Manitoba

Transportation inequity plagues Winnipeg's inner-city residents, report says

Winnipeg must create a transportation system that breaks the "poverty trap" by giving the poorest and most marginalized prople the same ability to get around and take care of their daily needs as everyone else, says the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

In a society that assumes high mobility among its citizens, many are overlooked, think-tank says

The 2018 State of the Inner City report looks at everything from improving storage space on buses for cargo like grocery bags, to ​mandatory sensitivity training for bus drivers and addressing safety for Indigenous women taking taxis. (Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC)

Winnipeg must create a transportation system that breaks the "poverty trap" by giving the poorest and most marginalized people the same ability to get around and take care of their daily needs as everyone else, says the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Inner-city residents are more likely to experience transportation problems due to low incomes, leading to social isolation and an inability to improve their lives, says the ​14th annual State of the Inner City report from the think-tank.

"Finding a job or going to work, getting groceries or other supplies, participating in social activities, accessing health care or social services all require the ability to get there," the report says.

The report Green Light Go: Improving Transportation Equity in Winnipeg's Inner City will be launched at noon on Friday.

Without a transportation network that helps them, inner-city residents are less mobile, which hinders their ability to access employment and education opportunities, child care, nutritious food and medical supports, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says. (Dave Gaudet/CBC)

In addition to calls for changes and improvements to Winnipeg Transit, it talks about reducing barriers through walking and biking infrastructure.

In a society that assumes high mobility among its citizens, many are overlooked, it says.

Without a transportation network that helps people with low incomes, they have a hard time accessing employment and education opportunities, child care, nutritious food and medical supports, the centre says.

The organization calls its State of the Inner City a megaphone for those voices, as it tries to guide the development of a more equitable and livable city for all.

Compiled after meetings with inner city organizations and consultations through town halls with inner city residents, the 2018 report looks at everything from improving storage space on buses for cargo like grocery bags and ​extending bus service to provincial parks and beaches, to mandatory sensitivity training for bus drivers and addressing safety for Indigenous women taking taxis.

Some suggestions include:

  • Offering low-income bus passes

A cheaper bus pass for low-income people could help improve access while creating a safer workplace for transit drivers by reducing conflict on buses, the report says. Ninety per cent of attacks against bus drivers involve fare disputes, the report says. Officials from the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505, which represents drivers, have said in the past that most incidents on buses are a result of fare disputes.

  • Expanding DART service

DART buses operate during off-peak hours and are cellphone equipped. People call and speak directly to the driver to arrange pickup from home. They currently only provide service to residents living selected areas of south and southeast Winnipeg.

  • Improving the Handi-Transit service

CCPA recommends bringing Handi-Transit services back in-house, delivered by the City of Winnipeg instead of contracted out, "because ensuring accessibility should not be left up to the market."

Disability advocates say the current service is inadequate and "the consequences of poor service are severe: missed job opportunities, difficulty getting to appointments and increased isolation," the report says.

  • Addressing safety for Indigenous women taking taxis

Indigenous women being solicited by taxi drivers for sexual favours in exchange for fares have made headlines but it remains unknown how common these occurrences are because little has been done to investigate and
resolve the issue, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says.

The recently passed provincial Bill 30, the Local Vehicles for Hire Act, put the responsibility for regulating the taxi industry on the City of Winnipeg. So the city must implement meaningfully policy to investigate claims made against taxi drivers, the centre says.

Indigenous women being solicited by taxi drivers for sexual favours in exchange for fares have made headlines but it remains unknown how common these occurrences are because little has been done to investigate them, the think tank says. (CBC)

In the past, women were told to go to police or to file a complaint with the taxi board, a process described as intimidating and woefully inadequate because many Indigenous people have had negative interactions with police and often don't feel safe filing reports.

The CCPA report calls for an easy-to-use feedback system for passengers, mandatory security cameras with audio in taxis, and mandatory sensitivity training for drivers on respectful communication with passengers and on issues facing the Indigenous, queer, disabled and immigrant communities.

  • Sensitivity training for bus drivers

The CCPA suggests bus drivers also take the sensitivity training recommended for taxi drivers, as people said they'd witnessed or experienced racism or rudeness from transit operators.

  • Extending bus service to provincial parks and beaches

"Advocating for access to a provincial park and beach may at first glance seem a frivolous recommendation when people are struggling with employment, housing and food security," the report says.

"There are important positive relationships, however, between increased access to green spaces and improved overall well-being. Otherwise some Winnipeggers may never make it out of the city at all."

  • Improving the overall active transportation network

Active transportation infrastructure should encourage connections between neighbourhoods, employment areas and services such as grocery stores, medical clinics and areas of employment, the report says. The city also needs to go beyond simply building bike lanes to including bike-sharing options that encourage greater mobility.

  • Snow clearing

Snow removal on sidewalks and cycling paths needs to be sped up, the centre says. It can take up to 36 hours for sidewalks to be cleared, which translates to people with mobility issues possibly being stuck in their homes.

  • Safety Phones

Many low-income people struggle to afford phones and the removal of many public pay phones has created risks for people walking and biking. The centre suggests the city take inspiration from Minneapolis's Midtown Greenway, a nine-kilometre urban bike trail that features blue safety phones that connect users to 911.

An equitable transportation system works to remove physical barriers that people with disabilities have to overcome every day and gives them the ability to contribute to their communities and to improve their own lives, the State of the Inner City report says.

Achieving transportation equity requires investment from all levels of government, says the CCPA.

The independent think-tank policy research institute, which has been described as left leaning, has put out an annual report since 2005.

In 2017, the focus was on community-based programming, and in 2016, it was on reconciliation.

A number of issues were considered for this year, including the city's meth crisis, child care, income inequality, racism and Indigenous migration into urban centres. However, transportation barriers were a topic that popped up early on and had never specifically been focused on by the State of the Inner City report, the CCPA said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Darren Bernhardt

Reporter/Editor

Darren Bernhardt spent the first dozen years of his journalism career in newspapers, first at the Regina Leader-Post then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He has been with CBC Manitoba since 2009 and specializes in offbeat and local history stories and features. He is the author of award-nominated and bestselling The Lesser Known: A History of Oddities from the Heart of the Continent. Story idea? Email: darren.bernhardt@cbc.ca

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