Updates On Rapid Transit In Winnipeg
Construction of Rapid Transit in Winnipeg continues, and there’s a lot to unpack. Originally, once the Southwest Transitway was completed, the Eastern Transitway was to be the next step in the project. That step has been put on hold as of summer 2019 as the City develops their new Transit Master Plan. We’re going to take a deep dive into the Southwest Transitway and then we’re going to take a look at some of the proposals in the Transit Master Plan. As a citizen, it’s essential you get involved and make your voice heard; the development of transit will affect everything from how soon you can get to work to what time of day you can have booked appointments.
The Southwest Transitway
The first leg of Rapid Transit to be completed is the Southwest Transitway. Many readers may have already used Rapid Transit, and if you have, this is the transitway you were using. Those who have used it know that the corridor itself ends around Jubilee and Pembina, a far cry from the initial plan of having the corridor extend to the University of Manitoba. It’s worth noting there were a couple of reasons the City opted to prioritize the Southwest Transit’s development. The Southwestern area of the City is expected to grow by 40% and many transit users are University students. There are, then, dual incentives to develop Transit in the Southwest.
The Southwest Transitway is more or less complete. If everything goes according to plan, the route should be open by April 2020 and service will extend from downtown all the way to the University of Manitoba. In conjunction with this change, the City of Winnipeg is planning on changing a number of routes, cancelling a number of others, and adding new ones. We’ll elaborate on this when we discuss the Transit Master Plan, but here’s a brief summary: all of the current Rapid Transit Routes will become amalgamated into one route - the Blue Line. The Blue Line will run every 3-4 minutes and go to IG Field or St. Norbert. A number of lines in Southwest Winnipeg will be cancelled and replaced by Feeder Lines that are specifically oriented to drop riders off at Blue Line stops. In total, 18 routes will be cancelled, 15 routes will be added, and 10 routes will be changed. This is all subject to City Council approval.
The Southwest Transitway has already spurred substantial development. There is an Active Transportation Route for bikers and pedestrians that spans the length of the Transitway. Fort Rouge Yards developed around the transitway and has over 1000 dwellings. More dwellings have been approved around the transitway and Bishop Grandin. Businesses like Markham Dental are thrilled about the development because Rapid Transit will provide easy access to the business. In general, when places are easier to get to, businesses in the area will see an influx of customers. One hopes that, over time, the increase in commerce in the areas surrounding the transitway will more than pay for the cost of the corridor. Additionally, the completed line means the trip to the U of M should take 8 to 10 minutes less from any given area. Moreover, Blue Line buses coming every 3-4 minutes reduces the need to check the schedule to know when the next bus will show up.
The Transit Master Plan
Earlier, we alluded to Feeder Lines and how they relate to the Transit Master Plan - let’s take a closer look. The Transit Master Plan is a blueprint for how transit will be developed in the coming years in anticipation that Winnipeg’s population will reach one million people within the next 25 years. There’s been a lot of consultation with Winnipeggers about this plan and you can currently still engage with the project; we’ll give more details at the end of this section.
The proposed Transit Master Plan features three Rapid Transit lines. The aforementioned Blue Line would be extended to go down Portage with a possibility of extending the line past the Perimeter to feed Headingley. The second line, which we’ll call the Green Line, would extend from North Main all the way to South St. Mary’s. A third line, which we’ll call the Pink Line, would be from the western end of Grant to near the end of Regent. Those routes are slated to run every 5 to 10 minutes, all day.
A further 13 “Frequent Lines” will run through the city, feeding the Rapid Transit lines and getting commuters from place to place along major thoroughfares. The Frequent Lines will connect most neighborhoods to the downtown area and the Rapid Transit lines and run every 10-15 minutes. They will be further served by 6 “Direct Lines”, which will run every 15-20 minutes and connect multiple neighborhoods. For example, there will be a line that runs from Southdale to Ness, snaking through a large portion of the city. Direct Lines will not run downtown. In fact, only Rapid Transit and Frequent Lines will be downtown. Together, Rapid Transit, Frequent Lines, and Direct Lines are known as the Primary Network.
The Feeder Network will consist of Connector Routes that will connect communities to the Primary Network and these lines are slated to run every 15-30 minutes. To get around your community and reach Connector Routes, there will be Community Routes which will run every 30-60 minutes. One notable thing about the plan is that many new and developing suburban communities have not yet had bus lines approved in their furthest reaches. To get them, the residents of those areas will need to inform the City of their desire to have more comprehensive transit.
Transit Budget Caps
All of this development is interesting and it comes with another informative announcement from the City. Winnipeg capped Transit’s budget at a 2% per year increase, which is lower than the rate of inflation. Transit has declared that they will need to begin cutting services, getting rid of the Downtown Spirit and DART buses as well as reducing shelter maintenance and heating. Transit says they will need to start making these cuts by 2020 and that they’ll need to make further cuts in the future. How the City of Winnipeg plans to align a 2% per annum budget increase with a massive realignment of transit services remains to be seen.