Manitoba is the only province in Canada seeing improvements in the condition of public transit buses, according to the results of a national survey on public transit.
The 2020 Annual Passenger Bus and Urban Transit Survey, conducted by Statistics Canada, asked municipalities, communities and transit authorities to rate the overall condition of their public transit buses.
Whereas the condition of public transit buses declined in 2020 in Canada compared to 2018, Manitoba saw improvements.
Only four per cent of buses were categorized as in “poor or very poor condition” and over half of buses were described as “good or very good,” the survey said.
Winnipeg Transit’s fleet of roughly 640 busses accounts for 94 per cent of all public transit busses in Manitoba.
Infrastructure and Public Works Committee Chair Matt Allard said recent investments in Winnipeg’s transit system, such as the BLUE rapid transit line, are improving public transit conditions in the city.
“In terms of our bus fleet, we’re going in the right direction in replacing those older busses,” said Allard.
“That betters the overall rider experience. When you’re riding on a newer bus, it’s a better experience for the public.”
BUS RIDERSHIP ON THE DECLINE
However, while the physical condition of buses in Winnipeg are better than years past, the number of people taking public transit has sharply dropped amid the pandemic.
In 2019, Winnipeg Transit carried a total of 48,770,208 passengers, with ridership dropping by about fifty per cent in 2020 to 24,788,979 passengers, according to the City of Winnipeg.
Winnipeggers are getting back to taking the bus, the city says, but average weekday daily boards are still only at 55 to 60 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
“That is the biggest challenge right now for transit is this gap being created by a reduction in ridership,” said Allard.
To offset the costs of the loss in ridership, Winnipeg Transit service was reduced by six per cent in 2021 and again this year.
Advocacy group Functional Transit Winnipeg wants to see that service restored immediately, with president Kyle Owens saying the best way to get people back on the bus is to have more busses operating.
“Six per cent across the board means that every transit trip is longer,” said Owens, “There are cascading delays every single time somebody uses transit because those busses aren’t on the road.”
Winnipeg Transit rider Abdi Nooh is no stranger to waiting on the bus.
He says that while the state of the busses themselves are great, delays, particularly on Sundays, are a major problem.
“I’m waiting 45 minutes, one hour,” said Nooh, who usually waits for a bus on Sunday to head into work.
“Sometimes the time will say ten minutes, then it changes. Another ten, another ten. It’s a big problem, and I don’t know what happened.”
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