When the weather is not desirable


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People have been saying “it’s the most wonderful time of the year” since at least 1963, when Andy Williams’ famous song of the same name was released.

60 years later, and (hopefully) at the tail end of an extreme cold snap, many of us might put it differently.

The more polite among us might call this a time when “the weather is not desirable.” That’s how a man with a vaguely similar name to Williams – but with an altogether different resume – characterized it just a few months after the famous song first hit the airwaves.

Winnipeg Free Press file photo

A Downtown Spirit bus stops for passengers near City Hall. The free bus was discontinued in 2020.

His name was Jack Willis, and he served on the now defunct Metro Corporation of Greater Winnipeg from its inception in 1960 to its dissolution in 1971.

Willis wasn’t just politely negative.

Looking to find a way “of lowering the transit deficit, easing traffic congestion in the downtown area, revitalizing the central core business district and improving the utilities (sic) public image,” Willis came up with an idea.

“For relatively short distances,” he told the Free Press in 1964, “we hope to encourage people to park their cars in one place and use … (low) fare buses to move around.” He proposed trying it on an experimental basis, primarily during the holiday season, “when use of the downtown area is at its height,” and, yes, “when the weather is not desirable.”

A lot has changed in the past 60 years, but some things never change. Others seem to move in retrograde fashion.

For many years an idea like Willis’ — a bus called the Downtown Spirit — ran through Winnipeg’s core business district until it was discontinued in September 2020. It was free of charge.

Lockdowns probably helped do it in, but so did a host of other problems. Winnipeg Transit, now as then, could again use a boost to its public image.

Now that people can safely re-engage with their communities, the hope has been that a surge of life returns, not just downtown, but to other business communities as well.

The Winter Village put on by the Osborne Village BIZ was meant to highlight its vibrant business sector. But there are several communities around the city — including one just to its south — deserving of the same recognition. Many of them also happen to be clumped together in relatively short distances, and it might be an idea to make it easier to move freely between them.

It is too late for this holiday season, but it might be an idea for the next.

I’m guessing the weather won’t be any more desirable.

Andrew Braga

Andrew Braga
South Osborne community correspondent

Andrew Braga is a community correspondent for South Osborne.

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