Winnipeg mayoral candidate Jenny Motkaluk would put brakes on bus rapid transit
Motkaluk says she would study bus ridership, stop spending on 'empty buses over empty roads'
A Winnipeg mayoral candidate says the city's bus rapid transit projects are a waste of money and, if elected, she would stop development once current contracts are up.
Jenny Motkaluk said that would mean the Southwest Transitway would be completed, but proposed other lines — including the East Transitway, which is in the consultation process now — wouldn't go forward.
"Brian Bowman believes that it's pro-transit to feed BRT while starving our existing transit service," Motkaluk said. "Why? So that we can spend millions and millions to run empty buses over empty roads that stop at empty stations."
Motkaluk, a Winnipeg business-development consultant, made the announcement at a campaign event on Friday. She said the city has spent close to half a billion dollars on the project but it's being under-utilized.
"During rush hour [at Jubilee Station] we counted about 12 … passengers that got on and off about 20 buses," she said. "I gotta tell you, those are expensive bus rides."
Motkaluk said city transit money would be better spent on other projects, like buying more buses, instead of developing bus rapid transit.
If elected, she says she would also fund studies into bus ridership and reliability.
Transit union says rapid transit worthwhile
Aleem Chaudhary, head of the union representing city bus drivers, said the union doesn't like the idea that the city can either spend on rapid transit or spend on existing transit, but not both.
"We know that the best time to have built rapid transit was 40 years ago," Chaudhary said in an emailed statement. "The second best time is now, especially as our city continues to grow."
Chaudhary said existing transit services could be part of a larger transit system.
"Once Winnipeg finishes the southwest BRT, we will still have only 7.6 kilometres of rapid transit," he said. "Only by growing and expanding our network of regular service and rapid transit can we build a transit system that is accessible, affordable and effective for everyone."
A spokesperson for Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman, who is running for re-election in the Oct. 24. vote, said city council has already mandated Winnipeg Transit to undertake an operational review, and dropping rapid transit would be a move backward.
"As the city grows, we need to keep people moving. By car, by bus, by bike, by foot," a spokesperson for Bowman's campaign said in a written statement. "It's not a one dimensional question of transit or rapid transit. To keep a growing city moving, it's both and more."
The statement said Bowman will present his own vision for transit in the coming weeks.