The City of Winkler hosted an open house Tuesday night at Central Station, giving the community the opportunity to review and comment on the results of a public transportation study. City staff, as well as consultants Stantec and Landmark Planning and Design, presented the findings and outlined the recommendations moving forward.

"We found, as we asked people is there a need, we found there was," said Mayor Henry Siemens who reflected on some of the study's results. "We found car share programs were not likely to be used by most people. We also found that public transportation is seen as supplementary, meaning it will only be used on an occasional basis by the vast majority of people."

The study also found most of the travel demand is on weekdays, with the highest between residential areas and commercial/downtown areas.

"We also found travel to industrial areas would be inconsistent to warrant regular service, which was a bit of a surprise to us," noted Siemens. "We had thought, maybe there would be a huge desire for that."

So what does this all boil down to?

"I think, ultimately, what we are finding is Winkler is not ready for a fixed route service, rather what we should be looking at is an on-demand type of a service," he explained. "Whether it's a home-to-location subsidized service, or potentially a home-to-hub"

Both of those options were presented to those in attendance last night, with explanations of what each would look like. The study's findings are also being posted to the city's website, so those who couldn't attend can also review and comment. All of the feedback received will be reviewed by city staff.

A member of the community reviewing results of the study

"Once we've had this opportunity to review, it'll come back from staff to council, and then we'll have to make some financial decisions in terms of what we can do and what that might look like," added Siemens. "We've been told for many years, by our service providers, there's a real need for transportation assistance of some kind. That was the entire reason for this study, to find out what is that need, and how can we step into that need in a way that helps everyone, but is affordable to the residents of Winkler."

Carol Ann Braun is an English Teacher at Regional Connections and has been representing the immigrant population for more than 15 years in lobbying the City of Winkler for some type of public transportation.
Braun said it's been a battle for years with no action, but now, she said she's feeling optimistic.

"After seeing the presentation tonight, it didn't totally clarify it for me because some of the wording didn't quite clarify it," said Braun. "But when I talked to the Mayor and asked for his input in seeing where they were at with all of their studies, it sounds now like there is going to be action taken. They're meeting tomorrow (Wednesday), and it sounds like there might be something put on the budget line, so I'm hopeful that something's going to take place. Maybe not in a big way, but at least something. So it's in the right direction."

- With files Nicole Klassen and Pam Fedack -

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