Let’s implement the Transit Master Plan now
The one single thing Winnipeg can do to realistically improve transit soon is implement the Transit Master Plan, pronto, with conventional buses.
On April 29, 2021, Winnipeg city council adopted the Winnipeg Transit Plan. This included proposed short-term and long-term network plans that rationalize routes to allow more frequent bus service. The federal government plays a key role, providing funds to share costs with the City of Winnipeg.
Rapid Transit routes are meant to serve as the spine of this frequent network. While the southwest Rapid Transit line largely runs on a new dedicated roadway for buses, future rapid transit lines will mostly use existing roadways.
For many years, work on the southwest line stalled over bickering between the city and the province and federal governments over whether the route should be a busway or a Light Rail Transit (LRT) line. By 2010, the city settled on starting with buses but reserved LRT as an option longer-term.
St. Vital councillor Brian Mayes brought LRT back up recently, proposing a LRT line running along St. Mary’s Road and up Main Street. Mayes suggested LRT could attract new riders: “I think some people who wouldn’t ride on a bus would ride on a train.”
Winnipeg should remain open to converting some of the rapid lines in the Transit Master Plan to LRT if the feds and province come with generous offers to pick up most of the tab. However, we should not plow our own resources into LRT at the expense of measures to improve service frequency right away, such as bus-fleet expansion and recruiting more drivers.
The new riders Transit needs to focus on right now are not folks aghast at the notion of riding a bus, but people who would use them if the service was more reliable and frequent.
Imagine a hypothetical two-parent family in West Broadway — Joe and Jane Doe. They take their kids to baseball and badminton practice. They both work, with Joe going to an office a few blocks east of Henderson Highway and Jane heading to work around Polo Park. They are a two-car household, but want to sell off one of their vehicles if only buses were more consistent for transfers.
There are many people like the Does in Winnipeg. Indeed, a 2018 Probe Research survey showed Transit users place frequent and reliable service as a top priority. We need to start doing that fast.
West Broadway community correspondent
Dylon Martin is a community correspondent for West Broadway.