The City of Winnipeg tabled the 2018 preliminary budget with some very bad news for transit riders. Riders will be paying 25 cents more next year for worse service than what we’re getting now. The budget goes to vote December 12, 2017.
- Fares are increasing by 25 cents in 2018
- Service will be reduced on 22 routes
- The city is investing in safety improvements
- The city has covered some costs associated with the shortfall from the province, but not nearly all
Why is this happening?
Both the province and the city bear responsibility for the situation facing transit riders. The funding shortfall we are experiencing this year is due to the provincial government ending legislation that required them to split the government contribution to public transit with any Manitoba municipality running a transit service.
The city has responded with a larger than usual increase, but hardly enough to prevent transit from falling deeper into a cycle of decline.
While the city has been put in a tough position, it has long neglected public transit in Winnipeg. Between 2005 and 2015, Winnipeg’s contribution to transit kept pace with inflation and city growth but no more. Meanwhile, over roughly that same period, per capita ridership rose by 22%. That means that transit demand increasingly outstripped the resources being put into the system.
If transit ridership grew in proportion with city growth, transit would be working as well as it did in 2005. But it didn’t– ridership grew faster and the city did not keep up with funding. The result was overcrowding, unreliability and pass-ups.
Transit did such a good job at making do with what they had they won an award from the Ontario Municipal Benchmarking Initiative for running the best service with the least funding.
Riders and City Hall faced a rude awakening when the 2015 transit catastrophe hit – transit was unable to run enough buses to maintain its schedule, forcing riders to face greater unreliability and longer waits for buses. In the last two years, the city has increased funding for purchasing buses, but has done little to catch up with funding service.
In June 2017, Winnipeggers named transit as a top priority for the 2018 budget.
During the 2014 civic election, then-candidate Brian Bowman promised to spend what amounted to billions on building out Winnipeg’s rapid transit network. To close out his term admitting defeat on just regular transit service –even as the city’s own budget consultation found Winnipeggers see transit as a priority– is shocking.
Functional Transit Winnipeg has been demanding improved funding for service every year since 2014. It is hard to understand the reason why mayor and council repeatedly refuses to take the opportunity to make our transit network the envy of North America.
We are now working with a coalition of several Winnipeg groups and individual citizens to fight these cuts.
Email your city councillor and MLA here to let them know we need more –not less– transit funding.