Winnipeg Rapid Transit: Hurry up and wait

This was the first week of operations for the new Winnipeg Transit’s Rapid Transit system. I’ve lived in Winnipeg most of my life and have been riding the bus for more than half of that. I suppose I’m a typical Winnipeg Transit customer, I ride the bus twice a day, 5 days a week in the morning and afternoon.

On “launch day” my partner and I took a free shuttle to check out the Rapid Transit corridor. It’s all shiny and new, and looks very pretty. We ooo’d and aww’d at the how fast the bus traveled down it – and then gaped when it left the corridor to travel down Main Street and then Graham – we didn’t realize it would do this. In fact, we had assumed that one would have to travel to the Queen Elizabeth Station – which would have made it less than convenient during my regular North to South West commute. We didn’t think we’d use it. But this was different, we wondered at the possibilities.

Then came the following Tuesday. My partner and I left at our usual time, caught our usual cross-town bus from the North End into Downtown. Usually we have a 3-5 minute wait for our connecting express bus – enough time to grab a coffee and a paper. However, the express bus we usually catch had been integrated into the rapid transit system, and as a result of the schedule changes, we watched a new shiny express bus cruise by while we were still travelling down Graham to City Place on our North End bus. Once we got off at our connecting stop looking at the sign indicated the next express wouldn’t arrive for another 12 minutes. To add injury to insult, this change in schedule also resulted in me arriving at the office 10 minutes later than my usual time (effectively making me 5 minutes late every day, when previously I had arrived 5 minutes early).

To sum it up, Rapid Transit has added at least 10 minutes to my travel time. Now I must either leave 10 minutes earlier now to catch a bus into downtown to make that near missed connection or accept arriving at the office 10 minutes later.

Now, well I originally liked the idea of them integrating the buses onto Graham, I think there was one thing they didn’t consider as thoroughly as they should have and that was the traffic on Main Street during rush hour. Graham was a literal nightmare on Friday – with twice as many buses now on the corridor, backed up as far as the eye could see and moving at a snails pace because Main was also backed up. The lights at that intersection was only allowing one bus at a time to turn left. On Friday, we waited on Graham for 25 minutes to catch our connecting bus to the North End.

The problem with Rapid Transit as I see it, is not the rapid corridor itself, but rather the routes taken after exiting the corridor. While Graham is now clogged with twice as many buses, and Main street traffic is very slow during rush hour and can get backed up very easily if something goes amiss – the same thing is happening on the South End of the corridor as well.

My partner works nearby to the Osborne Station, and I work further Southwest towards the University. We are able to commute in together though the downtown area and catch the same express into work. He gets off at the Osborne Station and I continue on South, past the end of the corridor. Headed South bound this isn’t so bad, things run pretty smoothly exiting onto Pembina from the overpass. However, on the way North back into downtown at rush hour is another story. To get back onto the transit corridor the buses must use the right hand lane to turn onto Jubilee – if you’ve traveled South to North down Pembina you know that intersection. It’s notorious for being backed up for blocks due to Jubilee’s narrow single lane roads.

I know its just the first week and there are wrinkles that have to be worked out.. but I hope they do it soon cause as-is, its not really working for me. That being said, I guess now is a good a time as any to start taking my bike into work – I get to ride in the diamond lane too right? 😉

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Jill of everything master of nothing. Digital Communications Specialist, Graphic Designer, Web Designer, Developer, Artist, Marketer, Trainer & Writer.