The early stage of planning is underway for the Eastern Rapid Transit Corridor, piquing the interest of stakeholders in public consultations.
The corridor will connect downtown and eastern Winnipeg, through Nairn Avenue. Two broad options include going through South Point Douglas or North St. Boniface.
The MMM Group Limited was selected as the preferred bidder for the City of Winnipeg in December 2016 to complete a study on the corridor. Public engagement sessions held throughout 2017 were part of this study.
East Kildonan resident Kyle Berry attended a few consultations at the start of 2017 and one in November 2017. Overall, he says he has found the project’s public engagement decent.
“We had the opportunity to voice our opinions at these workshops,” Berry says. He was a bit concerned to see relatively few young people attending the consultations, though.
“I see this project as something that is not going to happen for another 15 or 20 years, and I felt it important that someone who might actually get to use it at some point have input on this project,” he adds.
“If you build it, they will come,” Terry Woods, a Point Douglas resident who attended one of the late November sessions, says. He believes the corridor could make bus use more attractive, which could sway some people who would otherwise drive alone to take the bus. This, Woods suggests, could benefit the environment.
In addition to public feedback, the study involves looking at a number of administrative matters, David Patman, a senior transit planner managing the project, notes.
“We collected data on where underground utilities are, what the traffic is like in the area, what the future planning and development will be in the area – as much information as we can get from different departments,” he says.
This includes information on where relevant water, waste and electrical infrastructure is located, Patman adds. As well, the study will come up with a rough estimate of the project’s cost.
Patman notes that possible speed boosts of only five or seven minutes can obscure the real value of rapid transit, which is reliability.
“By taking the transit buses out of regular traffic, by giving them this express operation, it becomes very reliable day in and day out,” Patman says. He says that some conventional transit can speed through an area one day, but get stuck in a traffic jam for 25 minutes the next day. With rapid transit, there is more certainty, and bus riders can plan accordingly, he suggests.
The Southwest Rapid Transit Corridor includes a physically separated road for buses. Patman notes that this may not work in all areas. He says that more densely developed areas can present challenges.
He suggests an alternate way of achieving rapid transit may include the use of very restricted-access bus lanes on existing roads, perhaps down the middle of the road. Patman says this differs from existing diamond lanes in that access would be consistently restricted to buses, as opposed to just restricted at certain times during the day.