Sunday, April 11, 2010

The hub without spokes

This past week, the University of Winnipeg stepped closer to this goal of "creating an active transportation hub on campus", with the City of Winnipeg saying it will spend $1.2 million to renovate the former bus depot space at Portage and Balmoral (the Rice Building, 491 Portage). Plus, Transit will "chip in $50,000 a year [paid 50/50 between the City and Province] to share the cost of security, lighting, cleaning and maintenance inside the terminal [with the U of W]," who lease the building from 4306946 Manitoba Ltd, a company that the U of W's Community Renewal Corp. has a 25% stake in.

In August, 2009, the U of W claimed that "[r]enovation and operating costs for the ANX will be covered by rental leases and savings from lease reductions as part of the University's efforts to consolidate its facilities and programs on the main campus." Not only will the building "pay for itself," the University believed, but their "operating budget will benefit from these renovations both through increased revenues from retail services and a return on rents owing to the fact The University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corporation (UWCRC) owns 25% of the 491 Portage Avenue complex."

And if it doesn't pay, if the debt/service coverage ratio falls below 1.0/1.0 (in other words, if the property owner starts to lose money on this agreement), the university is required to either start paying market-rate rent on the property or find another tenant. (Link, p.26)

Or, possibly, find someone dumb enough to pay the cost of renovating a big chunk of the building, and chip in with the property's operating costs.

And what does the City and Transit get from this? Eight transit routes will converge on the Balmoral terminal, plus whatever 'bus rapid transit' routes are developed in the futre. What are these eight routes? According to Winnipeg Transit, they are:
- Route 3 Downtown Spirit. Daytime hours, Monday to Saturday
- Route 42 Plessis Express. Weekday P.M. rush hour only
- Route 46 Transcona Express. Weekday P.M. rush hour only
- Route 47 Transcona Local. Runs full daily schedule (approx. 5:30am-1:30am) Monday - Sunday
- Route 48 McMeans Express. Weekday P.M. rush hour only
- Route 49 Dugald Express. Weekday A.M. rush hour only

The remaining two, which I believe are the 40 and 41 express routes, are not running on Winnipeg Transit's Spring 2010 Schedule.

Even if a few 'rapid transit' routes terminated here sometime in the next century, they are still removed by at least a block from the major transit routes that U of W students use: 11, 14, 16, 18, 24, etc. What is the point of getting dropped off in front of an indoor station if you're just headed back outside to cross Portage and Memorial and go around The Bay to catch a transfer?

A hub is only as good as its spokes, and one major city route, a downtown shuttle, and a handful of barely-there express routes to Transcona don't make for much of one. For transit users, this poorly-located terminal is only one minor (but costly) improvement, and looks more like patronage to 'the godfather' than it does good transit planning.

Photo of Fort St. at Portage Ave. c.1950 courtesy of Buflyer2000


Blogger Donald said...

Great post. As someone whose been riding transit for years and often finds that making transfers difficult, it's good to hear recommendations for a positive way to improve transfer service.

Do you have any suggestions for where a hub might go?

Donald McKenzie

11:47 AM  
Blogger The Rise and Sprawl said...

Rev. McKenzie, thanks for you comments.

What would make better sense to me would be to build some kind of hub, where a future bus route from the U of M (so-called bus rapid transit) could terminate downtown, would be somewhere on or between Portage and Graham Avenues. This would allow easy transfer to every major transit route in the city. This is why around The Bay has developed as the busiest transit hub in the city: because it is the clostest point between stops on Portage and stops on Graham.

If the City and Transit were on the ball, they would have tried to work out a deal with Manitoba Hydro to make part of their new headquarters a transit terminal (which would be good for their 'power smart' marketing shtick). Another good location is in part of the parkade on Hargrave between Portage and Graham, or any of the many acres of vacant land east of Smith St.

10:29 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home