New Winnipeg transit corridor opens despite drop in ridership, closure of University of Manitoba

A project 44 years in the making is finally open and running a full schedule — at a time when few people are taking the bus.

The Southwest Transit Corridor quietly opened last week to no fanfare. The corridor, which links the University of Manitoba to downtown Winnipeg, opened in the middle of a global coronavirus pandemic.

Coun. Janice Lukes told 680 CJOB Monday morning that it’s bittersweet to see the second phase of rapid transit open at a time when bus ridership is down due to COVID-19.

“Everything’s upside down,” said Lukes.

“I’m telling people, don’t go on play structures. Don’t hang out with your friends on the weekends. Don’t go and take the bus. You know, it’s a crazy world right now.”

Lukes, who is the councillor for Waverley West, campaigned on making sure the corridor was built.

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City administrators first recommended building the corridor in the late 1970s. But now that it’s finally open, it makes little sense to run buses down the corridor at high frequency when transit ridership is down 70 per cent, said Lukes.

Routes along the new service line and the rest of Winnipeg’s transit routes may be reduced or cancelled in the near future, he said, once “new service patterns are understood.”

“Adjusting service with experience along a Rapid Transit Corridor is consistent with what we did with the first phase of Rapid Transit.”

He noted that the extra room on buses right now means people are able to physically distance from one another.

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