WINNIPEG – The 2018 preliminary operating budget tabled today at a special meeting of Executive Policy Committee is proposing a balanced approach to mitigating a $10 million deficit incurred by the city following a unilateral decision earlier this year by the province of Manitoba to eliminate a long-standing transit funding partnership between the city and province.

“Elimination of this city-provincial partnership created a $10 million deficit in transit’s operating budget in 2018,” said Mayor Brian Bowman. “This left us with a significant gap to fill, and something had to give in order for us to balance the budget.”

Closing the $10 million provincial funding gap solely from within transit’s budget would have required the city to eliminate service on 59 different transit routes, terminate up to 120 transit operators, and increase transit fares by up to $0.30.

“This extreme approach would have created significant pressure and stress for passengers as well as transit operators,” said Mayor Bowman. “Transit remains a core city service, and it simply would not have been fair to place this entire burden on passengers and the system. At the same time, it wasn’t fair to require property taxpayers to cover this deficit considering they already subsidize transit operations significantly.”

“I believe what’s being proposed is a balanced approach,” said Mayor Bowman.

The 2018 preliminary budget is proposing an additional transit fare increase of $0.25 rather than $0.30 effective January 1, 2018. Service level reductions are being proposed on 23 routes rather than 59 routes across the city beginning in June, 2018.

No reductions are being proposed to the number of transit operators. To make up the difference, the budget proposes to draw on transit reserves and rely on debt financing for the purchase of new buses rather than cash.

Even with the proposed fare increases, Mayor Bowman stressed that Winnipeg currently has among the lowest transit fares compared to other major Canadian cities, and transit fares for Winnipeg seniors will continue to be the lowest of all major Canadian cities even with the proposed 25 cent fare increase.

“While we have been able to find a way to balance the impact to transit passengers as well as ratepayers, service levels will be negatively impacted but Winnipeg transit users will still be paying amongst the lowest transit fares when compared to other Canadian cities,” said Mayor Bowman.