City councillor concerned about transit ridership numbers
WINNIPEG -- With just 30 per cent of regular ridership numbers, one city councillor is worried buses may never be full again.
Coun. Matt Allard, chair of the city committee which deals with Winnipeg Transit, says he's concerned the drop in ridership could turn into a long term trend.
The city has been telling people to avoid transit whenever possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Allard feels some bus riders could end up working from home permanently.
"The facts we’ve heard in our public works meetings is that vehicles are back to about 90 per cent of traffic and 90 per cent of normal and looks like transit is still about 30 per cent of normal," said Allard
He added that transit relies heavily on fares and if ridership stays low, he wonders what impacts that could have.
"If it doesn’t come back 100 per cent that’s going to have some serious implications on our transit budget."
Functional Transit Winnipeg, an advocacy group in the city, feels the same way as Allard, and says there are steps the city can take.
"We need to make people feel safe taking transit and we need to make it safe for people to take transit," said Derek Koop, president of Functional Transit Winnipeg.
He says there are ways to make people feel safer.
"Electrostatic bus filters, or UV air filters to filter the air inside the transit vehicles and other options that I've heard, is looking to antimicrobial surfaces," he said.
However, Barry Prentice, who is an economics professor at the University of Manitoba, thinks when the pandemic is over, riders will return.
"There’s a certain number of people who have no choice either because of their age or income, they can’t drive a car and then there are other people who do work downtown or come to the university and they don’t want to pay for parking," said Prentice.
Prentice feels the current situation is short term, but added short term could be two years.
Allard though still fears what could happen if ridership dwindles.
"Then we have to find where the money is going to come from and what does our system look like? Do we have to look at reductions in specific parts of the system," said Allard.
A recent finance report at city hall projects a shortfall in transit of $26 million due to COVID-19.