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Our downtown awakens with events and festivals

In July, the Fringe free stage is a big draw to the Exchange. Photos by Brett Howe. C

reating a draw for people to come downtown through events is an essential ingredient in improving our downtown. Close to a million people

come downtown annually to attend fifty festi- vals. And there are millions of additional visits to arts, cultural, and entertainment venues. It’s clear that our downtown is Winnipeg’s premier entertainment district, where people experience thriving arts and theatre, sport, or an evening submersed in nightlife. When they come downtown for these reasons, Winnipeg- gers are sure to spend their money at local businesses too, enjoying a positive downtown experience that will keep them coming back – one reason why we need to see more events downtown. While residential and retail markets change

Nuit Blanche is a fun-filled evening that lasts all night long. Photo by Jenn Kostesky. Te Winnipeg Fringe, ManyFest, KidsFest, Jazz Festival,

Folklorama, and many other events of all sizes and themes achieve a similar goal – they bring people back to our downtown, creating important econom- ic spinoffs. Tey expose people to parts of our downtown which may have gone unnoticed or unfrequented; they create positive perceptions and reinforce our view of the city and down- town as the cultural hub for Winnipeggers. Tey instill pride. Tey help to demystify the notion that downtown is not safe. And most importantly, festivals allow our young creative class to create, share their ideas, and celebrate with Winnipeggers the incredible diversity of the people in our city. Perhaps one of my most favourite events is

and contribute to fluctuating downtown growth efforts, events are a foolproof way to bring people downtown. And in doing so, help to position and solidify downtown as the hub for arts, culture, entertainment and hospitality for Manitobans.

Downtown Stefano Grande

Movies on Memorial, held every Tuesday in August as a small thanks to those who love our downtown and enjoy outdoor movies. Young families with strollers and wagons, hipsters on bikes all carrying blankets or chairs arrive

early with their friends to grab the best spot. As dusk ar- rives, the movie screen lights up the downtown for every-

one to notice, the vibe is unmistakable. And as the movie ends, hundreds of people scatter in opposite directions to grab a bite or a drink before heading home from. Tis is why the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ and its part-

ners have challenged creative event organizers to take our downtown events scene to the next level and will be provided with funding to help get their events off the ground – with a focus on evening and winter events. Our community of event organizers have responded with over 35 applications. Te next two years will see at least 16 more events roll out in our downtown, of all sizes and of all types, celebrating local culture, music, art, and some will chal- lenge Winnipeggers to get involved and think differently about the city. We are excited, not only because tens of thousands of more people will come downtown creating over millions in economic spinoffs for our business com- munity and our city but more importantly, these events will have invited the creative class of event organizers to paint the blank canvas, expressing and sharing their ideas with Winnipeggers, becoming part of our collective downtown renewal efforts. Te table is set for Winnipeggers to have even more fun in our downtown. Stay tuned!

trend has been reversed and the concern now is that the system is nearing capacity. According to Dave Wardrop, director of Transit, the system had 50 mil- lion riders in 2014. He predicts that the city will need 37 new buses a year to meet the demand created by new housing. He also says that growth in 2014 was only .06 per cent, so maybe con- tinued growth needs a reboot. Now, I haven’t been on a

How to make using public transit attractive F

or many years, Winnipeg Transit complained that not enough people take the bus. Today, this

standing travelers, but they don’t help when you are moving toward your seat or moving toward the exit doors. And in the Easy Access buses, the area where the wheelchairs can be accommodated offers nothing for the rider walking to his seat to hang onto. “This is even a problem for big guys like me,” says Jason Wikis. Karl Tomsen agrees and says that he has seen more than one person fall when the bus takes off. Joan says that another is-

bus for many years – they just aren’t easily accessible where I live and I often need my car during the day. I hear from my colleagues, though, that bussing is no picnic. Older buses are still not air-conditioned in summer and, say some, “You can’t get warm on a bus in winter.” “Te seats are so hard that you break your

Bold Ideas Dorothy Dobbie

sue has to do with the painted buses, the ones where advertis- ing covers the windows. “Not only can you not see outside to learn when you are nearing your stop,” she notes, “but it

bones when the bus hits a pot-hole,” said my husband, who has taken a bus after leaving his car at the repair shop. I hear this from others. Te seats are not only hard, they are so close together that tall men are forced to sit on the side benches at the front – or stand up. Not that standing is the safest thing to do.

Often, as the bus moves forward, it does so with a momentum-forcing jerk. People fall. Sometimes the driver will stop and wait to ensure that the fallen is okay, but as often as not, the bus just keeps going. Tis is a constant problem, says faithful

bus rider Joan Cohen: the bus naturally jerks on braking and accelerating. “It doesn’t seem to be something that’s easy to control,” she says in defense of the drivers, “but what would help is if they would wait to move for- ward until you take your seat or at least get to a seat so you can hang on to something.” Buses today offer overhead straps to support

4 Smart Biz

reduces the amount of light that can get in, making it hard for passengers to read.” She adds that in fall and winter, when passengers are often travelling in the dark, some buses have the lights on so dimly that seeing print is an impossibility. On certain routes at certain times of the

day, buses are overcrowded. At other times, Sundays, for example, depending on where you live, bussing it is often not a feasible alternative. Buses run once an hour or often not at all. Tere is no question that schedul- ing can be a problem for managers. Casual bus users should beware: you must

have the correct change. Of course, there is nothing to stop you from throwing in extra. Te single adult fare is $2.60, but apparently many users drop in a toonie and a loonie to avoid fumbling for quarters and dimes. Te weekly pass costs $20.25; the monthly goes for $86.65 (which saves $13.20 annually over the weekly pass so might as well go weekly). Buying tickets will save you 45 cents a ride over cash. You can get a transfer if you have to change buses, but the transfer is good only for 75 minutes. Post secondary students and seniors get a break: it’s $60.35 a month for

Transit: what can we do to improve service?

students and seniors can travel for as little as 43.35 a month on both Handi-Transit and the regular service. “Tickets can be purchased almost any-

where,” says Karl Tomsen. “It’s very con- venient.” In spite of the growing ridership, fueled

by immigration (both from rural Manitoba and other countries), the city will subsidize Winnipeg Transit to the tune of $47.3 million this coming year. Public transit is still a drag on the public purse. However, there is another way to look at

this. Leaving the driving to someone else has

its allure and there is probably a market for those who want to spend their commuting time working rather than driving. So here’s a new idea: luxury bussing. Since we have to increase the fleet, this would be a good time to introduce a new level of service. New buses could be divided into first

and last class, first class being equipped with cushioned seats and more legroom. Air-conditioning and good winter heating

would be standard. Pull-down tables and electrical ports for cellphones, tablets and laptops would be part of the service and Wi-Fi should be available (for the whole bus – this is 2015, after all!). Tis part of the bus would be well lit, no window paint allowed. You could even have a fresh coffee vendor service in those handy Starbucks-type cups, to avoid spillage . . . Of course there would be an up-charge

for this service: perhaps double or triple and even more if the luxury commute could be extended to affluent bedroom communities. Who wouldn’t prefer this over ice-covered, snow-blown highways in winter? Now before you go start ripping up the pa-

per and saying that I am an incorrigible Tory, always supporting the elites, think again. Extra money into the system could elevate the service for everyone. We would be able to accommodate more people and therefore buy more buses. We’d be removing single passenger cars from the road – and we’d be making it possible for the real workaholics to pursue their passion: work!

September 2015

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