fyi - Feb 5th Lance (area community paper)

Janice Lukes




Student, teacher team study benefits of pedestrian bridge

Feb. 5, 2009

As someone who regularly cycles from St. Vital to the U of M campus, James Blatz has long been in favour of a pedestrian bridge linking the two.

The civil engineer professor estimates a bridge would cut down his commute by 30 minutes a day.

It would also reduce the demand for student parking on campus, according to Blatz and third-year student Mark Reimer, who recently conducted a study of the role such a link could play in active transportation.

“What we did is looked at what the benefit would be just to the university if people decided to use that bridge instead of bringing their cars across and we were quite pleased to see that it is notable,” Blatz said.

By comparing the percentage of parking permit holders of students and staff living in the southwest of the city with those in the southeast, the pair discovered a noticeable difference.

Within a six-kilometre radius of University Centre there were 48 more parking permit holders living in the southeast.

“It suggests that with a pedestrian bridge, there would be a decrease in parking permit holders from the east side to a value closer to that of the west side of the river, where there is no travel hindrance,” Reimer said.

“What it would do is basically create 5% more space on the U of M campus, which is a significant amount to reduce parking by,” Reimer said.

Reimer also applied data obtained from a 2006 Statistics Canada study of commuting patterns, to predict that a pedestrian bridge linking St. Vital and the campus would attract 200 to 600 potential users.

“The majority of these users would be students, who on average can be generalized as low income and young, both of which fall into the higher end of active transportation users,” Reimer said.

Blatz says the study doesn’t take into account the number of users who would use the bridge to cross over to St. Vital Mall or St. Vital Park.

“There is tremendous potential there. We should also be taking into consideration the possibility of a new stadium on the campus and the creation of the Bus Rapid Transit Line,” Blatz said.

Paul Hesse, of Winnipeg’s Rapid Transit Coalition, says he sees the bridge benefiting active transportation in a number of ways.

“The City has already committed to building a rapid transit line, but what we would like to see included is commuter cycling paths all the way from downtown to the U of M. A pedestrian bridge would be a key piece of that integration,” Hesse said.

“Secondly, it would give students the better option of walking or cycling to the university which would not only save them money, but also save the environment by reducing traffic congestion along the St. Vital Bridge,” he said.

Hesse is hopeful that some of the money contributed from the 2009 federal budget for infrastructure projects will be be set aside for the bridge’s construction.

Winnipeg City Council included $250,000 in its annual budget to study the bridge. The estimated total cost to build the bridge is $15 million.

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