For Immediate Release
Monday, December 11, 2017
Rally for Transit
As City Council continues budget deliberations, with a potential vote as early as tomorrow, a coalition representing over 100 community organizations, many serving Winnipeg’s most vulnerable, came together to protest a 25 cent fare increase. “The city must ensure that transit remains a competitive mode of transportation for Winnipeggers. It must access diverse destinations and do so affordably. A 9% fare increase would hurt anyone’s budget – it’s particularly tough on those with fixed incomes,” says Joseph Kornelsen, chair of Functional Transit.
The original budget also proposed a decrease in services along with the fare increase but the community driven campaign to oppose these cuts was heard and on December 8th, the Executive Policy Committee moved a motion to amend the budget to maintain services, do a study on a low-income bus pass and raise parking fees higher to cover the shortfall. The Social Planning Council of Winnipeg has already completed such a report (1) and eight cities across the country already offer such a pass. “The low-income pass is long overdue as it was promised back in 2010” says Kate Kehler, executive director. “Even if the Council votes for it though, it will take time to implement and January 1st, 2018 and the proposed fare increase is just around the corner.” Josh Brandon, as chair of Make Poverty History Manitoba, adds: “Raising fares 25 cents offloads the City’s fiscal shortfall onto the most vulnerable households whose budgets are already strained to the breaking point. Families already struggling to pay rent and put food on the table will now risk missing vital medical appointments, job opportunities or endure greater social isolation for lack of a quarter. This is no way to build an inclusive city for all Winnipeggers.”
Transit riders and operator safety is a concern: “Winnipeggers affected by the fare hikes are already stretched financially. Creating an additional burden on our most vulnerable citizens will increase incidents on buses. This hike could lead to increased fare evasion which will negatively impact services and open the door to larger fare hikes and service cuts in the future” notes Basia Sokal, president of the Winnipeg Labour Council.
City Council is working with a transit shortfall due to the Province of Manitoba’s unexpected decision to suspend the 50/50 funding agreement for Winnipeg Transit. Given that Winnipeg is the capital city of the province where the majority of Manitobans live, this community coalition is calling on the Province to restore the agreement. Reducing transit funding will make Manitobans more reliant on personal automobiles, increase greenhouse gas emissions, and undermine the Provincial government’s stated vision for making “Manitoba Canada’s cleanest, greenest, and most climate resilient province.”
Manitoba also remains the province with the highest rate of child poverty in the country. “Children are poor because their families are struggling. We and our governments must do everything we can to offer them every opportunity available. Safe and affordable public transit is just that. Deprivation does not teach resilience. Deprivation relies on resilience” adds Kehler.
(1) Markus Beveridge. 2016. Overview of Current Canadian Affordable Transit Pass Programs: Summary and Recommendations for the City of Winnipeg https://spcw.mb.ca/2017/12/overview-of-current-canadian-affordable-transit-pass-programs-summary-and-recommendations-for-the-city-of-winnipeg/