A problem of priorities

Anyone who’s been reading The Uniter for a while has probably read me complaining about Winnipeg’s car-centric philosophy more than once. It’s a favourite topic of mine. As someone who doesn’t own a car and relies on sidewalks and transit to get around, it impacts me pretty directly.

And, like any newspaper writer who regularly complains about the city’s love of cars and hatred of pedestrians, I’ve certainly dedicated my fair share of column inches to the issue of Portage and Main.

The debate about Portage and Main is one of those nifty Winnipeg things that seems to embody part of this city’s weird character. We spent 15 years cheering for a hockey team that didn’t exist. Our unofficial anthem is a song containing the refrain “I hate Winnipeg.” And our busiest, most famous intersection is one where pedestrians can’t even cross the street. Why? Because 45 years ago, city hall cared more about developers and automobile traffic than people – and not much has changed.

As such, I couldn’t help but let out a hearty laugh when I saw that Mayor Scott Gillingham now supports reopening the interaction – not because it’s prioritizing pedestrian traffic, but because it would be much more expensive to fix the underground concourse that pedestrians currently use.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad that we might reopen Portage and Main. Given how bad transit and sidewalks have become, it wouldn’t surprise me if city hall just said “screw you,” closed the concourse, left the barriers up and made pedestrians walk an extra block or two to cross. I do wish this change was coming because of a shift in priorities. But I’ll take my wins where I can get them.

Published in Volume 78, Number 20 of The Uniter (March 7, 2024)

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