My name is Derek Koop and I am speaking on behalf of Functional Transit Winnipeg. Functional Transit Winnipeg is a local non-profit group of citizens. Our mission is to advocate for a viable public transit system that is frequent, accessible and affordable. A viable transit system is one that is competitive with other modes of transportation in terms of overall trip times and accesses diverse destinations.

I would like to speak to the Public Transit Operating Budget.

I am here today to urge this committee to recommend to council that funding be increased to Winnipeg Transit’s operations to increase bus frequency throughout the city. Additionally, I want to urge the City set aside money to commission a study on how a high frequency network could be implemented throughout Winnipeg.

Why am I here asking this today?

If you do not own a vehicle, the City of Winnipeg can be a difficult city to live and work in. Rush hour, for those that drive, it is the time to avoid, but manageable. For transit riders, rush hour is THE time to travel. Outside of rush hour, transit riders lose that ability to travel efficiently:

  • When you have to walk long distances to reach useful bust stops
  • When you miss their transfer and the next bus comes in 25 minutes
  • When we have a transit systems that barely functions 2 days of the week.

Picture yourself as a transit rider going grocery shopping, taking your kids to doctor’s appointment, working evenings. How would you deal with these issues? Unfortunately for most Winnipegger’s the remedy is purchasing a vehicle.

Winnipeg is a car city and that can be seen by our public transit ridership numbers. As our neighbors in Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Ottawa have 25 to 50% higher transit ridership per capita.

2015 was the first year in a decade that Winnipeg saw a decline in transit ridership. Prior to 2015, Winnipeg had consistent growth in transit ridership; we cannot lose out on that momentum. We need the leadership from this council to create a plan to increase ridership in this city.

Research on public transit has consistently shown that dollars spent on higher frequency service have a greater effect on ridership than any other transit investment.

If you are looking for some light reading on the subject, you can review the selections from Functional Transit Winnipeg’s full report I handed out.

Higher frequency transit service also plays a key role in creating:

  • A sustainable city by improving walkability, reducing our carbon footprint and reducing reliance on private automobiles.
  • A safer city by reducing the waiting time at bus stops and transfer points in unpopulated areas and areas that feel unsafe.
  • A vibrant city by connecting people to entertainment venues, recreation centres and workplaces.

The City needs to begin the process of looking into what a high frequency network would mean for Winnipeg and its citizens.

How does this relate to our current budget?

The current budget on the surface appears to have a modest increase for public transit, compared to years past. However, public transit will actually receive a smaller slice of the pie to operate the existing transit network when we strip away the Transfers to Capital and the Southwest Transitway.

Specifically the public transit operating budget will increase by 2.9%, while the city’s overall operating budget increased by 6.0%

How can we expect growth, change with 2.9%?

I urge council to fund a study to look into how a high-frequency network could be implemented throughout Winnipeg. And we need the leadership from this committee to support strategic investment in public transit to focus on increased transit frequency to create a transit network for all citizens of Winnipeg.

Thank you very much.

FTW speech to Executive Policy Committee – March 15, 2016