Winnipeg city council approves 25 cent fare hike

Winnipeg city councill has approved a 25 cent fare hike to pay for rapid transit.
Winnipeg city Coun. Justin Swandel is proposing to increase transit fares by 25 cents to pay for the construction of rapid transit routes.

Winnipeg city council has approved a 25 cent fare hike to pay for rapid transit, but the proposed increase isn't a done deal yet.

Coun. Justin Swandel made the motion on Wednesday, saying it is one way to cover the expense of speeding up construction on the city's rapid transit routes. A transit fare increase would have to be endorsed by the Manitoba government and Premier Greg Selinger appeared cool to the idea.

"We should take a very careful look at it to see if there's not better ways to finance it that doesn't put it all on the fare box," he told CBC Thursday.

The fare increase proposal came up during debate about implementing a new transportation master plan for Winnipeg. Councillors were told it is estimated close to a million people will be living in Winnipeg and surrounding areas within 20 years.

As a result, more roads, buses, rapid transit, cycling and pedestrian routes will be necessary. The plan, which recommends those things be added in stages, says the final bill could reach $5 billion by 2031.

A big chunk of that is for rapid transit, which will require four transit corridors to be built by 2031 to accomodate 30 kilometres of routes through the city's southwest, west, east and north.

The cost depends on the type of transportation: bus corridors would cost about $700 million and light rail would be about $1.6 billion.

A 3.6-kilometre section of the southwest rapid transit corridor from Queen Elizabeth Way to Pembina Highway and Jubilee Avenue is currently being completed. The $138-million stretch includes bike paths and transit hubs.

Stage 2 of the southwest corridor calls for an extension of the route from Pembina and Jubilee to Bison Drive near the University of Manitoba. But there has been much debate about whether to build it for buses or light-rail transit, where the funding would come from, and what kind of timeline should be implemented.

On Tuesday, a City Hall committee voted to set a deadline of 2016 for the completion of Stage 2, even thoug there's no current funding for the project and no detailed plans in place.

Swandel, clearly aggravated by that deadline, said on Wednesday that it is not right to commit to a project without knowing where the money will come from.

So he decided to answer that question by posing the 25-cent hike, saying the additional 20 cents above the approved increase should be dedicated to the rapid transit line.

A five cent increase begins in January and the remaining 20 cents will start in June.