Manitoba pledges $13M to help struggling transit systems in 5 cities
Winnipeg Transit alone faces $17M shortfall this year
Manitoba plans to help five cities struggling with reduced transit ridership with money to cover operating shortfalls.
The provincial government announced Wednesday it's setting aside $13.4 million in the 2023 budget to help Winnipeg, Brandon, Thompson, Selkirk and Flin Flon handle the financial impact of reduced transit ridership.
The province did not specify how much money each city will receive, but Winnipeg is expected to get about 98 per cent of the funds, based on previous allocations.
As of Dec. 1, Winnipeg Transit was on course to post a $17.2-million operating deficit at the end of 2022. Increasing diesel costs and reduced ridership because of the pandemic were among the factors cited in a report to city council's finance committee.
City council finance chair Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) said the revenue picture for transit remains uncertain for 2023, even as transit passenger volumes have bounced to the point where revenue on busier weeks is roughly 80 per cent of what it was before the pandemic started.
"We're starting to see some ridership numbers that are coming back from COVID, but we're also faced with tremendous pressures when it comes to even the cost of fuel," he said in an interview.
Passing on the cost of diesel-fuel cost inflation to riders would result in a fare hike of 30 to 35 cents a passenger, Browaty said.
"We're not doing that, and this provincial money certainly does help," he said.
The provincial aid comes on top of $20.7 million in federal funding for transit systems in Manitoba, announced earlier this year.
That money has yet to materialize, Browaty said.
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