Friday, 4 April 2014

Transit supporters have a field day with Fielding

City Councillor Scott Fielding

Image Source: Winnipeg Free Press
Scott Fielding is the City Councillor for the St. James - Brooklands ward. This rightwing Councillor has pondered leading the provincial Conservatives in the past and is expected by local political observers like Bartley Kives and Aldo Smith to be planning a mayoral run.

Now, how's Fielding going to distinguish himself in what looks like it'll be a field of many suburban-based conservatives vying for the mayor's chair come fall?

By stridently opposing plans to move forward on rapid transit!

A brilliant idea in a city that's talked about and shelved rapid transit plans for 50 years, eh?

Fielding frames his opposition to moving forward on Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) as just being about priorities. He wants the potholes fixed and various infrastructure mega-projects done first before working on BRT. Funny thing is, when people stall on rapid transit they end up not getting around to it for a very long time.

Sam Katz, like a mayor Fielding would, inherited BRT plans from the previous mayor - then former Mayor Glen Murray. Murray would run federally for the Liberals, lose, move to Toronto and become an urban consultant before jumping into Ontario provincial politics as an MMP. Winnipeg progressives to this day lament Murray's failure to follow through with implementation, as Katz stalled on the plans and redirected funds dedicated to rapid transit for other uses.

Other levels of government were not happy, especially given many conditional on BRT funding agreements had been made. For years, Katz wrangled with the Province and the Feds until he finally recognized blindingly obvious reality and started work on the BRT line in the 2010s. By 2012 we had 3.6 km of rapid transit line through the uncompleted Southwest Transitway.

Right now there's a $600 million deal between the Province, Federal Government, and City to extend the Southwest Transitway.

Fielding is taking a page from the Katz playbook and wants to stall this plan.

He keeps talking about the $600 Million for the Southwest Transitway extension as if it $600 million in free money. But $375 Million comes from other levels of government, just as was the case with the various rapid transit deals Katz blew. In the end, Katz managed to keep some of the funds as it was a competitive political environment of minority governments back then, where every City mattered. We can't count on being so lucky next time.

If Scott Fielding or a City Council influenced by his mindset blows the Southwest Transitway extension deal, we as a City could be out of $375 Million in critical funds for the investment.

That's a risk we can't take. 

Fortunately, transit supporters haven't taken to kindly to Scott Fielding's transit games.

Taking a page from the Rob Ford playbook, Fielding accused me of a "war on automobiles" in a subsequently deleted tweet.

Winnipeg, we just can't let someone with a Rob Ford mindset steer our city into the gutter. We need to realize that in the long run a rapid transit system provides real road relief by giving people the choice of not driving in our City.

As the roads are relieved of the strain of many cars through transit choices they'll face less wear and tear. Our road maintenance costs will plummet.

This is why, if you really care about our declining roads, you must fight for a rapid transit system. Scott Fielding is dead wrong and as mayor he could really harm our City.


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  2. Blowing 375 Million of federal /provincial taxpayer money , yes, its is taxpayer money , surprise, on a bus route is a stupid idea. But hey, y'all know better.

  3. Wow, anon...your well thought out argument certainly convinces me.

    1. Indeed, how did I ever fail to see the error in my ways! A rapid transit route connecting downtown to the fast growing Southwest is obviously a waste of money! ;)

  4. Nothing a normal bus with a diamond lane couldn't accomplish. But you have to love the irony - fast growing Southwest to the downtown . Seems a little convoluted. Like I said, y'all know better.

    1. So a painted line, which fades come winter (and might not be repainted in spring and summer), which drivers can easily turn into (and even accidentally, if faded), which are also doubled up as bike lanes, and which suffer from the same traffic stops and traffic lights as regular roads are not significantly different from kilometres of dedicated transitway?


    2. The actual dog leg route could be improved. Maybe if Fielding wasn't grandstanding in opposition to the Transitway we could actually move about getting a directer route parallel to Pembina.

      Southwest to Downtown, though, makes perfect sense. There's population and commercial growth in the southwest. Many people who live nearer to the centre of Winnipeg, either downtown proper or Fort Rouge, need access to the University of Manitoba for work or study. Residents in the southwest may also work or study in downtown. Connecting these two hubs is crucial for the City.

      Plus, having the two major academic postsecondary institutes connected makes perfect sense given the need for Winnipeg to thrive in the knowledge economy.

    3. Yes, sometimes it is as simple as a painted line if you get other things right.But you know what, the " right " thing in Winnipeg is spending 4 billion plus dollars on a City wide bus route.

      Plus having 2 institutions connected. maybe just maybe, relocating one institution to join the other one in DOWNTOWN winnipeg would have a greater impact on all that ails us. But thats beyond most folk.

  5. I hope you busrouters haven't forgotten St.Noiboit, tack on another 400 Million. You know alot of people want to get out to the Farmers market on Saturday mornings.

  6. In additon - Charleswood alone would require 2 lines - one down grant connecting to pembina and another down Wilkes ( Ridgewood ring a bell ? )

    Care to toss a number on those 2 lines alone - let alone a Portage to UniCity line .

    You start getting the drift right. Once on this path, many billions and decades will be required . And, you still haven't dealt with the crumbling infrastructure.

    Its all about priorities.

  7. well, Anon (I really hope you're all the same person), the idea of moving the U of M to downtown is fucking laughable. Have you actually seen the size of it? Then again, perhaps people forgetting the the University of Manitoba is a campus with just under 30,000 students is why so many dismiss it as an important destination or route.

    Regardless, no, you don't have to built Rapid Transit lines to every conceivable part of the city. The beauty of a BRT lite system is that it could go off grid and, if complemented by Active Transit Priority Signals, still come to destinations relatively quickly.

    Regardless, any Rapid Transit system is going to be centred around the high density and mixed use spines of the City.