Winnipeg Transit

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Winnipeg Transit
Winnipeg Transit Flying-T.png
A Winnipeg transit bus
Founded 1882
Headquarters 421 Osborne Street
Service area Winnipeg, Manitoba
Service type Public Transit
Routes 94 routes
Stops 6,000 stops
Fleet 603 buses
Daily ridership 130,000+[1]
Operator City of Winnipeg
Inside a Winnipeg Bus

Winnipeg Transit is the public transit agency in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. It is currently a bus-only transit system and it is owned and operated by the city of Winnipeg. In operation for over 130 years, it currently employs over 1,300 people and operates over 600 buses to more than 6,000 bus stops within the city limits.



Public transit in Winnipeg began in 1882 with the horse-drawn Winnipeg Street Railway Company (WSR) under the direction of Toronto businessman Albert William Austin. The WSR experimented with electric cars in 1891, but the city gave the electric rights in 1892 to the competing Winnipeg Electric Street Railway Company (WESR), headed by William Mackenzie and James Ross of Montreal. The width of Winnipeg's main streets allowed both companies to operate simultaneously. Austin's company lost 68 horses to a disastrous fire in 1893. He tried to fight for exclusive street railway rights in court, all the way to the Privy Council in London, but after losing his case, he sold almost all of its assets to the WESR for $175,000 in 1894.[2]

Horse car operations ended the next day, except for the Kennedy Street line, which city council required to operate for another six weeks. Austin kept the Elm Park horse-car line to operate as a private venture; his company had opened the park in the 1890s to drum up business on the line during off-peak times.[3] With the ending of a price war between the two companies, fares doubled, from 50 up to 25 tickets for a dollar, or 5¢ cash.

The WESR continued to expand its lines, its inventory of rolling stock, and its car barns. It bought the Manitoba Electric & Gas Light Company for $400,000 in 1898, changed line voltage from 250 to the standard 550 volts in 1899.[citation needed]


Winnipeg interurban lines
Lines c. 1930
Stony Mountain
Master Junction
Middle Church
St. Charles
University of Manitoba
St. Hubert

The Winnipeg General Power Company was incorporated by officers of the WESR in 1902, and amalgamated with railway company in 1904. The combined company adopted a new name, the Winnipeg Electric Railway Company (WER), and now controlled all street railway, electric power, and gas utilities in the city.[citation needed]

The Suburban Rapid Transit Company (SRT, 1902), operated west of Winnipeg along Portage Avenue, inaugurating a line as far as Charleswood in 1903. It initially leased cars and bought power from the WESR. It was bought up by the amalgamated WER in 1905, which finished expansion of its line to the village of Headingley by the end of the year.[citation needed]

The Winnipeg, Selkirk & Lake Winnipeg Railway, an interurban electric transit company incorporated in 1900, operated cars from the WESR's Main Street terminal to the town of Selkirk, with a later spur line from West St Paul to Stonewall. Its stock was bought by the WESR in 1906, although it continued to operate as an independent company (to be spun off much later as Beaver Bus Lines).[citation needed] Also in 1906, a hydroelectric plant was completed in Pinawa, and streetcars started operating on Sundays, following a plebiscite.[citation needed]

The company did well during the economic boom of the early 1900s, and built a new headquarters in the eleven-storey Electric Railway Chambers building at Notre Dame Avenue and Albert Street in 1911–13. In 1914, the Public Utilities Commission ordered the WER to start collecting fares on a pay-as-you-enter system (PAYE), which required some rebuilding of cars.[citation needed]

From 1914 to 1915, the WER would start to experience competition from jitneys, privately owned taxi cabs. The financial pressures of this competition, tensions with the Public Utilities Commission about route planning, complaints regarding the poor state of rolling stock all led to a crisis in 1918. Negotiations with the city led to a repealing of the jitney bylaw, some route changes, a program of rebuilding old trolley cars, and the first appearance of motor buses in Winnipeg. The company was also affected by the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919, a terrible explosion and fire at the Main Street car barn, after which some rolling stock was bought from the Twin City Rapid Transit Company of Minneapolis (most of the WER's stock had been built by the company in Winnipeg, or by the Ottawa Car Company).[citation needed]

In 1921 it also bought some Birney Safety Cars from Preston Car & Coach, which would start service in 1923 after delays caused by controversy over the safety of the one-man cars. Increasing competition with the automobile and the post-war economic slump led to the company rebuilding the rest of its own fleet as one-man cars.[citation needed]

On March 13, 1924, the Manitoba Legislature passed a bill changing the company's name to the Winnipeg Electric Company.[citation needed]

1924–1953: Winnipeg Electric Company[edit]

In January 1940, William Carter was named the new President of Winnipeg Electric Company.[4]

During the summer of 1948, a Public Utility Board inquiry took place questioning the depreciation costs claimed by WECo. and its predecessors on streetcar equipment. This led to a difference of $495,000, part of which WECo. overclaimed $363,504, overestimated $30,000 for snow removal costs, and didn't include a $99,000 "saving" on conversion to trolleybuses.[5]

The River Ave. bus route was extended and its name changed to Crescent in October 1949 after a six-month battle over the routing.[6]

1953–1960: Greater Winnipeg Transit Commission[edit]

A referendum was conducted in March 1953, where only the electorate in the city proper were eligible to vote. It created the Greater Winnipeg Transit Commission (GWTC) because the Winnipeg Electric Company did not want to operate the transit system any longer.[7]

Express bus service was introduced on the Portage route starting November 4, 1957. A 5-cent premium fare was charged to passengers.[8]

In response to an expressway plan published in 1957 that was sponsored by the Downtown Winnipeg Association, a city councillor sponsored the hiring of Norman D. Wilson to design a subway plan for the greater Winnipeg area. This plan was published on April 11, 1959[9] as the Future Development of the Greater Winnipeg Transit System.

1960–1971: Metro Winnipeg Transit[edit]

In October 1962 a report on transit was released which recommended scrapping the idea of a 'downtown bus terminal' for Winnipeg Transit. It also recommended a price reduction of 50 cents for monthly passes.[10]

As part of the new Metro administration, a metropolitan development plan, which took several years to complete, was begun in 1962.[11] The transportation component, the Winnipeg Area Transportation Study, whose recommendations were published in January 1969, called for five freeways, a suburban beltway, and a 5.4-mile underground subway.

Bus fares were raised from 15 cents to 25 cents in April 1969.[12]

In 1969 the main transit garage was moved from Assiniboine Avenue to a new location on Osborne St.[13]

During the 1960s Metro Winnipeg Transit was phasing out the trolleybus fleet. At one point Winnipeg City Council begged Metro to stop this phase out, but it continued nonetheless.[14]

In August 1970 several River Heights residents opposed a jointly managed Unibus shuttle service for University of Manitoba students. Riding Unibus would save students from paying the regular adult fare, instead they would pay $20 for six months' use. However, residents were upset that the routes would depreciate housing where the buses traversed and that the service was only available to University students.[15]

1972–present: Winnipeg Transit[edit]

an orange Winnipeg Transit bus in service.
A Winnipeg bus still in the older transit orange and cream paint scheme

In the late 1970s Winnipeg Transit paid an outside design firm to create a new logo for the transit department, although it wasn't until two or three years later when bus stops begun to feature the new design.

In April 1982 the Works and Operations Committee awarded Mediacom, Inc. a contract to build and maintain 200 transit shelters with advertising for a period of 15 years.[16]

During the week of September 23, 1982, Winnipeg Transit tested a GM-built articulated bus on the Portage and Pembina routes. The bus, numbered 900, was constructed from parts of a GM New Look with a Classic front end. It was destined to operate as part of the Mississauga Transit fleet.[17]

When Edmonton and Calgary completed the first phase of their light rail (LRT) systems in the early 1980s, they found that they needed fewer diesel buses. They sold some of them to Winnipeg Transit, which in turn bought 10 double-rear-door Flyer models from Edmonton (380 series), and another 10 GM New Look buses from Calgary (290 series).

During the summer of 1985 all bus stops in Winnipeg were replaced with new ones bearing a telephone number that started with 235-. When a transit passenger called this number he/she would hear a computerized female voice give the current time, and the transit routes and times those routes passed through that particular stop. Telebus, which is based on software by Teleride Corporation, was officially launched in February 1986. Costs were shared 50-50 between the Province and City to pay the $1.3 million to set up the original system.[18] However, in 1987 all bus stop decals were replaced with the 287- telephone exchange.

After Calgary Transit's C-Train LRT expanded into the Northeast in April 1985, 30 more New Flyer buses (600-630 series) were sold to Winnipeg and put into service in 1986.

Graham Avenue Transit Mall in 2012

After several years delay, the Graham Avenue Transit Mall was completed over a two-year period 1994-95 at a cost of $5.7 million.[19]

The Winnipeg Free Press conducted a downtown idea contest in 1994, which Jeff Lowe won with an idea for a rail-based streetcar to serve the downtown Winnipeg area.[20] Subsequently, this idea was added to the CentrePlan report, the CentrePlan formed a "downtown connector" committee, of which a representative from Winnipeg Transit participated. In 1999 the Downtown BIZ had put forward a request for a feasibility study on a streetcar connector for downtown. However this did not happen until 2002. The subsequent report, which was never released, was very soft on recommending any form of connector service.

Recent Developments[edit]

There have been changes to Winnipeg Transit since the completion of the Graham Avenue Transit Mall in 1995. In the early 21st century, the three levels of government made a deal to fund the development of three infrastructure projects: Kenaston Underpass, Phase I of the Southwest Transit Corridor, and funding for expansion of the Floodway. The Kenaston Underpass was completed in the fall of 2006, and the Floodway expansion project and Southwest Transit Corridor are underway.

It was announced in early 2007 that if 25 centimetres or more of snow were to fall, only seven mainline transit routes would operate.[21] Since then, Winnipeg Transit has devised a more detailed winter snow plan that has three phases.[22] In the first phase, the "Blue Snow Plan", most suburban and short-trip routes (including DART service) would not operate, and most other routes would operate on shortened or simplified routes. In the second phase, the "Red Snow Plan", transit service would be reduced to thirteen routes running along major arterial roads and serving downtown, major hospitals, and the airport. In the third phase, transit would cease to operate completely. Winnipeg Transit has not had to implement the snow plan as of September 2009.

On November 16, 2007, the federal, provincial, and municipal governments announced the Transit Improvement Program, in which it includes upgrades and improvements to existing infrastructure for buses, such as transit priority signals, transit-only lanes, and new bus shelters. In addition to an order of 33 new regular 40-foot low-floor buses, Winnipeg Transit also ordered 20 new 60-foot articulated Diesel-Electric Hybrid buses; the first bus was delivered by the end of 2007.[23] The test of the first articulated bus was not successful, and that part of the order was cancelled.[24]

In 2008, Winnipeg Transit added the "Next stop" program. "Next stop" announces the next bus stop in a computerized female voice, and shows the street name on a small display on the roof in the front of the bus. It also shows whether a stop has been requested by a passenger. The program was preceded by a phase where transit operators called out stops, which led to debate over whether this would distract drivers from the road.[25]

As of 2009, Telebus operates through one telephone number - 287-7433 or BUS-RIDE. Users can access information about buses stopping at a specific bus stop by entering the five-digit code located on the sign for that stop. The first number of the stop designates the municipal area the stop is located in (1 for the old City of Winnipeg, 5 for St. Boniface and St. Vital, etc.).

In 2010, installation of bicycle racks on buses was revived[26] (after earlier trials on route 18 in 1999, and on route 60 from 2000 to 2004 or 2006).[27][28][29] Thirty buses used on routes 160, 162, and 170 had two-place bike racks installed,[30] during summer months between May 1 and October 31. As of 2017, some transit users have been frustrated that the program is not dependable.[31] Starting in spring 2018, buses with bike racks will be identifiable in Winnipeg Transit's online scheduling system, Navigo.[32]

Winnipeg Transit plans to install wi-fi on twelve buses as a trial to commence in March 2018.[33]

Rapid Transit[edit]

On April 8, 2012, service on Phase one of Winnipeg's Bus Rapid Transit line; the Southwest Transitway began. All RT routes terminate at the Balmoral Station in Downtown Winnipeg next to the University of Winnipeg. RT routes then run along the Graham Avenue Transit Mall to Main Street, then south down Queen Elizabeth Way to Stradbrook Avenue where buses enter the 3.6 km Southwest Transitway and travel southwest. There are three stations on the Southwest Transitway; Harkness Station, Osborne Station, and Fort Rouge Station. Buses enter/exit the Southwest Transitway either just past Osborne Station or the Jubilee Overpass and continue to their final destinations in South Winnipeg, the University of Manitoba or Investors Group Field. The Cost of Phase one was 138 million dollars.[34]

Phase two will see the Southwest Transitway extended south from the Jubilee Overpass to Bison Drive just west of the University of Manitoba. The cost for the second phase is around 408 million dollars and the project will start once funding is secured. Winnipeg Transit also is looking at other corridors for the city including the East Corridor to Transcona, as well as a proposed West Corridor, along Portage Avenue to Polo Park, with a spur line to the airport.[35]


Bus stop at the University of Manitoba, showing typical signage.

Winnipeg Transit has a staff of 1,366, of whom 950 are bus operators.

There are about 6,000 bus stops across Greater Winnipeg area, 800 bus shelters and 1,500 transit benches.

To facilitate use of the system, Winnipeg Transit's web site provides a service called Navigo[36] which allows users to specify a starting location and destination (either by address, Winnipeg landmark, or intersection) and the desired time of arrival or departure (specified as "before" or "after"). It then produces all the available bus routes that meet the criteria, estimating how much time is spent walking to bus stops and waiting for buses, as well as how many transfers are required to arrive at the destination.


Winnipeg Transit has a fleet of 585 buses. The fleet includes: 20 low floor buses, 60 ft. long; over 500 low floor buses, 40 ft. long; 34 low floor buses, 30 ft. long;31 high floor buses, 40 ft. long. There is a new bus order for 58 forty-foot buses[37][38]

Current Fleet[edit]


Winnipeg Transit has a fleet of historic buses that are preserved by the M.T.H.A. that have been restored and retained.[39]



  • Winnipeg Transit Base & Fort Rouge Garage - 421 Osborne Street, built in 1969 on the site of the former Fort Rouge Streetcar Yard on Osborne Street[40]
  • North Main Garage - Main Street and Carruthers Avenue


  • Winnipeg Electric Co Streetcar barn/trolley bus garage at Assiniboine Avenue between Fort Street and Main Street; used by buses and demolished to make way for Bonneycastle Park (c. 1971)[41] and site of the Street Railway Rink
  • St. James Garage, Polo Park - Route 90 (461 Century Street), now a U-Haul Moving and Storage Facility.
  • North Main Car Barn northeast side along Main Street between Polson and Luxton Avenue (built in 1909 to store Selkirk and other city cars; was demolished[42] and now site of a Giant Tiger Supermarket(1441 Main Street)
  • Street Car Barn - south side of Portage Avenue near Carlton Street 1880s


A "Downtown Spirit" bus
A bus running along Route number 56

As of April 2012, Winnipeg Transit operates 94 routes. Of these, 29 are labelled either as express routes or park-and-ride, 13 are RT (Rapid Transit) routes running on the Southwest Transitway, 28 are regular routes connecting the city centre with the suburbs, 20 are suburban routes, 5 are crosstown routes, 4 are Downtown Spirit/Osborne Village Connector routes, and 4 are dial-a-ride transit (DART) routes.

Most routes serving downtown have an official route name as well as number, and are usually named based upon their main streets they travel on. (The exceptions are the Routes 53 and 56, which connect downtown with the northern section of St. Boniface). Some routes travel in two directions from downtown, each direction carrying the same number but different signage. Some routes' ultimate destinations also vary from trip to trip, and carry secondary signage to designate the specific sub-route. For instance, the route 16 Osborne (southbound) may have one of five different ultimate destinations depending on the time of day, day of the week, and intended route: two of these destinations (St. Vital Centre and Kingston Row) are in St. Vital, two (Southdale Centre and Island Lakes) are in St. Boniface, and one (Plaza Drive) is in Fort Garry.

Rapid Transit routes are numbered in the 100 series, with the exception of routes 64, 65, and 66, which do not operate on the entire busway. Most routes operate to Downtown at the Balmoral Station, while some operate to a terminal at York and Memorial or Osborne Village. Some RT routes are express routes after they exit the Southwest Transitway when travelling outbound, while others operate as regular routes.

Most express routes also have official route names and connect downtown with either the suburbs or the industrial areas. Suburban express routes normally operate inbound in the morning and outbound in the afternoon, weekdays only, while routes connecting downtown with industrial areas operate as required.

Suburban routes do not enter the downtown core. They are scheduled according to customer demand; some only run during rush hour, while some run whenever transit is operating.

The three "Downtown Spirit" routes use smaller accessible buses and serve the city centre. Two connect Main Street, Broadway, the Exchange District, and The Forks, one running clockwise, the other counter-clockwise; the other connects the University of Winnipeg with the Graham Transit Mall and City Hall.

Many routes that do not have official names still may display signage. Route 53 has no official name but buses on the route use the signage "Norwood".

The DART routes serve communities in south Winnipeg. Three DART routes replace regular transit service to neighbourhoods (Riel/Plaza Drive, St. Norbert, and Southdale/Island Lakes) during times when demand for transit service is insufficient to justify running a regular bus route, while one DART route provides daytime service to residents of the northern section of St. Boniface.

Winnipeg Transit operates accessible buses on all routes.

Major Bus Terminals[edit]

Rapid Transit Stations

  • Balmoral Station
  • Harkness Station
  • Osborne Station
  • Fort Rouge Station
  • Juiblee Station

In popular culture[edit]

"Civil Twilight", a song by Winnipeg rock band The Weakerthans from their 2007 album Reunion Tour, is sung from the point of view of a Winnipeg Transit driver whose route passes the house where he lived with his former significant other before the failure of their relationship.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Brian K. Darragh (5 March 2015). The Streetcars of Winnipeg - Our Forgotten Heritage: Out of Sight - Out of Mind. FriesenPress. pp. 18–. ISBN 978-1-4602-4653-5. 
  3. ^ "Elm Park information". Closed Canadian Parks. Coaster Enthusiasts of Canada. Retrieved 2008-07-31. 
  4. ^ "William H. Carter New President Of Winnipeg Electric". The Winnipeg Tribune. June 25, 1940. 
  5. ^ "Tram Firm Charged With $495,000 Error". The Winnipeg Tribune. August 23, 1948. 
  6. ^ "Bus to Run on Grosvenor, Ending Six-Month Battle". The Winnipeg Tribune. October 4, 1949. p. 1. 
  7. ^ "EDITORIAL: Transit Referendum". The Winnipeg Tribune. March 26, 1953. p. 6. 
  8. ^ "Non-stop Bus Service Next Week on Portage". The Winnipeg Tribune. November 1, 1957. 
  9. ^ "Cost Estimated At $449 Million". The Winnipeg Tribune. April 11, 1959. p. 1. 
  10. ^ "Bus fares won't be increased: Transit report hints of failure". The Winnipeg Tribune. October 3, 1962. p. 15. 
  11. ^ O'Malley, Martin (December 11, 1963). "Keep public transit wheels moving is the aim of WATS". The Winnipeg Tribune. 
  12. ^ "Bus fare boosted to 25¢?". The Winnipeg Tribune. January 24, 1969. p. 1. 
  13. ^ "Bigger and better bus base". The Winnipeg Tribune. July 7, 1966. p. 8. 
  14. ^ "'Keep trolleys': City". The Winnipeg Tribune. December 2, 1969. 
  15. ^ "River Heights group fights Unibus plans". The Winnipeg Tribune. August 5, 1970. p. 29. 
  16. ^ Pona, Steve (April 14, 1982). "U.S. firm claims shelter tender cost city better deal". Winnipeg Free Press. p. 3. 
  17. ^ Olsen, Glenn (September 23, 1982). "Stretching it". Winnipeg Free Press. p. 4. 
  18. ^ Rollason, Kevin (January 25, 1986). "Winnipeg Warms to Telebus". The Winnipeg Sun. 
  19. ^ Robertson, Bud (May 3, 1994). "Transit corridor coming to life". Winnipeg Free Press. p. B1. 
  20. ^ Flood, Gerald (June 27, 1994). "A desire named streetcar: Proposal to bring back trolleys draws applause from experts". Winnipeg Free Press. p. B1. 
  21. ^ King, Tamara (February 4, 2007). "Too snowy for Transit?". The Winnipeg Sun. p. A6. 
  22. ^ Winnipeg Transit Snowplan. Accessed September 28, 2009.
  23. ^ "Transit Improvement Program: News Release" (PDF). Winnipeg Transit. November 16, 2007. 
  24. ^ "Hybrid bendy-bus rolls out". The Winnipeg Sun. December 15, 2007. 
  25. ^ "Calling out Winnipeg bus stops spurs debate". CBC News, December 31, 2007. Accessed September 29, 2009.
  26. ^ Access Winnipeg, "Bike & Bus Program is Back," 2010-04-20.
  27. ^ Winnipeg Transit, Direction to the Future: The Guide to Better Transit for Winnipeg, Working Group on Public Transportation Policy final report, p 39.
  28. ^ City of Winnipeg, "Embracing Sustainability: An Environment Priority and Implementation Plan for the City of Winnipeg 2004–2006", p 22–23.
  29. ^ Marr Consulting and Communications, "City of Winnipeg Active Transportation Study: Final Report", February 2005, pp 63–64.
  30. ^ Winnipeg Transit, "Bike and Bus," accessed 2017-09-18.
  31. ^ Elisha Dacey, "Racking up frustration: Winnipeg cyclist finds some ‘bike-friendly’ buses don’t have racks," in CBC Manitoba, 2017-07-04.
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ "Rapid Transitway opens to cheers". 
  35. ^ "City plan calls for four rapid transit corridors by 2031". 
  36. ^ Navigo Trip Planner
  37. ^ "Transit buys 58 New Flyer buses". 
  38. ^ "Interesting Transit Facts". Winnipeg Transit. Retrieved November 22, 2015. 
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^


  • Baker, John E. (1982). Winnipeg's Electric Transit: The Story of Winnipeg's Streetcars and Trolley Busses. West Hill, Ontario: Railfare. ISBN 0-919130-31-3.

External links[edit]