Ad campaign aims to get riders back on public transit – Winnipeg Free Press

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THE city is set to launch an advertising campaign to lure Winnipeggers to public transit, fearing that vulnerable people’s reliance on bus shelters could hamper the effort.

During Thursday’s finance meeting, Winnipeg Transit manager Greg Ewankiw noted that a $50,000 marketing effort, slated to begin in April, will pay for ads on bus benches and bus shelters. , as well as traditional advertisements and social media posts.

Com. Scott Gillingham said he was glad the campaign was coming in a few weeks, but urged Transit to also look at ways to ensure bus shelters are still available for riders.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Transit riders wait for a bus on Portage Avenue near Edmonton Street.

“I got a call again yesterday from one of my (voters), she’s 85…She left a message saying ‘I take the bus all the time but I can’t even get into the bus shelters. I’m standing outside in the cold because the bus shelter is busy’… We really need to sort this out,’ said Gillingham, who leads the finance committee.

After the meeting, he said the growing reliance of homeless people on bus shelters needs to be addressed as part of efforts to get riders back on public transit.

“This is an issue that our staff must continue to work with Main Street Project and other social agency partners to address. We must make bus shelters fully accessible to transit riders again,” he said. he declares.

Gillingham said a return to pre-pandemic transit ridership is a key part of the city’s recovery from the major financial hit from COVID-19.

“It’s very important. … Of the $220 million financial impact on the city from COVID-19, $136 million is related to public transit. So it’s very important that we watch the recovery of the transit ridership from a financial perspective. Using transit serves many other purposes as well, including (that) it’s a greener choice than taking a (personal) vehicle,” a- he declared.

A financial report notes that the pandemic is expected to result in $136.2 million in lost revenue and additional costs for Winnipeg Transit by the end of this year, out of an overall cost of $220.7 million for the entire town.

Ewankiw told the committee that transit staff have taken a compassionate approach to reaching out to people staying in bus huts, giving them information about accommodation and meal options.

This is associated with intermittent cleaning.

“Once in a while we go into the shelters and ask those in them to evacuate and take their belongings and then we do a little deep cleaning… some leave for a while and they come back after a while or they are moving to another shelter,” he said.

End Homelessness Winnipeg says the lack of affordable housing in Winnipeg has led people to sleep in bus shelters.

Kris Clemens, the organization’s communications manager, recently told the Free press the city has 709 fewer low-income housing units than in 2019 – and would need 300 more units each year to meet current needs.

The city’s strategy to address homelessness has shifted from directing people away from bus shelters to trying to connect them with community organizations that can help them access services.

Meanwhile, it’s generally difficult to predict how long it will take for transit ridership to fully recover, Ewankiw said, noting it’s around 56% of normal levels.

“We’re seeing more ridership growth than many other transit systems, but it’s very hard to predict… You just don’t know what’s going to happen to us next,” he said.

The city’s chief financial officer told the committee that the long strain on transit finances has left it vulnerable.

“These pandemic shocks to transit finances have reduced its ability to absorb future financial challenges,” said Catherine Kloepfer.

The committee did, however, receive positive financial news regarding the financial recovery from COVID-19.

Winnipeg’s regional unemployment rate fell to 6.9% in 2021, after hitting 9.1% in 2020, according to a presentation by city economist Tyler Markowsky.

“We’re seeing good indicators of the labor force returning to where it was (before the pandemic),” Markowsky said.

There are now more businesses operating in Winnipeg than before the pandemic, a number that reached 18,434 in the fall of 2021, after dropping to 16,452 in 2020.

Markowsky said it appears job gains have happened more slowly in the central and lower-income areas of the city.

joyanne.pursaga@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga
Journalist

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves telling the stories of this city, especially when it comes to politics. Joyanne became a reporter at City Hall for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

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