Winnipeg poised to offer free Wi-Fi on a dozen buses next year

Mayor Brian Bowman tried to check off one of his 2014 campaign pledges by endorsing a Winnipeg Transit Wi-Fi pilot project.

$300K pilot project would fulfil 2014 mayoral campaign promise

A $300,000 pilot project would offer Wi-Fi for free on as many as 12 Winnipeg Transit buses next year. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Mayor Brian Bowman tried to check off one of his 2014 campaign pledges by endorsing a Winnipeg Transit Wi-Fi pilot project.

A request to spend $300,000 in leftover cash from 2016 on a one-year pilot project that would offer free Wi-Fi on 12 buses will be considered by council's innovation committee on Friday.

The cash comes from the unspent balance of last year's innovation capital fund, a pot of money set aside for projects that employ new technology or make city processes more efficient.

Important for inner-city

Council innovation chair Cindy Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre) said free WiFi on buses would improve safety for residents of her inner-city ward.

"For a lot of my constituents they don't have data plans, they have a number that's attached to a cell or a number that's attached to an IPod, and sometimes it's being able to connect with Mom and let them know, I'm on the bus, maybe I don't feel so safe," she said on Monday at city hall.

She also said WiFi may alleviate problems with the Peggo electronic-fare-payment system, which requires buses to download data in transit garages instead of wirelessly.

Earlier Monday, as a report recommending the project was made public, the mayor's office endorsed the plan in a news release. Bowman promised during the 2014 election campaign to offer free Wi-Fi on buses.

The request will not compete with other proposals that go before council's innovation committee on Friday in a meeting that resembles the format of reality TV show Dragon's Den.

Once a year, councillors on the innovation committee listen to proposals from city departments interested in accessing $1 million worth of funds set aside in the innovation capital fund.

On Friday, the committee will consider 16 new pitches with requests for funds totalling almost $1.9 million. The pitches include:

  • $480,000 for making old city buildings more energy efficient.
  • $390,000 for creating a lane-closure app and website.
  • $197,000 to purchase two electric cars for the city fleet and install two Level 3 charging stations.
  • $160,000 to create an alarm-permit management system.
  • $150,000 to find efficiencies in city capital processes.
  • $150,000 to create a  311 chatbot.
  • ​$129,000 to buy and install LED emergency-exit signs.
  • ​$43,000 to create interactive software for public engagement.
  • $40,000 to valuate city assets properly for potential sponsorship.
  • $37,000 to buy a drone to identify places for the insect-control branch to apply larvicides.
  • $37,000 to investigate the potential for solar power cells on the south side of Pan Am Pool.
  • $37,000 to investigate heat recovery at the St. James pool and ice rink.
  • $12,000 to buy a thermal imager for the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service drone.
  • $10,000 to continue composting at city hall.

The committee can accept or reject any of the pitches.


Bartley Kives

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Reporter Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba. His work has also appeared in publications such as the Guardian and Explore magazine.