The long, costly road ahead for Winnipeg's transit improvement plans


Winnipeg’s icy winters are never easy to navigate, especially for a driver piloting a busload of people at night.

Former Winnipeg Transit driver Chantale Garand says there was one particular night in winter 2017 that, for her, drove home how insufficient the city’s transit system was.

She was driving the late shift from the University of Manitoba to downtown, a route where buses were routinely packed from the first stop.

Garand turned north onto Pembina Highway knowing she couldn’t pick up anyone else when she saw a woman with a baby stroller waiting at the bus stop.

“I felt awful. I could not physically make more room on that bus,” Garand recalls. “I couldn’t stop thinking of her during my entire ride, even sometimes now.”

That moment was proof of Winnipeg’s overburdened public transit system, Garand says, and illustrates what happens when infrastructure fails to expand with a city’s growing population.

With declining ridership and mounting debt made worse by the pandemic, Winnipeg Transit faces a long and difficult journey to modernizing its network. But improvements to the system could cut down on pollution and convince more people to use public transit, helping Winnipeg achieve its climate goals. The city aims to slash greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 20 per cent from 2011 levels by 2030, and the transportation sector, which makes up half of its overall emissions, will undoubtedly play a part.