This speech was made to City Council on Wednesday, June 15, 2016
The route of phase two of the Southwest Transitway lacks justifications. There is no present development along the route, there is little opportunity for development and there are few guarantees or explanations for the benefits this route will provide.
Functional Transit Winnipeg urges this council to vote against paying the increased cost to Manitoba Hydro for the corridor. By not paying the substantially higher price, the City will be effectively canceling this project, and this project should be canceled.
We havereviewed the initial Southwest Corridor study and the Business Case study. We found these reports to be severely lacking. Given the vagaries of the reports, we believe City Council should be deeply concerned about mounting surprises as the project moves along.
This corridor reduces access to amenities along Pembina Highway. In order to justify moving service off Pembina, it was promised that areas along the corridor would be developed as Transit Oriented Development (TOD)
Throughout this process it has not been made adequately clear that there have been any caveats placed on these development to ensure they are transit-oriented.
So far, all evidence indicates there are no caveats on these developments at all. One third of the Parker Lands development – an area that was promised for TOD in its entirety – is now going to be used for a pond instead. Along Phase 1, the TOD promised in the Fort Rouge Yards development will not materialize: the planning document for the Yards at Fort Rouge explicitly states that it is unlikely retailers will ever succeed in that location. Without retail, this area will not meet the City’s definition of TOD.
Not only are there no guarantees that TOD will be built, only a very small part of the area around the corridor is expected to be developed at all. Along the full seven kilometers, there are only three pockets for development. Most of the corridor is not expected to be developed – leaving many stations along the corridor sitting in the middle of nowhere. Not only will these stations not be accessible to anything, being in the middle of nowhere will contribute to making these stations feel unsafe.
It is also unclear how much of an improvement this corridor will have on speed given that the corridor is 50% longer than the distance travelled by buses on Pembina Higway.
The reports on this project state the corridor will be 5-8 minutes faster, yet there has never been an adequate explanation for how these speed projections were determined. So Functional Transit created our own analysis to determine what the speed improvement will be.
Using the average speed of buses on Phase 1 of the Southwest Corridor and comparing to average speeds of buses using current bus schedules, we found that super express buses would actually be slower on the corridor than on Pembina Highway. We found that the #161 would be one minute slower on the corridor and the #137 would be two and a half minutes slower.
These calculations obviously do not take into account the improvements to congestion that will take place when the Jubilee Underpass is widened and when the City fully rolls out its centralized traffic signal control program.
Speed could be improved on this corridor if stations are built with passing lanes, however it is not clear how many of these stations will have passing lanes.
As someone who believes a solid and effective transit system is absolutely critical in Winnipeg, it terrifies me to stand here and tell you not to undertake the largest transit project in this city’s history. But transit riders deserve better than this route. We have all been waiting decades for decent transit investment and unfortunately this project is not it.
Plain Transit for Planners a document put out by the Ontario Professional Planners Institute, summarizes very nicely what is needed to make transit work: “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.”
The route of the Southwest Corridor breaks so many of these considerations and it is encouraging to see many councillors beginning to see the flaws in this route.
From our research, much of which is included in the report we gave to council a little over a year ago, these are the options before council that will have the biggest impact on transit:
- Higher frequency service. This is far and away most important and it’s intuitive for anyone who has taken transit before.
- Rapid transit corridors must access amenities – because bus riders are normal people who need to run errands, get to their workplaces and have fun.
- Transit must be competitive – Transit is cheaper than a private automobile, but it comes with a steep time cost. Time cost is best dealt with by shortening waiting times and walking distances. On average, waiting and walking to the bus feels twice as long as riding the bus. Ultimately, transit service must be affordable both in time cost and in financial cost to be competitive.
Given that there are so many unknowns with this project and given that there are far more effective ways to invest in transit, ways that actually increase ridership and are helpful to everyone in the entire city, Functional Transit Winnipeg recommends not purchasing the Manitoba Hydro Corridor land for four times the price originally expected.