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Proposed overhaul of Winnipeg Transit network met with pushback from Wolseley residents

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A group of Wolseley residents wants the city to pump the brakes on its plan to revamp Winnipeg's transit network.

A report in front of the city's executive policy committee (EPC) Tuesday calls on the group to approve the city's $20.4 million transit network service implementation plan.

The blueprint is based on the city's transit master plan, which aims to give Winnipeggers more frequent and reliable public transportation across the city.

If the new transit network plan is approved, nearly every bus route in the city will be changed.

The philosophy of the plan is to run primary lines, meaning routes that are simpler, straighter and have fewer bus stops than many current routes. The change is aimed at allowing transit service to run faster and more frequently, so people wait less and reach their destinations faster.

A number of Wolseley residents made submissions to EPC ahead of the vote, criticizing a particular new route that would travel through their neighbourhood.

Residents say No. 28 would roll past an existing greenway on Wolseley Avenue, create traffic congestion and stymie active transportation in the neighbourhood.

"Having a major bus route through the area will make it much more unsafe mainly for bicyclists, but also for pedestrians," long-time Wolseley resident Ann McConkey wrote in her submission.

"The premise of high frequency and accessibility in design of a bus plan without considering the actual needs and impacts on community does not translate into efficiency or innovation. It does not serve, nor is it accountable to, the people it is designed for," Arlington residents Dhiwya Attawar and Greg Tonn wrote in their submission.

Speaking to residents in the area, they also voiced their displeasure with the plan.

“They’re increasing the number of buses that are coming here, which is very irritating to me,” said Jan Miller. “There’s just so much traffic. And what we need is no traffic or very little traffic, just residential traffic.”

Amanda Le Rougetel has lived in Wolseley for over 30 years. She said she isn’t sure if the narrow roads can handle any more buses.

“We don’t really have major super duper big streets in the neighbourhood,” Le Rougetel said. “We’re a neighbourhood that has a high percentage of walkers, pedestrians and cyclists…How can that possibly be reconciled with the increased bus traffic?” 

A map of the proposed No. 28 route is shown in an image from a June 18, 2024 city report in front of the executive policy committee. (City of Winnipeg)

The EPC vote comes after members of a citizen group called Wolseley for Fair Transit presented at a standing policy committee on public works meeting earlier this month. They brought forward a petition signed by over 450 Wolseley residents, calling on the city to pause the implementation of the Wolseley leg of the plan and host meaningful consultations with residents.

Alternative suggestions include making the route go around Wolseley, or getting rid of the big bus altogether.

“Why couldn’t a smaller bus be used to take those smaller numbers?” Le Rougetel asked, referring to the few people she sees taking the bus nowadays.

Public Works Committee chair Janice Lukes said she hears residents’ concerns, but their recommendations come at a cost.

“All of these other changes would cost almost $1 million,” she said.

Both Lukes and Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham believe residents should get on board with the new routes.

“I don’t think it’s the end of the world to try it for a year,” Lukes said. “We’ll try it, we’ll make adjustments.” 

Tuesday afternoon, members of the EPC voted in favour of the proposed transit overhaul. The next and final step in the process will see the proposal go in front of council on June 27.

If all goes according to council’s plan, the new bus network will come into effect about a year later, on June 29, 2025.  

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