Transit advocates ramping-up efforts
Functional Transit Winnipeg is launching a campaign to fight for transit funding.
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Transit advocates in Winnipeg are hosting an information session this week as they brace for a fight to preserve the city’s bus system in the face of budgetary pressure.
Functional Transit Winnipeg chairperson Joseph Kornelsen said his group is preparing to lobby the provincial government to recommit to covering 50 per cent of municipal transit costs moving forward, after the Pallister government announced it would back away from that long-standing commitment in May.
“The guarantee is super important to make sure the city has necessary revenue to actually start making steps towards improving the service,” Kornelsen said.
He explained Functional Transit has been calling for “frequent, accessible, and affordable transit” for years, and in the past few months, “made some headway” in City Hall.
In June, Coun. Marty Morantz, who chairs the city’s infrastructure and public works committee, asked Winnipeg transit to consider a city-wide high-frequency bus plan—much to the delight of those like Kornelsen, who see that as a way towards a more usable public transportation system.
But despite that “win,” Kornelsen said consistent funding from the province would have been needed to just maintain Winnipeg Transit’s current service, let alone make such improvements.
“The end of the guarantee really threatens what is already a bare-bones service,” he said
Also in June, city councillors approved a plan to reduce its bus fleet replacement order as a direct response to the province’s new funding position.
Kornelsen said “we’re already seeing the effects” of reduced funding on the service.
Beyond extending the lifecycle of a few buses that were due to be retired, he thinks it’s also pushing goals the province and city share further down the line; things like reducing carbon emissions, helping pull Winnipeg’s working poor above the poverty line, and reducing infrastructure damage caused by single-occupant commuter traffiv.
For all of those goals, he explained “the funding commitment (from the province) is key,” which is why Functional transit’s lobbying efforts are about to ramp-up.
The subject of discussion on Thursday, Aug. 31 at the St. Boniface Library circles around that mission, and is meant to drum up support for the group’s other upcoming initiatives.
“We’re putting together a petition, going door-knocking, and we’ve put together a letter or an email on our website folks can send to their MLAs to let them know they care about the issue,” Kornelsen said.