Transit users could be paying for the second leg of the city’s rapid transit corridor with a new bus fare increase of 25 cents.
Cash transit fares will increase by five cents on Jan. 1, followed by an extra 20 cents on June 1.
During the last city council meeting on Nov. 16, councillor Justin Swandel moved to increase fares by 20 cents next year in order to help fund rapid transit. The expected completion of the second phase of the southwest rapid transit corridor has been moved up to 2016, and the estimated cost is $300 million. There is currently no committed funding from other levels of government and no identified source of funding from the city.
The motion was carried by an eight to six vote, with the idea and the decision to raise transit fares happening over the course of the meeting.
Swandel’s executive assistant, Michael Cochrane, said that “the pressure of having a timeline [without] funding was why an increase was proposed.”
Cochrane said the increase would also affect bus passes and tickets.
If the province decides to donate funds for the second leg of rapid transit the increase could be phased in gradually, he said.
Cochrane said the city wanted all the revenue from the 20-cent increase to go to rapid transit, but it depends on what the province decides.
“The City of Winnipeg has sole authority to set fares,” said spokesperson Naline Rampersad, on behalf of the provincial government.
Rampersad said the transit funding agreement between the city and the province does not allow fare revenue to be transferred from capital reserve for rapid transit.
“Transit fares are to be used to offset transit operations,” she said.
Rampersad said the city and the province have a working group to determine the development of rapid transit. The group will look at funding options, including federal and provincial infrastructure programs and tax incremental financing.
One local business is reacting to the transit fare increase. After the increase was approved, Parlour Coffee stated they would charge the city councillors who voted to approve the hike a 25-cent premium on all their drinks.
Nils Vik, owner of the downtown coffee shop, said he felt it is important to react to “such an unprecedentedly high transit fare increase” because it directly affects many of his clientele and his staff.
“The way in which the motion was passed [ . . . ] was absurd,” Vik said. “I thought that an equally absurd fee for a minority of people would be just as logical.”
Vik said the main goal is to create a conversation and to send a message to city councillors that businesses as well as individuals are upset about this decision.
Daniel Ossai, a second-year economics student at the U of M, said he thinks the increase will probably affect most people, but he isn’t sure how it affects him because he buys bus passes.
“I don’t know if that’s going to increase too,” Ossai said. “I wouldn’t like it if I was paying for the bus on a regular basis.”
Ossai said the increase wouldn’t affect his decision to take the bus.
“I don’t really have any other choice.”
Michael Stirton, a second-year kinesiology student, said: “I don’t know if it’s a fair way [to fund rapid transit] because people that take the bus usually can’t afford to spend more money on things.”.
Joseph Heath, author of the Rebel Sell, when asked about the increased fares going towards the funding of rapid transit, said it didn’t make much sense. Heath believes that “everybody who rides transit is creating a huge benefit for [car commuters]” by freeing up the roads. Keeping this im mind, Heath did suggested an alternative:
“In big cities I think congestion charges and road tolls are useful, and should be used to pay for public transit.”
With notes from Leif Larsen, staff