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Winnipeg Can’t Afford Unreliable Bus Service: Currie

September 19, 2015 8:24 AM | Columns

By Roger Currie

Winnipeg Transit


Our marathon election campaign has given Canadians plenty of opportunity to judge those we elect at all levels, on their ability to deliver the goods. From the hustings, we’re hearing all sorts of promises, along with explanations we must take at face value about how these wonderful things will be paid for.

Every now and then we are smacked in the face with a horrible example of failure by the public sector. Today’s reality check involves bus service in Winnipeg — making sure there are enough buses on the road to get us where we need to be, if we can’t afford the luxury of our own vehicle.

Just as classes were resuming this month at schools and universities in Winnipeg, city hall finally admitted that there weren’t enough buses on the road to deliver that basic level of service, especially during rush hour. Too many buses are in need of major repairs, so rush hour service is being reduced, and that may continue until Christmas.

Full disclosure: I have not been a regular transit user for many years, probably not since my student days. I have almost always had access to my own car, and what a basic freedom that is. But hundreds of thousands of people depend on transit to get them to school and to work. It’s one of the ways we measure the quality of life in a community.

Prairies cities like Winnipeg, Regina and Saskatoon cannot afford fancy rapid transit systems like Toronto, but we have made great strides in enabling those who ride the bus to develop a schedule so they won’t have to wait too long for that precious ride on a frigid winter day.

As you might expect, there has been all kinds of “buck passing” since the bus shortage hit the headlines. Winnipeg has grand plans to improve service long into the future — plans that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to develop. Everyone, from the mayor on down, needs to re-focus on the here and now, and get it right.

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Roger Currie is a writer, storyteller, voice for hire, observer of life on the Canadian prairies, and can be heard on CJNU 93.7FM in Winnipeg.