Transport in Winnipeg

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Early Transport[edit]

For thousands of years the Aboriginals of the region used various networks of rivers across what is now known as the province of Manitoba. The Forks became an early meeting place for the purpose of trade. Situated at the confluence of the Red and the Assiniboine in what is now downtown Winnipeg, the Forks would prove to be the most important location for European and First Nations trade in Manitoba. The common method of transportation on these waterways during this time were often birch bark canoes generally used by the Aboriginals while European traders would tend to use York boats.

Roads and Expressways[edit]

Winnipeg is unique among cities its size in that it does not have freeways within the urban area. Beginning in 1958, the primarily suburban Metropolitan council proposed a system of freeways, including one that would have bisected the downtown area. The plan culminated in the monumental Winnipeg Area Transportation Study (WATS)[1] of 1968. The extensive freeway plan faced stiff community opposition and was deemed over-ambitious. It was not implemented as a concerted undertaking, but construction of major traffic corridors follows the study to this day, including expressways such as Route 165/Bishop Grandin Blvd., although most are in the form of urban arterial roads, and no freeways are likely to be constructed within the urban area anytime soon. However, a one-mile stretch of freeway was built in the late 1950s, called the Disraeli Freeway (part of the Disraeli Bridge project), which is part of Route 42.

A four-lane highway (the Perimeter Highway, which is mostly an expressway around the city (also known as a ring road) with interchanges and at-grade intersections) bypasses the city entirely, allowing travellers on the Trans-Canada Highway to avoid the city and continue east or west. The Perimeter Highway was chosen over the freeways that would have been in the city. Now the city is planning to create an Inner Perimeter Highway with Route 17, Route 90, Route 165, and Route 20.

Many Manitoba provincial highways enter Winnipeg, but the majority lose their highway designation and become Winnipeg Routes once they reach the Perimeter Highway. At present, only two provincial highways pass entirely through the Winnipeg area:

Several highways also converge on Winnipeg without passing entirely through the city. These include:

  • Highway 2, which meets with Highway 3 at the southwest Perimeter,
  • Highway 3, which becomes Route 155 (known as McGillivray Boulevard) in Winnipeg,
  • Highway 6, which is the main highway to northern Manitoba,
  • Highway 7, which becomes Route 90 (known through various street names) in Winnipeg,
  • Highway 8, which becomes Route 180 (known as McPhillips Street) in Winnipeg,
  • Highway 9, which becomes Route 52 (known as Main Street) in Winnipeg, and
  • Highway 15, which becomes Route 115 (known as Dugald Road) in Winnipeg, and
  • Highway 75 (a northern continuation of I-29 and US 75), which becomes Route 42 (known as Pembina Highway) in Winnipeg. (This road is an exception to the rule that only two provincial highways penetrate the Perimeter Highway, as Highway 75 actually continues until the intersection with Bison Drive / Chancellor Matheson Road (which leads to the Fort Garry campus of the University of Manitoba)).

One noted feature of Winnipeg's urban road network is Confusion Corner, a complex intersection where four arterial roads and a special Winnipeg Transit bus lane are funnelled into a rhomboid-shaped loop of one-way streets at a junction with Osborne Street.[2]

Public Transit[edit]

Suburban Rapid Transit Co. interuban in Headingley, Manitoba. Note the misspelling on the train

Winnipeg has had a public transit system since the 1880s, starting with horse-drawn streetcars. It had electric streetcars from 1891 until 1955, and electric trolley buses from 1938 until 1970. Winnipeg Transit now operates entirely with diesel buses. For decades, the city has explored the idea of a rapid transit link, either bus or rail, from downtown to the University of Manitoba's suburban campus. The most recent proposal[3] calls for several enhanced bus routes, which would extend across the city. These routes would use bus-only lanes for most of their length, with separate busways being built around congested sections. Winnipeg is home to many large transit bus manufacturers, including New Flyer Industries and Motor Coach Industries. New Flyer Industries supplies transit buses for many major North American cities including New York City and Vancouver.

Winnipeg Transit[edit]

Commuters can be seen through the glass, and a mural can be seen on the side of an underpass where traffic flows beneath the new Osborne Station terminal on Winnipeg's Rapid Transit system, opened in April 2012.

The public transit needs of Winnipeg are primarily met through Winnipeg Transit's regularly scheduled bus service.[4] Primary bus routes run from 5:30 a.m. until just before 2:00 a.m. Monday to Saturday, and until just after midnight on Sunday.

There are currently 68 fixed routes throughout the city. There are three types of routes:

  • Main line routes provide service from suburban neighbourhoods to downtown, observing all bus stops, and normally operate seven days a week. Some routes operate as crosstown routes, which means buses operate from one suburban area to another, in most cases passing through the downtown area.
  • Express routes operate mainly during rush hour from suburban neighbourhoods, observing a limited number of bus stops to downtown.
  • Suburban feeders generally provide service in suburban areas where ridership demand is lower.

The Winnipeg RT is a 3 km bus transitway from downtown to Jubilee.


Winnipeg is currently served by the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport (IATA: YWG, ICAO: CYWG) which was redeveloped, with a new passenger terminal completed in 2010.[5] The old terminal was constructed in the early 1960s, is demolished. The airport is operational 24 hours per day, handling about 3.5 million passengers annually, and is part of the national airports system of Canada. It is the only international airport between Toronto and Calgary capable of handling large freighter aircraft, and as such handles many arctic flights. From 1937 to 1949, the airport was the headquarters and site of the national maintenance base of Air Canada which has moved to Montreal-Dorval.


Winnipeg Union Station

Winnipeg is served by Via Rail, Canadian National Railway (CN), Canadian Pacific Railway (CP), Burlington Northern Santa Fe Manitoba and the Central Manitoba Railway, (CEMR). It is the only city between Vancouver and Thunder Bay, Ontario with direct U.S. connections.

CN and CP operate large railyards, customer service operations and intermodal facilities inside Winnipeg.

There are approximately 5,000 people employed in Winnipeg in the rail transportation industry.

Via Rail operates out of Union Station, a grand neoclassical structure near The Forks in downtown Winnipeg. The station was built by the Canadian Northern Railway & National Transcontinental/Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and was designed by the same architects responsible for Grand Central Terminal in New York City.

In addition to the major commercial railways, the City of Winnipeg owns and operates the Greater Winnipeg Water District Railway, which runs parallel to the city aqueduct to Shoal Lake.

Bus terminal[edit]

The Winnipeg Bus Terminal is located at Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport. The companies operating out of the terminal are:

Beaver Bus Lines' service to Selkirk stops outside former downtown bus depot at Portage and Balmoral.[6]

Taxi Services[edit]

Winnipeg is served by several taxi companies, the three largest in order of size being Unicity, Duffy's and Spring Taxi.[7] Fifty percent of Winnipeg residents can be expected to use a taxi at least once during the year.[8] Both Unicity and Duffy's Taxi are co-ops where the individual participating co-op drivers own their own license and supply their own vehicle, while Spring Taxi owns a significant portion of its taxi fleet.[9]

Unicity is a cooperative which collectively owns the assets of the Unicity dispatch or taxi call center, and it is the largest taxi operation in Winnipeg.[10] Unicity Taxi was formed by three smaller companies in the mid-1970s — Moore's, Grosvenor and Yellow Taxi.[citation needed] The company has subsequently brought many smaller independent companies into its fleet and now offers 165 cars as well as an ultra modern dispatching (DDS Pathfinder) and accounting(taxicharger)systems to serve its customers.[citation needed]

Duffy's taxi is a cooperative taxi firm that operates 154 vehicles,[11] with a large call center that accepts approximately 2,800 calls per day.[12] Duffy's Taxi was formed in the 50's as an amalgamation of the original and much smaller Duffy's Taxi with Vets Nash Taxi which was a cooperative of war veterans.[citation needed]

Spring Taxi is the newest and smallest centrally dispatched taxi company in Winnipeg, and the company owns 16 of the 32 Spring Taxi vehicles, with the remaining 16 being owner operated vehicles.[13]

Splash Dash water services[edit]

The Splash Dash water taxi service was created a few years after The Forks opened, as a shuttle service between various downtown areas. In the early 2000s Hugo Dock was added. This is still the most western of the terminals for the River Spirit Water Bus Service, as it is officially known.[14]

The water taxi has struggled to operate since the opening, due to the problem of high water on both the Red and Assiniboine Rivers during most years. After the ice melt in spring, it may take several weeks, sometimes until late June or early July, for the waters of the two rivers to recede enough to allow the installation of the fixed and floating portions of the docks in use.

Expansion plans had earlier called for the Splash Dash to run as far west as the Sherbrook-Maryland Bridge by 2007.

As of 2012, the current one-way fare is $3.50. An unlimited day-pass is $15.00.[14]

Future Plans[edit]

Active Transportation[edit]

The city wants to connect AT missing links, with a bridge across the rail yards between Arlington and Salter, and a bridge across the Red River at Matheson. [15]


There are plans to expand the southwest transitway to the University of Manitoba. There are also plans to make transitways to the east, north, and west.[16]


There are plans to:

  • Widen Kenaston to six lanes form Ness to Taylor.
  • Widen Marion
  • Extend Chief Peguis Trail to McPhilips
  • Widen St Mary's Road St. Anne’s to Marion



  1. ^ Winnipeg Area Transportation Study: Volume 3 - Projections and Recommendations. Metropolitan Corporation of Greater Winnipeg, Streets and Transit Division. September 1968. p. 233 p. ill. 
  2. ^ David A. Wyatt, Winnipeg Transit and Osborne Junction (Confusion Corner). University of Manitoba.
  3. ^ Transit plans
  4. ^ Winnipeg Transit Homepage
  5. ^ "Fact Sheet, Winnipeg Airports Authority". Retrieved 2008-07-02. 
  6. ^ Beaver Bus Lines - SELKIRK BUS SCHEDULE
  7. ^ "Winnipeg Taxi Study (Volume One – Report)" (PDF). Winnipeg Taxi Study. Tennessee Transportation & Logistics Foundation. 4 February 2009. p. 4. Retrieved 16 August 2012. 
  8. ^ "Winnipeg Taxi Study (Volume One – Report)" (PDF). Winnipeg Taxi Study. Tennessee Transportation & Logistics Foundation. 4 February 2009. p. 5. Retrieved 16 August 2012. 
  9. ^ "Winnipeg Taxi Study (Volume One – Report)" (PDF). Winnipeg Taxi Study. Tennessee Transportation & Logistics Foundation. 4 February 2009. p. 7. Retrieved 16 August 2012. 
  10. ^ "Winnipeg Taxi Study (Volume One – Report)" (PDF). Winnipeg Taxi Study. Tennessee Transportation & Logistics Foundation. 4 February 2009. p. 19. Retrieved 16 August 2012. 
  11. ^ "Winnipeg Taxi Study (Volume One – Report)" (PDF). Winnipeg Taxi Study. Tennessee Transportation & Logistics Foundation. 4 February 2009. p. 10. Retrieved 16 August 2012. 
  12. ^ "Winnipeg Taxi Study (Volume One – Report)" (PDF). Winnipeg Taxi Study. Tennessee Transportation & Logistics Foundation. 4 February 2009. p. 11. Retrieved 16 August 2012. 
  13. ^ "Winnipeg Taxi Study (Volume One – Report)" (PDF). Winnipeg Taxi Study. Tennessee Transportation & Logistics Foundation. 4 February 2009. p. 25. Retrieved 16 August 2012. 
  14. ^ a b "River Spirit Water Bus Service". Splash Dash River Tours. Retrieved 16 August 2012. 
  15. ^ "Winnipeg Transportation Master Plan" (PDF). Retrieved 26 July 2014. 
  16. ^ "Winnipeg Transportation Master Plan" (PDF). Retrieved 26 July 2014. 
  17. ^ "Winnipeg Transportation Master Plan" (PDF). Retrieved 26 July 2014. 

External links[edit]