Never Mind Light Rail for Winnipeg

Commentary, Urbanization, Frontier Centre

One of the biggest ironies in Winnipeg municipal issues recently has been the rapid transit controversy. Here’s a city that probably has the most poorly-maintained roads of any urban area of its size in North America; yet it persists in talking about another transportation mode that it likely won’t be able to sustain. I’m surprised some public transit proponents haven’t been recommending a couple of subway lines into the bargain. And at the rate Winnipeg builds traffic arteries, a comprehensive light rail system wouldn’t be completed until 2050 by which time it would no doubt be outmoded. Just look how it has taken to finish twinning the Perimeter Highway first begun in the early 1960s.

In addition, any commitment to rapid transit would be a bad deal for motorists since money from an already inadequate streets budget could well be diverted to subsidize this latest band wagon. It’s also a safe bet that a study of cities with such systems in place would reveal roads in better shape than Winnipeg’s, and prospects for improvement here don’t look good unless both federal and provincial governments start returning gasoline tax revenue to municipalities.

This city doesn’t need any grandiose plans. It needs to face reality and build underpasses at the Waverly and Kenaston rail crossings; it should widen routes like Pembina and Kenaston; it should make a better effort to synchronize traffic lights and install weight sensors to trigger these signals only when necessary. Above all, it should make a concerted effort to fix all the cracks, potholes and uneven pavement that take their toll on tires and suspension systems. Doing these will make all forms of transit more rapid for drivers and passengers.

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