There is much to like in the newly announced Transit Master Plan, which will come to city council for a vote on April 30.
For example, the increased use of electric buses and more frequent north/south bus service for St. Vital. However, the TMP also presents major cost questions.
The TMP outlines a plan, ending in the year 2045, for new dedicated bus lanes and other new Rapid Transit infrastructure (such as a bus bridge from St. Vital, over the Red River to the University of Manitoba) at an estimated price tag of $1.08 billion.
Unfortunately, city staff have provided almost no details of these plans and have stated that they really don’t know what the whole package would cost. The various projects are presented as Class 5 cost estimates, which are "rough estimates based on very limited information".
The TMP includes a further $500 million proposal to the federal and provincial governments for electric buses and a new transit garage to accommodate these buses, but these plans are also based on the Class 5 "rough cost estimates".
This stands in stark contrast to the plan (also ending in the year 2045) that city staff prepared for upgrading our aged combined sewer (CSO) system.
The CSO plan was presented to the province in August 2019 and was never voted on by council. This plan details $1.15 billion in spending on sewer work, which would dramatically reduce the amount of raw sewage flowing into Winnipeg rivers.
However, city staff doubled the projected cost of that plan to $2.3 billion when it was presented to the province because it involves Class 5 cost estimates. We need to know why two plans, both over $1 billion, both ending in 2045, both involving Class 5 cost estimates, have entirely different costing methods, creating a billion-dollar discrepancy.
I have voted for many transit proposals during my years on council, and I would like to see electric buses on the streets of Winnipeg, however, I would also like to see clear cost estimates for doing so.
I would really like to see the city reduce the estimated cost of its sewer plan, so that we can go to other levels of government and make a detailed request for more funding, rather than inflating the costs by $1 billion.
Brian Mayes is the city councillor for St. Vital.