My name is Joseph Kornelsen and I am a resident of the Daniel McIntyre ward.

I want to begin by acknowledging the tragedy that took place this year with the murder of bus operator Jubal Fraser. This tragedy was unacceptable and I think we all acknowledge the necessity of driver safety. I will not be talking about this tragedy in this speech, but it must remain on the forefront of the minds of decision makers during the budget process.

Next year is election year and this mayor and committee needs to think about its legacy going into the election.

As chair of Functional Transit Winnipeg, I have spoken at committees or council meetings during every budget process to remind this council of the importance of transit.

I will begin with the positive. This budget takes steps to address the serious safety issues facing drivers and there is a larger than usual increase to transit operations. But these positives are eclipsed by the negatives.

This committee cannot authorize cutting service and raising fares by 9%.

This mayor and council has dragged its heals on the transit file and left itself vulnerable to the cuts from the province.

Today I want to express that it’s not just me and the people you have heard from today who are demanding better transit. It is a sizeable proportion of the population of Winnipeg, if not the majority of Winnipeggers.

I want to show you that the citizens of the city you have responsibility for have been choosing transit for the last decade and a half despite the city’s underinvestment.

And I want to show this committee that our city is so far behind other Canadian cities slightly larger than Winnipeg that it’s almost difficult to believe. As this city’s leaders, your legacy is on the line.

People care about transit and they pay attention to it. People care about transit because it is how they get around. They care about it because it provides mobility to those unable to use other options. They care about it because it creates equality of opportunity by connecting people with jobs throughout the city even if they can’t afford a car. They care about it because they are millennials and they just don’t like cars as much. They care about it because they are urbanists and they understand that good transit is fundamental to a healthy, resilient city.

People care about transit all over. And they care about it in Winnipeg.

In the budget consultation process for the 2018 budget, Winnipeggers chose public transit as their second most important priority. It comes in ahead of items like snow removal, police service and assessment and taxation.

The city’s planning guide, OurWinnipeg is getting an update. I want to show you what was heard from Winnipeggers in creating the 2011 OurWinnipeg document.

Winnipeggers said ongoing enhancements to frequency and coverage were required. Transit needs to be easy to understand and use for new immigrants. It should be affordable and communities should be designed to minimize walking distances to transit.

This budget does not address these. It will in fact do worse on every one of these points. If Winnipeggers are expressing a desire for better transit, this committee should have every incentive to prioritize transit improvement in this budget, not cause service reductions

Despite effectively flat funding for transit service over the last eight years, Winnipeggers have been, against all odds, choosing to switch to transit. This might be because Millennials prefer options other than private automobiles, it might be because people were realizing the convenience of not having to drag out their second most expensive asset and subject it to icy and crowded roads, it might be because gas prices are higher than they were in 2002. Whatever it is, transit is carrying 9 million more riders than it was in 2005.

According to recently released census data, the number of Winnipeg commuters using transit increased in the last five years from 14.6% to 14.9%.

Here we see per capita ridership increasing 22% from 2003 to 2013 with a dip beginning in 2014.

This dip cannot be attributed to factors beyond the control of this council.

*From 2016-2018, the city began including “Transfer to capital” in it’s transit budget. This transfer was removed from the final calculation in order make comparisons year-to-year for service

Here we see the city’s contribution to transit service adjusted for inflation and city growth – there was a slow decline in funding for service from 2009 to 2015. If you remove transfers to the Southwest Corridor (which is not service), even the modest increase in 2016 disappears.

We do see that in the 2018 preliminary budget finally a large increase in contribution to service. But it is too little too late – now we need to ensure enough resources go in to prevent cuts.

Here’s how far behind we are.

Both Edmonton and Ottawa are about 30% larger than Winnipeg yet they are spending almost 400% more on their transit network than we are.

In 2018, Edmonton is contributing $235 million to their transit network.

In 2016, Ottawa contributed $220 million to their transit network.

These are regular annual contributions to transit. If Winnipeg was contributing proportionally the same as these cities, the contribution in this budget would be contributing $170 millionCalculated. Instead, the preliminary budget is recommending $65 million.

Does this committee not find it shocking that we contribute $65 million to transit while Ottawa and Edmonton contribute over $200 million?

If we plan to grow to 1 million how are we not looking at what these cities are doing?

You have likely noticed the Sardine Award contest we are running on Twitter. This is what underfunding looks like. This is the uncomfortable experience you are subjecting riders to. While some might say that riders should pay their fair share, I would again point to Ottawa and Edmonton and say why is the city not paying it’s share?

I respect everyone on this council. I have spoken with many of you about transit issues over the last three years. But I also hold this committee and council accountable for this funding crisis.

I understand that this looks like a hard decision. What I’m trying to communicate to you is that this decision is easy. Winnipeggers want more transit. A lot of Winnipeggers have been choosing transit. And when we look at comparison cities, our funding levels can justifiably be increased.

I also understand that the province cutting funding made this year an extra challenge. Functional Transit worked hard earlier this year to protect that funding. We will be fighting for that funding in the future. But at the end of the day this committee and council has the final say and you have a choice. The city has not kept up on funding service, and the responsibility is yours to fix that.

Mayor Bowman, after you swept to power promising effectively billions for transit, did you really not see improving transit service as any part of your mandate?

I know that there are people on EPC that care about transit a lot. Mayor Bowman I believe you care about transit. To all councillors here, I want to know what you are waiting for? Are you really comfortable closing out your term saying to transit riders too bad, next year you’re going to pay more for worse service? Too bad, that at the end of my term there are less riders than there were at the beginning?

What I want to get across is that Winnipeggers are riding transit, they want it to be better and they know that council decision-makers are a large part of the reason why it’s not better. The funding response after the unexpected transit slowdown in September 2015 was listless. The net increase to service funding in the last four years has been tiny. And while City Hall seems happy to promote our inevitable rise to one million people, we choose to ignore what’s happening for transit in Canadian cities that are nearing or at that goal.

Over this council’s term a massive service slow-down took place and now a service cut and a 10% fare increase. To do nothing in the face of these catastrophes is unacceptable if this council believes itself to value transit. Each of these should have been a wake-up call. The last four years were ones of choice from this committee and this council and Winnipeggers are paying attention. You still have time to make the right choice for this budget.


December 5, 2017

Stopping the cuts – Joseph Kornelsen speaks at Executive Policy Committee