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. In short, one that is competitive with other modes of transportation in terms of overall trip times and accesses diverse destinations.
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.
While there is a clear increase in the amount of money toward purchasing buses in this year’s budget, it is unclear how many of these buses are replacements, how many are to help mitigate issues associated with bus engine breakdowns, how many buses will be used to improve service to the two universities for the U-pass and how many will improve frequency throughout the City. We certainly appreciate this investment to the extent that it increases the quantity of service for riders.
Operational expenditures appear to have increased by roughly $5 million in this budget which appears to be comparable to other years. The inclusion of capital projects as part of the mill rate contribution seems to be a new way of recording cash-to-capital so it is hard to comment on the City’s increase in its contribution to transit. I would be very interested in understanding this change in accounting if the councillors present know why this change took place.
I would like to speak to the importance of frequency for transit investment. I know that you may not all be car drivers, but since most Winnipeggers drive, I would like to contextualize the experience of a transit rider relative to a car driver.
Consider the difference between what it feels like to be a driver vs what it feels like to be a transit rider.
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 exist. 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 of the week 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 or Houston, Texas – both of these cities have worked to design frequency-based networks. But these aren’t the only cities. Many cities have designated high- frequency routes, including Winnipeg.
Planning professionals also point to the importance of frequency. Quoting from the Ontario Professional Planners Institute publication, “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.”
The City needs to begin the process of looking into what kind of improvement a broadly implemented high frequency network would have for Winnipeg.
I would like to commend the city and the students of the U of W and U of M for undertaking the U-pass program. I’m assuming that much of the money devoted toward buses in this budget will be used to provide a higher level of service to students.
The U-pass is a great project for transit because it uses the combined financial capacity of university students to create a higher level of service that can benefit not just university students but also riders throughout the city. Ensuring that buses serve overlapping transportation needs is critical to running an efficient system. Routes that university students use are often the same routes other Winnipeggers use – This overlap means non-students will receive benefits in higher frequency service without additional costs to the City.
I urge the city to ensure that there will be sufficient buses available to serve the diverse transportation needs of students – such as for grocery shopping, getting to the bar and getting to recreational activities. For the U-pass to work, students need more than a free bus pass – they need a system that’s convenient enough for them to keep taking the bus once they have to pay for it.
Ensuring that we create a transit system that is convenient, that efficiently serves multiple destinations and multiple population segments is critical. Investing more resources into operating our existing network with higher frequency service is a must in this budget.
Additionally, I urge council to fund a study to look into how a high-frequency network could be implemented throughout Winnipeg.
Finally, 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.