For a day or so, it almost looked as if there was a plan for the second leg of Winnipeg’s bus rapid transit system. The system, which was conceived in the early 1970s (or earlier, depending how you date it) took concrete form as the first leg of of a line connecting the centre of the city with the University of Manitoba, 12 kilometres to the southwest. Click here for map (The line ends after the bus leaves the Fort Rouge station.)
After the first line was completed, it seemed to be taking the city forever to finalise the plans for the second leg. Finally, last Saturday, the Winnipeg Free Press reported that Winnipeg Transit had decided on a route through an open field called the Parker Lands. However, three days later, it became obvious that funding for the line had not yet been secured. And then, this morning’s news made it clear that unresolved issues remained regarding possible traffic congestion, housing that would have to be expropriated for the route, and that – by the way – there were also issues regarding wetlands, forested and other natural areas, and wildlife.
In short, almost nothing has been done to prepare for this project, beyond a bare-bones administrative report. (News reports referred to a 107-page report, but repeated efforts by me and by others on my behalf failed to produce the alleged document – even though, if it exists, it should be publicly available.) In any event, the thinking behind the administrative report is, apparently, that City Council will be asked to give the go-ahead to a major project:
- For which funding has not been secured,
- That raises unresolved issues regarding the expropriation of homes, as well as traffic congestion, and
- That raises a thicket of issues regarding wetlands, pristine forested areas, and wildlife.
Mayor Katz has made it clear that he has little time for the planning department, reducing it to an advisory agency for developers. The implementation of the second half of the first leg of rapid transit offers a concrete example of what happens when we don’t plan. Even those who consider environmental assessments to be nothing more than make-work for unemployed social science graduates should be alarmed at a transportation project that lacks secure funding, has not given due consideration to congestion issues, and breezes unconcernedly past the potential legal and political issues attendant upon the expropriation of homes.