Councillor Morantz and this committee are showing tremendous initiative in bringing this motion forward and we are very happy to see transit frequency being addressed.
Let me begin by mentioning something that happened last week
Last Thursday, my wife and I were at the grocery store doing some shopping for the weekend when we ran into friends of ours who had moved to Montreal several years ago. They were back in Winnipeg visiting friends and one of the first things they said was “man, is it weird to be back in a car again.” Neither of them had driven a car in over two years, but just a couple days back in their home city and they were back to driving everywhere.
Montreal has a 10-minute max #transit service with over thirty bus routes coming every ten minutes or less from 6 AM to 9 PM, Monday to Friday.
There are many Winnipeggers who will say that we just a “car city” as if it is a fact about Winnipeg. But it isn’t. If #public transit is convenient, folks will ride the bus in ever greater numbers. And we want that because the more people there are riding the bus the lower our carbon footprint, the less infrastructure costs we will incur and the greater access to mobility we will provide.
By emphasizing frequent service in Winnipeg, we are taking an innovative step. We are saying that we respect transit riders. A frequent service network is a very real improvement for Winnipeg. In the last two years we have seen ridership in Winnipeg begin to drop off, introducing and implementing a frequent service network that is available for longer hours during the day and on the weekends will turn that around.
How do I know this? It’s because both research and experience shows this to be true. When a bus comes more often it reduces waiting time, it makes transferring easier and it reduces uncertainty.
Less waiting time means that trips can be made spontaneously because a bus is always coming. It means less reliance on a schedule. Waiting time is the most arduous part of transit trip. Research shows that time waiting for a bus feels anywhere from 1.5 to 4.5 times longer than any unit of time spent riding a bus. The Transit Capacity and Quality Service Manual states that waiting for a bus feels twice as long as the same amount of time spent riding a bus.
Reducing the waiting time for transfers is even more important because riders have no control over those waits. At a transfer point a rider must arrive when their arrival bus is scheduled and must wait until whenever the transfer bus arrives. If #buses are running slightly off schedule and a rider misses the planned transfer the wait can be very significant. Transfers are so unappealing that many transit agencies including Winnipeg Transit have designed convoluted routes that snake past as many destinations as possible. But the truth is a transit agency cannot guess at all the places a rider needs to go and for many trips across the city a transfer is required. Frequent service recognizes the real necessity of transfers and eases their difficulty.
A high frequency network also addresses uncertainty. When you’re sitting at a transfer point one bus ride away from home and still one bus ride to your destination on a wintery Saturday evening it can feel unnerving. You’re in the middle of nowhere and at the mercy of the transit schedule (and bus frequencies). But that’s not the only time uncertainty matters – it matters if you have to be at an appointment or get to your workplace on time – when frequency is low it can turn being 1 minute late for a bus into a half hour late for work. When buses come more often, a missed bus becomes less burdensome and transfer points become less unnerving.
Creating a frequent service network will reduce waiting time, make it easier to transfer to reach more destinations and remove uncertainty, especially in winter. These improvements all increase ridership because they make transit a competitive choice relative to other modes of transportation.
Improving transit will have major impacts on not just riders, but the city as well.
Good transit is necessary to make Downtown and our core neighbourhoods more liveable. High density neighbourhoods just don’t function if the private automobile is the main mode of transportation. By providing good bus service, the city will make it possible to build living space downtown without massive parkades between each tower. Additionally, with so many grocery stores just outside a comfortable walking distance from downtown, better bus service in the evenings and weekends in the downtown area will go a long way to addressing the food desert challenge.
The city has recently begun to take on the challenge of creating Transit-Oriented Development outside the downtown. This kind of development is becoming increasingly trendy in North America among young people and is a must for attracting and keeping young professionals. High frequency transit available every day, most of the day is a must for these types of neighbourhoods to work.
Overall getting more people on the bus will make our city more compact and thus require less infrastructure. A more compact city is cheaper to service and will make it easier to balance future budgets.
These are all points that Functional Transit has brought up before and we are very excited to see this committee taking steps in this direction. We understand that resources are needed to make this happen in earnest and we will go on advocating for those resources. But we also believe that we need to set a frequent service goal for out #transit network and this plan will become a guide for how we add resources going forward.
It will be important that this plan has clearly defined maximum headways (not average headways), that the span of the service is well-defined and that there are goals for expanding the network both in terms of temporal span and spatial span as resources are added to the system.
When I envision a frequent service network, I see a map like a rapid transit or a subway map or even like an arterial roads map. I see a map I can open and immediately know where I can get to easily and quickly by transit in Winnipeg. As was mentioned by Jarrett Walker during his visit, we need this map up at Transit, in the mayor’s office, at the Chamber of Commerce, in the offices of councillors and realtors and all city stakeholders. We need as many people as possible to see the goal we are striving for. This motion is an opportunity to set that goal for Winnipeg.
What we want is to have more Winnipeggers on the bus, using less infrastructure and reducing their carbon footprint. The goal is to make downtown liveable, increase access to the necessities of life like grocery stores, to widen the reach of those who don’t have access to other modes of transportation and make our city more affordable to service.
When folks from a place like Montreal arrive in Winnipeg, we want them to pull out a bus map and choose to use transit in Winnipeg because it is the convenient choice.
I want to thank Councillors Morantz and Gerbasi for taking the initiative on this motion. I want to thank Councillor Lukes for all her assistance in bringing frequent transit to the forefront of the conversation. And I want to thank all the other councillors and Mayor Bowman for taking such an interest in improving our transit network. Taking this step toward a frequent service network is a big deal and an important step for the City of Winnipeg. Thank you.