Overcrowded buses push Winnipeg Transit rider to call out mayor over service cuts, fare hike

​After Mayor Brian Bowman warned last week about a looming fare hike and service cuts, one frustrated Winnipeg Transit rider took to social media in an attempt to show the impact that could have.

Facebook post shows packed bus, calls on Mayor Brian Bowman to reconsider proposed service cuts

Andrew Hask posted this picture to Facebook after hearing about possible Winnipeg Transit service cuts and fare increases last week. The city budget delivered Wednesday calls for a transit fare hike and cuts to 23 routes. (Andrew Hask/Facebook)

After Mayor Brian Bowman warned last week about a looming fare hike and service cuts — a warning that moved a step closer to reality with the delivery of the city's budget Wednesday — one frustrated Winnipeg Transit rider took to social media in an attempt to show the impact that could have.

Andrew Hask got on the Route 40 - All Seasons Express bus last Thursday, heading home from work around 4:30 p.m. The bus was already almost full, he said, and as it went along its route, it soon filled to the point that it simply passed by stops where people waited, with no room to take on additional passengers.

Hask took out his camera snapped a picture of his crowded bus and shared it on Facebook, in a post that has since been shared more than 600 times.

"Dear Brian Bowman, please DO NOT lay any Winnipeg Transit driver off or cancel any routes. This picture is taken from a 40 All Seasons Express that was already standing room only at Bell MTS Place! The driver had to turn away riders at Main @ Lombard," Hask wrote in the post.

Hask said he was shocked and disappointed by the proposed 25 cent fare increase in Wednesday's budget, which has yet to be debated and voted on.

The budget also included plans to reduce or eliminate service on 23 as-yet unspecified routes.

Mayor Bowman said the fare hike will go toward covering a budget shortfall created after Premier Brian Pallister's Progressive Conservative government effectively froze transit funding at 2016 levels.

The city expects that to result in an $8.3 million shortfall in provincial transit funding.

Increasing fares by 25 cents would add $5.7 million into city funds next year, while cuts to the 23 routes will save the city about $1 million, according to the budget.

Transit riders react

Winnipeg Transit riders have largely panned the city's plan to hike fares while cutting service.

"That's going to really affect not only the low-income earners, it's going to affect everyone," Hask said in an interview on CBC Radio's Up to Speed on Wednesday.

Other transit riders shared Hask's concerns. Ariel Sumner Grieves worries that cutting service or eliminating routes will make people more vulnerable, because they will either have to wait longer at bus stops or simply walk.

"I think it would kinda be more dangerous, especially for women," she said.

Kim McAuley rides the bus every day. She said she depends on it because she doesn't have a driver's licence.

"People have to get to work and it's hard right now making your buses connect. That's crazy, I don't like that idea. They seem to be cutting all the stuff we really need," she said.

Audrey Smith said she can't believe the city plans on cutting routes and that her family might need to find alternative forms of transportation due to the fare hike.

"The city is growing. There's more and more people. We need more and more routes. I'm already standing 35 minutes between buses. So to have that service reduced, I'll probably start using a car or something. I don't know," she said.

'Hundreds of pass-ups every day': union

The city also said a drop in bus ridership would result in a projected $6.4 million in lost revenue.

Amalgamated Transit Union vice-president John Callahan questions the city's figures, because of the number of times drivers simply drive past people waiting at a stop because their buses are too full.

"We're not even meeting the service demands now," he said. "We have hundreds of pass-ups every day. And as the winter months get cooler, that can grow to a thousand a day."

The 25 cent fare increase would bring a regular adult fare to $2.95. The cost of a monthly adult bus pass will jump from $90.50 to $100.10 and monthly senior passes will go from $45.25 to $50.05.

The 2018 budget will be debated over the coming weeks. Council will vote on it during a special meeting slated for Dec. 12.

With files from Erin Brohman, Bartley Kives and Laura Glowacki