My name is Joseph Kornelsen 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.
I am here today to urge council to increase funding to Winnipeg Transit’s operations in order to increase bus frequency throughout the city. Additionally, I want to urge the City to set aside money to commission a study on how a high frequency network could be implemented throughout Winnipeg.
While the City is undertaking an expansion of its rapid transit network with phase two of the Southwest Corridor, it is actually far more important to operate a frequent and affordable transit service. Capital projects like transitways are just roads, they are not the service. And we have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to service. Winnipeg Transit operates approximately one bus for every 1100 Winnipeggers. Meanwhile, Ottawa operates approximately one transit vehicle for every 940 people and Edmonton (along with two nearby municipalities) operates one transit vehicle for every 750 people. To match Edmonton’s transit service we would need about 900 buses – That’s almost 50% more buses than we have at present.
While there is a clear increase in the amount of money toward purchasing buses in this year’s budget – something Functional Transit Winnipeg is very happy to see – it is not clear that there is a sufficient increase in the operating budget to make any noticeable improvements to operations. Operational expenditures appear to have increased by roughly $5 million in this budget.
An increase of $5 million to operations represents an absolute increase of 2.9% in a budget that is increasing at twice that rate: 6%. When taking into account inflation of 1.4% and Winnipeg’s population growth rate of 1.4%, the total increase becomes just 0.1% to transit operations. A 0.1% increase in a city already seriously falling behind other similarly-sized Canadian cities.
Frequent service is necessary to grow ridership with any transit service whether we build rapid transit corridors or not.
I know that you may not all be car drivers, but since most Winnipeggers drive, I would like to contextualize the experience of transit rider relative to a car driver.
What is it about driving that makes it so great? What makes driving a preferred mode of transportation? What is it about transit that makes people choose not to take it?
Private automobiles give you control. They give you control of your trip. Transportation investment needs to be about empowering individuals to be in greater control over their trip. When people lose control they get upset – think about how it feels to be at the mercy of an infrequent traffic light when you’re stuck in rush hour traffic.
Car drivers think a lot about rush hour traffic – for drivers, the dream is to create a world where rush hour traffic doesn’t exit. For car drivers that is a primary concern and it is certainly a justified concern. With transit riders, rush hour traffic is not the primary concern because it is not the primary area in which they lose control.
Transit riders lose control when they have to walk long distances to get to useful stops, they lose control when they miss their bus at a transfer point and the next one comes in 25 minutes, they lose control when two whole days have a barely functioning transit service. How can people live their lives with this kind of service? How would you live your life with this kind of service?
A frequent network addresses these issues.
The benefits of increased frequency are both intuitive and research-backed. We urge City Council to set aside funding to look into implementing a high frequency network in Winnipeg.
Last year, Functional Transit provided councillors with a report on the benefits of ensuring transit service is accessible, affordable and frequent. I have handed out a selected portion of the report that addresses the research on frequency and transportation needs of Winnipeggers.
The City should look to cities like Minneapolis/St. Paul and Houston, Texas – both of these cities have worked to design frequency-based networks.
Planning professionas also point to the importance of frequency. Quoting from the Ontario Professional Planners Institute, “Plain Transit for Planners:”
Key considerations for transit service include frequency of service, customer service, affordability and safety. The environment, which incorporates street design, transit access points and neighbourhood design, must be supportive of transit service. The success of the transit provided is otherwise limited.
Winnipeg needs to begin the process of looking into what kind of improvement a broadly implemented high frequency network would have for Winnipeg.
One of the priorities communicated to the City from Winnipegers through the budget consultation process was the importance of making Winnipeg a sustainable city.
We are not moving in that direction when the increase to Winnipeg Transit’s operating expenditure is just 0.1%. This kind of investment will ensure that our system continues to languish, no matter how many corridors this city builds.
I urge city council to fund a study to look into how a high-frequency network could be implemented throughout Winnipeg.
I urge you to think about what it means to be in control of your transportation and what that means for a transit rider.
You need to invest in transit like you want it to work for you. Where do you want to go? The grocery store? The daycare? Out with friends? Your workplace? Imagine taking a bus for those things. The key to increasing ridership is to meet these needs and we can do it better with a high frequency network.