, city council should seriously consider the LRT option along St. Mary’s Road and Main Street.

Perhaps we would be going boldly into the past, when St. Mary’s Road had a street car line, but I think we would be going boldly into the future of a growing and vibrant St. Vital.

Brian Mayes

Brian Mayes
St. Vital ward report

Brian Mayes is the city councillor for St. Vital.

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