'It’s an opportunity to improve service': calls to bring Winnipeg Transit Service back in house
WINNIPEG -- The city’s Innovation Committee took steps Monday, that could pave the way to bringing some Winnipeg Transit Plus services back in house.
“I think it’s an opportunity to improve service,” said St. Vital councillor Brian Mayes. “You’ve got people who need treatment and a lot of them haven’t been able to get it to date.”
A report was presented Monday, exploring Mayes’ motion to put 30 per cent of Transit Plus services back in the hands of civic employees by June 2022.
The authors found “high feasibility” to switch wheelchair transportation from private contractors, back to the city.
“We’ve got to reduce barriers,” said Innovation Committee chair John Orlikow. “We heard today this has a high probability of being successful.”
The committee voted in favour of asking a public works committee to review the idea of changing the way wheelchair service is delivered by Transit Plus.
“Today this is a step forward. I’m pleased with that and will keep pushing it at the next committee,” said Mayes.
The city began contracting out Winnipeg Transit Plus, formerly Handi-Transit, services out in the late 1990s. Mayes said in the last decade, the costs of private contractors have increased, rising 53 per cent from 2009 to 2016.
There were around five thousand complaints in 2019 from Winnipeg Transit Plus users about issues like wait-times and customer service.
“We really are outsourcing the passengers,” said Patrick Stewart of the Independent Living Resource Centre, who spoke to the Innovation Committee Monday. “We are showing that we are okay with two-tiered system.”
Last January, Transit Plus drivers signed a petition demanding better labour conditions, saying they work well beyond standard hours, are paid less than minimum wage and don’t get breaks.
James Van Gerwin, Vice-President of the Amalgamated Transit Union said bringing services back in house will be better for employees and users. “I fully believe we will be able to supply this service on a much more human level.”