An Overlooked Transit Improvement?

February 21, 2007

(This past fall semester, I took a course in the University of Winnipeg’s Environmental/Urban Studies department entitled ‘Winnipeg and the Environment: A Case Study Approach. One assignment involved all class members to post and discuss on a group blog (that will/has been deleted with the termination of the course. This is one of my posts; originally dated December 11, 2006..)

In the recent few weeks I’ve enjoyed some time (maybe too much time, as it is exam time after all!) out on the town, taking in some of Winnipeg’s night life. While always a fun time, one complaint always emerges if I’m aiming to go home after the night is over is that I often have to structure my evening around Winnipeg Transit’s rather limited schedule or end up having to pay the cab fare (which, while not a lot in the whole scheme of things, is still considerably more than transit fare (especially if one is in possession of a bus pass anyways). Those lucky enough to live within walking distance of their favourite watering holes may not be familiar with this dilemma, but us (inner-ring) suburbanites often face this on the weekends.

The last route 11 northbound bus home from downtown every night other than Sundays leaves the University of Winnipeg at 1:30 a.m. This means that if I’m on Osborne Street or elsewhere downtown, I have to leave shortly after 1 to ensure I make it to Portage Ave to catch the bus. And the 11 is probably the best late night route in the city, too. It has always amazed me, in this era of strict drinking-and-driving laws and the social stigma attached to doing so, that in Winnipeg, the public service in place to provide an alternative and relatively cheap form of transportation stops running BEFORE the proverbial “last call” (section 72(3) of the Manitoba Liquor Control Act).

Other cities have actively pursued a system of “night buses” that operate on a limited schedule and on many fewer routes than normal day-time service, giving those of us who have reason to be up late at night/early in the morning (whether for entertainment, transportation to or from work, etc) options. Toronto operates it’s Blue Nights, and Montreal has 20 night-time routes. Vancouver has recently reinstated its NightBus service after considerable public pressure by transit users.

While Winnipeg may not have the entertainment and active hubs of nightlife like those cities have, nor is our population huge, but from a rider’s perspective, offering the opportunity to take the bus at night is nonetheless one way Winnipeg Transit could broaden its services and appeal and make Winnipeg a safer place to be in the night time. And the environmental implications are there, too — people on a bus nearly always means that there’s fewer need for cars on the road.

I envision a few simple routes emenating from downtown, using smaller buses if desired: Henderson, Regent, a Main-Leila-McPhillips loop, Portage, St. Mary’s, Pembina, Corydon (or Grant). If nothing else, these routes can make a very long walk much shorter, or a potentially expensive cab ride much cheaper and shorter. Night buses will not end up “making” Transit any money at all, but are essential public services even supposed to make money for the governments that provide them? It obviously can not be a hole to sink public monies into, but the issue of providing night buses does bring up the whole issue of the provision of a public service as exactly that, a public service that exists only (and happily) to provide that service. Transit as a whole should be seen the same as public works or emergency service infrastructure; otherwise it will forever take a back seat to the almighty automobile.

I’ll end with a lyric by one of Winnipeg’s most inspired and honest (and darn-good) song-writers, Greg MacPherson. From his song “Genuinely Frozen”:

I’ve been away / I’ve seen other cities where the bus runs all night long.

I have too, and it is something that Winnipeg should start looking at.



  1. I have been talking about this forever. The current state of things is absurd, but there seems to be no interest in later service. Even one bus an hour would be better!

  2. Very true. This city would be better served by more frequent buses, running 24 hours/day on busy routes, than by the building of new busways.

  3. […] collectively. I was speaking about trains, but could’ve just as easily been talking about overnight bus service in Winnepeg, or community wireless internet. We don’t expect our police department to cover 50% of […]

  4. First of all I am a seven Day a week rider (and a senior) still working when I can catch a reliable bus (which is becoming a rarity).In the last six weeks I have 6 or 6 NO SHOWS.What should have taken me only 40 minutes(2 buses) on any day (including Sunday)
    This has been primarily the 75 …On One occasion I was on a Breakdown.(75).While I waited for another bus the driver and I talked about why and he told me they chinced on the antifreeze consequently when it is 30 celcius boil over.They run better in the winter than summer (go figure)
    Transit is not saving money this way.They are squandering it. Transit claims to be losing money and is subsidized.Someone should tell the guy in Charge at the garage to service these vehicles properly or get rid of them.
    P.S. For the most part your drivers are excellent and sympathetic BUT YOUR SYSTEM SUCKS!!
    Incident in question recently
    At this particular stop on August 26th (Dakota & Bishop Grandin)There are normally about 3 people waiting on Sunday at 5:30 p.m..This time I counted 26 Very “UNHAPPY” people.Several of which were using cell phones for alternatives.
    A “NOT IN SERVICE” bus came by and told us it would be about 10 minutes or so. It turned out to be an additional 20 minutes on top of the time we had already waited.Why did this bus NOT pick US up?????
    IN Short you system SUCKS
    As a 30 yr transit rider and a senior THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!!!
    If I ran my business like you do yours I would’ve been out of business 40 years ago.

    PH 204-663-1769_

  5. Is there an official complaint department for Winnipeg Transit? That is where this last comment should go.. Thank you..Kurt Donnelly

  6. Hey Donnelly, quit your whining. If you don’t like Winnipeg Transit’s service, then go elsewhere. OR get a vehicle like the rest of us… Better yet..just shut the hell up because your not impressing anyone and no one really cares, just the whiners like yourself. get a life fool.
    p.s. One day I hope to hell that someone pisses off a transit driver and they take 50 ppl in the red river, maybe then ppl would understand that these damn drivers take alot of crap and do the best job they can. This would make lessons learned alright.

  7. your not impressing anyone and no one really cares, just the whiners like yourself. get a life fool.

    It’s you’re Sam Catz, you’re. Good luck with politics.

  8. The bus service in this city is crap. Sheer crap. What about someone who works nights I mean like from 4pm till 2:30 am 4 nights a week. How are they supose to get home, if for some reason there normal trasportation isn’t available or why should they have to refuse a job opportunity because of the crappy service. Yes that shift does exsist. Again i don’t understand at all when the bar doesn’t close till 2am why the bus stops running before. Where is the common sense in that? Would it not make sense that they would prefer us to take the bus and not drive? Hello? Be part of the solution Transit promotes. Why isn’t Transit being part of the solution?

  9. having a regular nightlife can make your life a very colorful one, i enjoy having nigh outs ;-“

  10. thanks

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