For those who rely on the bus, but struggle to pay for it, the City of Winnipeg is looking at a solution.

The preliminary 2019 budget includes a recommendation for council to approve a phased-in implementation of a low income bus pass starting April 1, 2020.

“We want to make sure that we’re planning properly, and that’s why we’re phasing it in, to address the unknown because we’ve never had it before,” said Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman.

A monthly adult bus pass currently costs $100.10. If approved, the low income monthly pass would give eligible adults a 30 per cent discount in 2020, 40 per cent off in 2021, and 50 per cent in 2022.

Josh Brandon with the Social Planning Council said it’s a step in the right direction.

“Ultimately, we need to see much deeper subsidies than what are being proposed,” said Brandon. “We’re going to be working with the city to make sure that it’s applied as broadly as possible.”

President of the Amalgamated Transit Union Aleem Chaudhary said making transit more affordable benefits more than just passengers.

“Everybody will have the dignity and the pride to be able to get on a bus, and there will be less arguments over the fare,” said Chaudhary. “Less fare disputes, less assaults.”

While many are in favour of the proposal, not everyone is on board with the idea.

“As good as a program as that may be, I don’t think it’s the time for us to be getting into social programming, and social services, in my mind, that’s a provincial responsibility,” said North Kildonan Councillor Jeff Browaty.

The city said the cost of the program has yet to be determined.


Low income bus passes aren’t the only transit-related proposal in the preliminary budget.

The city is proposing an investment of $22.2 million to buy 34 new buses.

It’s also looking at:

  • $3.15 million to buy and install bus operator safety shields for all buses over the next year;
  • $1.1 million to modernize bus communication;
  • $1 million for additional heated bus shelters;
  • $500,000 to improve bus stop accessibility;
  • $100,000 for a study to support a long-term transit security plan, which would consider expanding the powers of transit special constables;
  • $65,000 to equip transit inspectors with protective vests.