Steinbach City Council is looking forward to continuing conversations with the South East Equity Coalition (SEEC) on how to implement public transportation in Steinbach. 

South East Equity Coalition presented survey results, possible transportation options, and letters of support from the community to council on Tuesday evening. 

Councillor Susan Penner says she appreciates the work and effort that was put into their presentation. 

“I do appreciate their desire to work together and the recognition that there is no easy solution to public transit and that this is something that's going to take time. I really appreciate them acknowledging that.”  

She is glad SEEC addressed that a bus loop would not work for Steinbach. 

“I really appreciated that they addressed that a bus loop would not work, and I know most of us on council would have that perspective as well.” 

Councillor Michael Zwaagstra says he appreciated that they presented more than one option on possible avenues of public transit. 

“And I agree with them that going with a full bus loop doesn't really make a lot of sense. It would be very expensive and you run the risk of having empty buses driving around, which is what we know happens in some other communities.” 

Councillor Damian Penner adds it was great to see SEEC thinking outside of the box. 

“You see a lot of city centres in some of our national conferences going away from the traditional model of a bus loop that's fixed, just because ridership is not showing it to be conducive. So it's good to see that there's different models that are being explored.” 

One concern Zwaagstra has moving forward, is that public transit could become a competitor for taxi companies. 

“It's very important that whatever we do doesn't damage any of the existing private companies that we have in Steinbach. We have several taxi companies that provide 24-hour taxi service for people who choose to use that option.” 

He notes that the survey results that SEEC provided show that 12% of people use taxis among the group that they surveyed.  

“We don't want to set up a system that directly competes against taxis because anytime the government starts competing with the private sector, that's not a good idea,” he says. “So obviously, any steps that we're looking at moving forward, we would have to make sure that we're not damaging existing private businesses that are providing services in our city.” 

Damian Penner says it was great to see the initial survey as it provided them with some good base information. 

“With that, it led to more questions to be able to probe more information as to who the demographic would be, and what the ridership would be, looking at frequency. It was a great stepping stone for us to get a base of information and then spur on more questions.” 

He says it was a great initial conversation. 

“I think it was fantastic. They provided enough information for us and we had the opportunity to ask questions, which they answered. And so I think as a first initial conversation with the coalition, it was a great opportunity.”  

Zwaagstra says the survey was helpful, as it showed there are a significant number of people that are interested in public transit. 

He adds that it’s important to remember that the survey didn't specify what type of public transit people want. 

“So obviously, if we are going to move ahead with anything in the future, it's not going to be all things to all people. Any steps going forward would start out very small and then hopefully build from there.” 

He says it will likely be a challenging process to find an affordable first step that meets the needs people have expressed. 

Susan Penner says next time council meets with SEEC, they will need to start getting into more specifics and start looking at numbers. 

“I think everybody in the community knows that this is something nice to have, but how can we do it in a way that makes sense? The piece we haven't seen would be things like the cost analysis, how this would be funded, what grants are available.” 

Zwaagstra is interested in looking at ways they can build off of the success of Steinbach Accessible Transit. 

“That service improved considerably when we gave it to a private group to run and then the city supports them. In discussions going forward, I'm most interested in seeing whether there's some step that we can take building off of that.” 

He says that overall, they need to go beyond discussing the concept of transit, and talk about what could specifically happen in Steinbach. 

“And I think the most likely thing is where we are building on the accessible transit that we have now, and perhaps looking at how can that service be expanded to another group or be more available to more people.” 

Damian Penner is looking forward to council working alongside SEEC as partners. 

“Speaking for myself. I always like to see public and private partnerships. We as a council are one entity and if you get private involved as well, it expands the knowledge base and it often leads to a much better service provided to the citizens as well,” he says. “Public transit is a service that citizens in Steinbach have expressed an interest in, and with another group coming on board to help with guiding council's decision, I think this is a good opportunity for us to continue to work at it.” 

He concludes by saying public transportation is something council will continue to pursue. 

“The city, ultimately we are a service provider. So if this is a service that is being requested by the citizens, that's something that we have an obligation to start looking at exploring.”