Despite significant losses due to the pandemic, significant support and innovation for Winnipeg Transit continues
Released: 5:41 p.m.
Winnipeg, MB – Building on the decisions made during the multi-year balanced budget process earlier this year, support for public transit is once again prioritized as part of the Preliminary 2021 Balanced Budget Update.
“A well-functioning public transit system is a necessity for a growing city, and I’m pleased to see transit and transit innovation continue to be a priority,” said Matt Allard, Chairperson of the Standing Policy Committee on Infrastructure Renewal and Public Works. “Despite the significant impact the pandemic has had on Winnipeg Transit, I’m proud of the support this Council continues to show for public transit.”
The Preliminary 2021 Balanced Budget Update increases the tax supported subsidy to transit from $67.3 million to $104.3 million, or 55 percent. This includes a one-time $28.5 million increase to the tax supported subsidy to address lower ridership levels during the pandemic and the lack of matching funds from the provincial government for the federal restart funding for public transit.
Along with every other transit service in Canada, the dynamic effects of pandemic-related restrictions on Canadians have created significant challenges and losses for transit operations.
A fundamental problem that all transit services grapple with is how to supply the most accurate service to meet the unpredictable changes in demand. This problem has been amplified during the pandemic, and part of the solution is to be more responsive to transit rider requests for service.
This concept was referenced in the draft Winnipeg Transit Master Plan which proposed on-request transit service as a future value add for transit riders. On-request, or on-demand, service delivery has been piloted or deployed in Canadian cities like Edmonton, Sault Ste. Marie, Stratford, Regina, and Saskatoon; and while outcomes will vary, the common theme being observed is increased service efficiency and decreased wait times for riders.
In the Preliminary 2021 Balanced Budget Update, a collaboration between the Innovation and Transit departments will see a proof of concept pilot launched upon budget approval that will focus on an immediate $140,000 technology investment to the Dart Service and a report back in 2021 on the transformative opportunity for improvements to service delivery in the City of Winnipeg.
The Preliminary 2021 Balanced Budget Update for Transit also:
- Continues to implement the Blue Rapid Transit Line, providing high frequency, reliable transit service between Downtown, the University of Manitoba, and St. Norbert.
- Implements fare free travel for children age 11 and under
- Further discounts the low-income bus pass
- Implements key recommendations from the 2019 Ombudsman Report for Winnipeg Transit Plus, including the elimination of a long-standing barrier that requires the origin and destination of a trip to be within 500 meters of an established bus route (referred to as the 500-meter rule)
- Allocates funds for 25 new transit buses and ongoing investments in heated bus shelters
- Limits the Winnipeg Transit fare increase to inflation for all fare categories
“This Council should take pride in eliminating the 500-meter rule,” said Councillor Brian Mayes, St. Vital. “This is a major accomplishment for disability rights in the city. Whether it’s getting to Fort Whyte, or to visit family, Winnipeg Transit Plus users will for the first time be able to go anywhere within city boundaries.”
Finally, the Preliminary 2021 Balanced Budget Update includes cost saving measures of approximately $13 million in 2021 to address an expected loss of revenue due to lower ridership as a result of the pandemic. The tax supported subsidy for transit will increase by $18 million, or 27 percent from $67.3 million in 2020 to $85.3 million in 2023.