The first phase of Winnipeg’s rapid transit system is now open for travel, spanning 3.6 kilometres as a high-speed connection between the city’s downtown and Fort Rouge neighbourhood.
The $138 million project, funded by all three levels of government, takes passengers from Queen Elizabeth Way all the way to Jubilee Avenue. Phase 2 is still in the works, which will eventually take riders further south to the University of Manitoba.
“Winnipeg’s first rapid transit corridor will offer people more choices for getting around and will play an important role in the city’s future growth by creating development opportunities along the line,” Premier Greg Selinger said. “Everyone benefits when more of us choose to leave the car at home and take the bus or bike, and this will make those choices more convenient, safe and reliable.”
Selinger also said the province has committed funding for the second phase and is ready to work on a route plan with the city, along with sorting out the funding. The estimated cost the second time around is about $275 million.
Branded simply as RT, buses won’t be held up by traffic lights or intersections and will help to make the ride for passengers that much quicker to get them to their destination.
The dedicated Southwest Transitway can handle bus traffic up to 80 km/h by servicing riders from multiple transit stations. Harkness, Osborne, and the Fort Rouge Yards will act as access points to the corridor. The Osborne station is enclosed, unlike Harkness and Fort Rouge, which offer glass canopies on the platform, as well as heated shelters in the winter.
“We must acknowledge the fact that Winnipeg needs rapid transit,” Mayor Sam Katz said. “South, north, east and west. We must all work hard to make sure it becomes a reality. There’s always a way to solve a problem if we work together.”
Thirteen bus routes will connect passengers to the east and south ends of the city through high-frequency service. Several traditional bus routes have either been changed or cancelled to accommodate the new service. Transit officials say this will streamline service for riders, but will still monitor affected routes to determine if buses need to be re-added based on demand.
Another hope is that more commuters leave their vehicles at home for bus rapid transit, which the city says will help the country’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
A schedule and route map can be found at WinnipegTransit.com.