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Winnipeg rolling out ambitious Bus Rapid Transit network

Winnipeg is the latest North American city to make a move towards Bus Rapid Transit,  Transit staff are recommending  a phased approach that would involve building one transitway along Main Street. Winnipeg Transit engineers recommend separating buses from the rest of traffic on short sections of Main Street, Portage Avenue and St. Mary’s Road the next time money is available to expand rapid transit.

The on-street sections of the new corridors would consist of separated lanes for buses and transit priority signals at intersections. The elevated track east of Main Street would run straight through Union Station, which would become a hub for all of Winnipeg Transit’s proposed rapid lines. In a creative approach, the buses would utilize a roadway built through the station on the site of abandoned rail lines.

Winnipeg Transit’s agreement with CN Rail allows the city to make use of existing tracks one and two, which currently house the Winnipeg Railway Museum.

After the downtown transitways are built, planners recommend a second tier of rapid transit improvements reaching  the four corners of the prairie city similar to the BLAST network proposed for Hamilton

The diagram below shows the proposed rapid transit lines and stops to be developed over the next 25 years, including stations where you can transfer between rapid lines and between rapid transit and other routes.

In an information document Winnipeg transit officials say, “By using buses, we can begin to provide rapid transit service (frequent service with limited stops) before special infrastructure is built, and infrastructure investments can be targeted to where they are needed most to bypass congestion. This approach allows us to provide rapid transit to more people sooner and for less cost than light rail transit.

The plan is to provide service every ten minutes, moving to every five minutes as ridership grows. The report sets out its primary goal “to build rapid transit infrastructure based on what is needed on each corridor to make sure that rapid transit is frequent, reliable, and efficient. The most basic rapid transit infrastructure is on an existing street. In places with little congestion, there is no need to build new infrastructure for many years – rapid transit service can be provided on the existing street.

Priority infrastructure means targeted changes we can make to existing roads that allow transit to bypass congestion and move more reliably across the city. These infrastructure changes may include:

  • Diamond lanes, whether full-time or part-time, shared with taxis, vehicles making right turns, and bicycles
  • Short transit-only lanes, known as queue jump lanes, at busy intersections
  • Priority traffic signals
  • Changes to on-street parking
  • Changes to bus stop locations and configurations

Infrastructure changes will be prioritized based on where they are needed most to ensure that rapid transit is frequent, reliable, and efficient.

Over time, fully separated transitways could be developed on the entire proposed rapid network. These can take many forms, but always provide space that can only be used by transit. All fully separated transitways will be designed to be able to be converted to light rail in the future.”

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