The head of Winnipeg Transit laid out plans today for the second leg of the city's rapid transit system, as some councillors debated the project's future.

The city is in the middle of planning the next stage of its Southwest Transitway bus rapid transit (BRT) system from Jubilee Avenue to Bison Drive, near the University of Manitoba.


Expanding Winnipeg's rapid transit corridor to the University of Manitoba would cost $590 million, which is about $10 million less than first estimated, a council committee was told on Thursday. (CBC)

Transit director Dave Wardrop told council's finance committee on Thursday that expanding the existing transit corridor, which runs from downtown to Jubilee, by 7.6 kilometres to the university would cost $590 million.

The latest estimate is about $10 million less than first estimated, Wardrop said.

In response to musings earlier this week by Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt — who chairs the finance committee — to replace the current rapid transit system with a light rail transit (LRT) network, Wardrop said light rail would be two to three times more expensive than operating buses.

He added that the city's existing application for federal and provincial funding is for bus rapid transit, meaning officials would have to reapply for the money if it wants light rail.

"I think that both BRT and LRT are the right tool for the right job, and the right tool for Winnipeg right now is BRT. That's my own personal perspective," Wardrop said.

"I think absolutely LRT has value. I think LRT will have value for the City of Winnipeg at some point in the future."

Wyatt was not present at Thursday's meeting due to illness.

'Mass chaos' over issue

Meanwhile, St. James-Brooklands Coun. Scott Fielding has been calling on the city to scrap its rapid transit expansion plans and redirect the money to existing infrastructure.

On Thursday, Fielding said he has collected 2,200 signatures in his petition against the expansion

Fielding said Wardrop's position that the second phase of rapid transit should use buses, not light rail, is one more reason to oppose the expansion altogether.

"It's kind of mass chaos here in terms of what's going on. Are we supposed to believe the chair of finance? Are we supposed to believe the administration on this? I don't know," he said.

"I want to make sure that we have good estimates of what the cost will be if we're going to invest $600 million."

Fielding said the money should be better spent first on existing infrastructure before looking at another "transit mega-project."