Public transit is a key part of the city’s transportation network and like many things it is faced with numerous challenges. These range from poor coverage and infrequent service, to long waits between transfers, late busses, or busses that never show up at all. As a regular and committed user of transit, I understand how frustrating these can be, and how much of a disincentive they are to those who would consider using transit more often. Because of this I will advocate in support of transit while also offering firsthand insight into what is working and what isn’t. In order to ensure that it is providing the best possible service both now and far into the future, there are several areas the City and Winnipeg Transit must focus on in both the short and long term.
Short term goals:
- Commit to developing greater transit security measures, including driver shields and transit police. Transit drivers cannot do their job properly when they are concerned about their safety. Likewise, passengers are less likely to take the bus if there is a perceived likelihood of altercations or disturbances. Through collaboration with the Winnipeg Police Service and the Transit Union the city can make being on the bus safe and enjoyable at all times.
- Focus on improvements that will provide immediate positive impact. Examples include transit priority signals, queue jump lanes, and designating lanes on high traffic streets as diamond lanes during the busiest times of the week. All of these are easy to implement and cost effective.
- Continue to improve transit stops. While it is not feasible or necessary for all stops to feature heated shelters and electronic signboards, benches and small shelters that provide a degree of protection from the elements can make an enormous difference when waiting for a bus.
Long term goals:
- Continue to develop the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network. A connected network of transit corridors will allow for fast, frequent, and convenient transit trips from suburbs to downtown, and vice versa. By giving busses dedicated roadways, they are completely removed from traffic congestion and delays, and thus offer improved service.
- Implement “Quality Transit Lanes” in areas where BRT is not feasible. A step above diamond lanes and a step below transit corridors, Quality Transit Lanes are often constructed on median or curb lanes, and feature warning lights, barriers and signage to ensure awareness of when busses are approaching. By remaining on street, they avoid the need for more expensive dedicated roadway while avoiding most on street traffic.
- Examine the feasibility of transitioning to a “hub and spoke model”. In this model shorter suburban routes (spokes) would converge at major areas such as universities, shopping malls or BRT terminus stations (hubs), which are in turn linked together by more direct routes. This would allow for easier transfers, greater and more frequent coverage, and lessens the chances of major delays.
- Expand the transit fleet with the inclusion of 30-foot busses and electric busses. Smaller buses are better suited to low-ridership routes, freeing up larger busses to be used on routes with high demand. Electric busses, while having a higher purchase cost, are cheaper to run in the long term, in addition to being quieter and offering a smoother ride.
The City of Winnipeg was recently recieved $500 million dollars from the federal government, to be spent specifically on transit improvements. Whether this takes the form of expanding and modernizing the transit fleet or is devoted to new legs of the BRT system, it is a chance for the city to make major improvements to the transit network. Improvements make transit better for existing riders, but also more appealing to new riders. As the city continues to expand, every effort should be made to ensure the transit system expands with it.