This is the time of year when people are busy running around getting ready for the holidays.

But instead of giving gifts, the City of Winnipeg has proposed making it harder for some people to get around by hiking bus fare by 25 cents and cutting bus routes.

"It's only 25 cents," some people will say. "There are other ways to get around."

But speaking from personal experience, I can say that for a lot of people, that 25 cents really matters — and there aren't good options for getting around. 

Transit budget

'I cannot feel good about paying more money for less service and possibly be waiting out in the cold for longer, only to be turned away by an overcrowded bus when it finally does arrive,' says Emily Wiebe. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

A productive, functioning society needs reliable, affordable transit.

I am a 29-year-old resident of West Broadway living on employment income assistance with my partner, who is severely disabled and uses a wheelchair. I live with anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention-deficit disorder, and am exhausted all the time —making it difficult for me to find and sustain employment.

Life is a daily struggle money-wise but I still try to keep positive, be happy and be kind to myself and others.

As a heavy transit user and someone who lives on only $1,300 monthly for two people, I am deeply concerned about the transit fare hike and service cuts the city proposed in its latest budget — which it blames on a lack of funding from the province — and how it will impact me.

Bus pass or food?

I currently pay $90.50 monthly for a bus pass, which eats into my food money. I have to access soup kitchens on an almost daily basis just to be able to afford that bus pass.

The proposed hike would up the cost of a bus pass to $100.10, causing me to dig even further into not only my food money but also my laundry money, just to be able to get to appointments, soup kitchens or my brother's house, or to run errands and just get out in the community in general.

In addition to not having access to transportation, not having a bus pass is very isolating for me because I am stuck at home and cannot go anywhere — not to mention that should I become employment-ready, I won't have transportation in order to go out and apply for jobs.

I feel like I am constantly having to choose between rent and food, or between clean clothes and food, or between transit and food, or between basically anything and food. Guess which one always loses? You guessed it — food.

The proposed hike would set me back even further financially than ever before. I am not sure how much longer I can continue to dig into my food or laundry money before my budget becomes completely unsustainable.

Crowded Winnipeg Transit bus

Winnipeg Transit rider Andrew Hask posted this Nov. 16 picture of a packed bus to Facebook, urging the city not to make service cuts. (Andrew Hask/Facebook)

Along with the financial strain that will come with the proposed transit hike comes mental strain. I am discouraged beyond belief. My depression and anxiety are through the roof. I constantly have a headache obsessing over what I am going to do and how the city and the province can have so little compassion for the downtrodden.

Premier, mayor should try taking the bus

I am not sure our elected officials even realize just how much easier they could make the lives of many Manitobans like me if they would stop cutting transit service and upping fares. It would make an astronomical difference in my life and take a heavy weight off of my mind.

I cannot feel good about paying more money for less service and possibly be left waiting out in the cold for longer, only to be turned away by an overcrowded bus when it finally does arrive.

Maybe instead of opening Portage and Main, that money could go to transit instead? The city needs to secure affordable transit before working on unnecessary projects.

I want the city and the province to find their compassion and focus on the human cost — not solely on the monetary cost — of the decisions to limit funding, hike fares and cut service. In the end, if the fares are increased, it will only hurt more people than it helps.

Brian Bowman

Emily Wiebe challenges Mayor Brian Bowman, seen here in a 2016 year-end interview, and Premier Brian Pallister to try relying solely on Winnipeg Transit to get around the city for two months. (Gary Solilak/CBC News)

I desperately want our city and our province to be better and there have been so many cuts already, such as those to health care and the Rent Assist.

I draw the line at transit. The proposal is unfair and brutal. Why is it always services that benefit the poor that are the first to go? There has to be another way other than to overcharge low-income people for abysmal service.

I really would like to challenge Premier Brian Pallister and Mayor Brian Bowman to take public transit for two months every single time they need to go out before putting transit on the chopping block, along with Rent Assist and health care. They would find cutting services does not improve them.

I am begging the province and city from the depths of my weary soul to reconsider the fare hike and route cuts. Please. This is not right. The backs of the poor cannot take much more of having to pay for the plans of the rich.

All I want for Christmas is affordable and efficient transit service for everyone.


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