*Winnipeg top three in residential bus stop accessibility *
WINNIPEG is — or should be — one of the easiest places to catch a bus in the country, according to new Statistics Canada data.
Data released Tuesday compared population density and how many people live within 500 metres of a bus stop across 36 cities.
In Winnipeg, 84.8 per cent of its population has convenient access to a bus stop, following only Montreal and Toronto, at 87.5 per cent and 85.3 per cent, respectively.
Cities with similarly high percentages include Vancouver, Victoria and Regina. The lowest was Belleville, Ont., where just over half of residents can get to a bus stop in a short walk.
However, access to a bus stop is not access to a reliable bus, Functional Transit Winnipeg president Kyle Owens said Wednesday.
“In the past, there has been sufficient investment to at least put those stops in place, to understand that having lots of stops makes transit service broadly accessible to more people … Infrastructure was put in place with the expectation that people would be using and valuing transit to get where they’re going as part of their routine,” he said.
“That we have not seen widespread use of Winnipeg Transit reflects the fact that we just haven’t seen that commensurate investment.”
The grassroots non-profit organization also questioned the value of the data, as a 500-metre distance isn’t always indicative of true accessibility, noting struggles for people with physical disabilities to traverse winter sidewalks that aren’t regularly cleared.
“It is crucial that we think about making that access possible for so many people, whether or not they have mobility needs, and if they do have mobility needs, we’re seeing broken sidewalks, sidewalks that are not to grade, all that infrastructure maintenance is crucial for transit to work properly,” Owens said.
Functional Transit member Brian Pincott called the data “meaningless” without more investment in Transit services.
“I think honestly what the city should do is go, ‘So what?’ and then look at the plan that they have … and make it happen quickly,” he said.
The Winnipeg Transit Master Plan incorporates several broad revisions, repairs, fixes, improvements to service, Owens said.
“We are trying to encourage the city to accelerate the Transit Master Plan… What we consider to be the key (improvement) is frequent service.”
The number of city residents close to a bus stop has dropped in the past seven years.
— Malak Abas