Coalition challenges city council to improve auto, transit and pedestrian traffic
WINNIPEG – October 15, 2018 – The Coalition for Portage & Main is calling on the next Winnipeg City Council to find solutions to improve traffic flow across the downtown, especially around Portage and Main. The volunteer citizens group is recommending councillors start by considering a north-south transit mall along Fort Street and Notre Dame Avenue.
“We know the 2016 traffic study says reopening Portage and Main will have minimal impact on traffic, but this campaign has shown that a large number of Winnipeggers are frustrated over downtown traffic today,” said coalition spokesperson Adam Dooley. “Instead of accepting the status quo, our city’s leaders should be looking for better ways to do things. If we’re able to pull most or all buses off Main Street, that will be a large step towards making all traffic move faster through Portage and Main.”
The idea was proposed to the coalition by former Mayor Glen Murray who points to the success of the east-west Graham Avenue transit corridor. It helped reduce bus traffic on Portage Avenue. It has also attracted major new investment over the years from the Manitoba Hydro building to the arena and the new True North Square. It was also home to the Winnipeg Jets’ whiteout parties in 2018.
“Leaving Portage and Main as is, is guaranteed to achieve two dismal outcomes in the long run,” said Murray. “First traffic congestion will just get worse as the current design funnels all traffic – transit, active transportation and automobiles – into one channel. And the current design does not allow for a reasonable redesign to improve traffic flow.”
Fort Street is currently an underutilized north-south street with few storefronts. It also connects to Notre Dame, which is an effective route into and out of the downtown. A Fort-Notre Dame transit corridor could funnel buses on and off Main Street at Logan, William or Bannatyne in the north connecting with Notre Dame at Princess, King or Arthur; and buses could enter and exit at Assiniboine or Broadway in the south of downtown. This would make better use of Fort and run transit routes close to Red River College in the Exchange.
“This will require planning and consultation,” said Murray. “The point is that there are ways to make downtown better for cars, buses, pedestrians and for downtown businesses. There are no savings by keeping Portage and Main closed. The repairs now needed on the roof of the underground concourse will cost many millions of dollars and force the city to renew the intersection. Now is the time to fundamentally rethink Portage and Main for the 21st Century.”
A “No” vote will entrench the status quo, leading to worse traffic in the future. A “Yes” vote allows the city to fix Portage and Main. Murray added that tax increment financing is a model that the city has used to effectively fund downtown developments in the past including Waterfront Drive and True North Square. The transit mall coupled with a redesign of Portage and Main is another suitable use for tax increment financing. It stands to improve property values and lure new businesses, both of which can expand the city’s tax base. With nearly 20,000 vehicles added to Winnipeg’s roads every year, the city needs to address traffic congestion now.
“This has been a divisive debate over a relatively minor project. We want to end this campaign by reaching out to people who are frustrated by traffic today,” said Dooley. “We believe the city can and should do better. We know the city has a lot of repair work to do at Portage and Main. It makes no sense to rebuild it in the same way. Vote Yes and demand council build a better, smarter system for traffic all over the area.”