Mr. Speaker: Thank you very much. The next delegation is a Mr. Jim Jaworski.
Mr. Jim Jaworski: Good morning Councillors and Mayor Thompson.
My name is Jim Jaworski. I am representing myself today, as webmaster of the Unofficial Winnipeg Transit Online website. I have been providing information on transit schedules, maps, fares and miscellaneous information relating to Winnipeg Transit for the past 18 months. This website is moderately popular with over nine accesses per day of the main page. Those nine accesses being others than myself, and I continually received positive feedback on it with most visitors noting that UWTO provides more useful transit information than other transit websites on the Internet.
As you can see, I am not a senior nor am I a high school student, but I do support the reinstatement of the cash discount fare to 85 cents for these two groups. I also support the lowering of the adult cash fares back to their 1997 levels of $1.45.
Although I can be described as a transit captive due to the fact that I cannot afford to drive a car, the services that Winnipeg Transit provides are not worth the current fare that it charges, simply because Winnipeg does not have any form of rapid transit that other cities our size, enjoy.
I'd like to add that I found the recently released TransPlan 2010 Report very disappointing because it did not provide any plan for higher forms of public transit in our region besides the current diesel bus system. Where is the commitment for environmentally responsible reduced CO2 emissions? Why not convert some transit routes to clean Hydro power? Will this not save the City in the long term from having to purchase new transit vehicles as often, as electric transit vehicles do not contain any carbon emissions.
When I made my presentation to EPC on February 27, I had noted that when I visited Expo '86 in Vancouver over 11 1/2 hears ago the off-peak cash fare was $1.50. I must apologize for providing that incorrect figure, as the actual cash fare at the time was $1.05. Still the argument stands. I had no quibble paying the the higher fare than I did in Winnipeg because Vancouver had an continues to have a higher-quality rapid transit line that's fast and convenient. But I have a very hard time, psychologically, having to pay $1.50 for a 100% diesel-bus system where I cannot get from one end of town to the other conveniently and quickly. The fare is just too high.
In the early '80s, Transit had reconditioned some of their GM "New Look" buses to make them last a few years more. They also bought 30 slightly used Flyer buses from Calgary after that city invested in its rapid transit line. Why not buy more second hand buses again, which will save the taxpayers and transit riders the extra cost of purchasing new buses. Yes, I am aware that Winnipeg Transit has been directed to completely replace its current diesel bus fleet with low-floor models by the year 2012. I agree that transit needs to be more easily accessible to those who cannot climb the stairs of the transit vehicle, but I feel that the current implementation plan can be stretched slightly by intermixing low cost second hand buses along with the purchase of new low-floor buses
How about introducing an off-peak fare which would be set lower than the current fare and would help those who cannot afford transit right now to use it? So, for example, the peak hour fare would remain at $1.45 and an off-peak fare introduced and set at $1.25 would enable those who currently cannot afford the peak hour rate to ride public transit for shopping and medical purposes.
Another idea that was mentioned at the Public Works Committee a few weeks back by Becky Barrett, NDP MLA for Wellington was to enable Transit to sell tickets individually or ii blocks of 5. I would support that idea too.
There are many things that can be done besides going to the seniors and the students, some of whom are the least able to afford it.
Right now downtown Winnipeg is dying, despite the presence of Portage Place mall. Stores are empty along the eastern part of Portage Avenue, along Main Street and even along Graham Avenue, with the current, with the recent closure of Mary Scorer Bookstore. If Transit fares are not set at a reasonable rate, seniors, students and everyone else will not travel downtown by public transit to shop and the current trend of downtown decline will continue.
I understand that one of the reasons for the Transit fare increase comes down to the Province reducing its subsidy to Winnipeg Transit over the past several years. The current Provincial Government, though, would rather support more urban sprawl in the form of water services to Headingley, Manitoba. I do not have any answer for this except to encourage the City to lobby the Province to increase its funding of urban transit back to the 50% level, both to keep Transit fares reasonable and to do its part to financially assist in the construction of an environmentally friendly rapid transit network for our region. Thank you.