18 Jan

Winnipeg Rapid Transit: A Look Ahead

April 9, 2012 – Winnipeg Transit launches its long-awaited Rapid Transit service. Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz and Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger lead a host of dignitaries at the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Harkness Station near the corner of Main Street and Stradbrook Avenue. “This marks another step forward for Winnipeg as a first-class city,” said Katz. “And the Jets are back,” said Selinger, who leaves the ceremony early to answer a call from True North chairman Mark Chipman asking for another government handout.
April 10 – Two joggers on the Transitway are hit by a Rapid Transit bus. The joggers are attended by paramedics and Winnipeg Transit, on orders from Winnipeg Police Service, shuts down the Rapid Transit service. Despite clear signage and laws prohibiting pedestrian traffic on the Transitway, the joggers are not cited by police, who, instead, turn their attention to the driver and harangue him incessantly. Later in the day, Winnipeg Transit announces it will launch an investigation into the incident and, as a matter of procedure, pull the driver off the road and assign him to a desk job pending the outcome of the investigation.
April 15 – After an examination of the scene, Winnipeg Police grants permission to Winnipeg Transit to resume Rapid Transit service.
April 21 – Following Winnipeg Transit’s decision to allow the driver to resume his regular duties, from their hospital bed, the injured joggers hold a press conference. “We have rights!” they exclaim to a large media gathering also attended by Manitoba Justice Minister Andrew Swan, who announces that his office is considering laying charges against the driver.
May 5 – Two northbound cyclists in the Transitway are struck by a southbound Rapid Transit bus. After the cyclists are taken to hospital, Winnipeg Police tapes off the scene and Rapid Transit is shut down until further notice.
May 6 – The front-page headline in the Winnipeg Free Press reads, “Open Season” and features a color picture of the mangled bicycles covered in the blood of their riders. The newly-formed Winnipeg Coalition for Social Justice demands that Winnipeg Transit adopt a more compassionate approach to its Rapid Transit service and that a public inquiry be held into the “reckless actions of its operators.” “Rapid Transit has become a scourge on our community,” says a spokesman for the group.
May 13 – Winnipeg Police removes their yellow tape from the scene and grants permission to Winnipeg Transit to resume its Rapid Transit service.
May 31 – Winnipeg Transit announces an extension of its Request Stop program in response to complaints from riders who have to walk farther to their nearest Rapid Transit stop than they do for their regular bus service. A spokesman for Transit says that its operators will be instructed to make additional stops along the Transitway when requested. “I asked to get off one block after my stop and the driver refused,” said a young mother pushing a baby stroller. “I don’t know what they didn’t build more stops in the first place.”
June 5 – One month after the incident with the cyclists, a homeless man sleeping on the Transitway is struck by a Rapid Transit bus in the early morning and nearly killed. Winnipeg Transit immediately suspends Rapid Transit service.
June 8 – The Winnipeg Coalition for Social Justice holds a rally at the steps of the Manitoba Legislature demanding changes to Winnipeg Transit’s “inhumane” Rapid Transit service. The rally, attended by more than 1,000 people, gets national media attention. “Winnipeg Transit is out for blood!” screams one supporter.
June 30 – Winnipeg Transit resumes its Rapid Transit service but instructs its operators in the dedicated Transitway to drive slowly and stop and wait for joggers and cyclists. A spokesman for Winnipeg Police Service says that “of course, we will not enforce the sections of the Highway Traffic Act prohibiting joggers on roadways.”
September 1 – Winnipeg Transit reports a sharp decline in ridership for its new Rapid Transit service. “I can get out and walk faster,” says one disgruntled former rider.
September 15 – The jogger hit by a Rapid Transit bus in April is granted an audience with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The jogger, called a “victim of brutality” by the Winnipeg Coalition for Social Justice, pleads for changes to Canada’s Criminal Code to ensure that “reckless bus drivers” are taken off the road and incarcerated.
December 15 – Winnipeg Transit discontinues its Rapid Transit service, citing a lack of ridership. “It is no longer economically feasible,” said a spokesman for Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz. “There are clearly other priorities for this city. We must address the problem of homelessness first,” said councillor Harvey Smith.
December 16 – In a hotly-debated session of City Council, a motion tabled by councillor Harvey Smith and seconded by councillor Jenny Gerbasi is narrowly passed that calls for an undisclosed compensation package to be paid to the joggers, cyclists, and the homeless man hit in the dedicated Transitway. In a separate motion, City Council also passes a motion to cover the expenses of the Winnipeg Coalition for Social Justice, including the cost of bus tickets for their members to attend the council meeting.
May 1, 2013 – Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz and Manitoba Minister of Healthy Living Jim Rondeau are present at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the official opening of the Southwest Winnipeg Trailway that follows the path of the abandoned Transitway. Both Katz and Rondeau join a gathering of joggers as they run down the pathway.

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