Look to future for transit solution

By: Graham Lane
Posted 6/24/2016

With an overtaxed citizenry and an infrastructure deficit (roads, water services, etc.) in the billions,
Winnipeg’s City council should set aside its massively-expensive Bus Rapid Transit plans and consider where
the world is going, not where it is now. A mind-blowing expensive BRT is not the answer.
The challenge of public transportation is to minimize travel time and cost while maximizing comfort and
convenience. Traditional passenger services produce varying degrees of success – taxis, buses, subways and
dedicated transit corridors. The thinking going into these elderly systems is very low tech and slow to
change.

Enter now the next generation transportation services, particularly smartphone-enabled ride-hailing services
like Uber and Lyft. They demonstrate the power of understanding consumer needs and matching them to a
flexible pool of resources. Technology is so powerful, discovering new needs while creating services such as
UberPool and Lyft Line, matching multiple parties to a single ride, using current roads more effectively with
convenience and flexibility.

We remain in an environment of emerging technology that is and will transform entire industries. Lagging far
behind North America, African nations faced building telephone landlines for mass communications, an
effort expected to take decades to build only to produce a costly obsolete system benefiting comparatively
few. Instead, cellphones now provide Africa’s massive population access to communication without landline
costs and endless political uncertainty and red tape. This simple example shows the benefits of a new
technology, an opportunity exploited completely bypassing old technology.

How does this example relate to public transportation?

The rise of big data, mobile apps, and services like Uber are but a signal of things to come. Cities that
recognize this and act to leap-frog over old technology (like subways, transit corridors, and standard taxi
services) will position their economies for long-term future competitive advantages. Winnipeg should avoid
borrowing to dump vast sums into the dying solutions of yesterday, foreclosing better options to come.

Helsinki, Finland, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco have politicians who looked to the future and moved
to exploit it. Washington launched a service called Bridj, it focuses on those lacking sufficient public
transportation options. It responds to user demand via an app, intelligently allowing the transporting of
groups of individuals to varying destinations. San Francisco’s transportation innovation is Chariot, which
gathers popular route data directly from users and proposes changed routes to achieve maximum
effectiveness according to individual personal needs. Helsinki augmented its old public transit with a minibus
system that operates a lot like Uber. Apps are used to input desired routes, and the system plans out the
most efficient, cost effective and speediest route.

These are but three very diverse examples of cities experimenting with rapidly emerging transport
technology. My point here isn’t to advocate copying directly any of the examples, but to urge City council
not to double-down on an old and prohibitory expensive transport system. Best to look around, imagine, and
take the time needed to decide what is right for the future of Winnipeg. BRT costs way too much to serve
way too few.

Winnipeg’s City council should be leading us into the future, not tying us down in the past

– Graham Lane is Chair of Manitoba Forward (manitobaforward.ca), pursuing sound public policy.

Looking for a Sign of New Manitoba

By: Graham Lane
Posted 6/17/2016

Manitobans welcomed a new Government on April 19th, looking for new direction and willing
to give the new government some time to find a way out of the mess left to it by the NDP.

Yet many were disappointed with the limited policy substance in the mandate letters given to
Premier Pallister’s ministers. Manitobans looking for a sound path out of ever-increasing provincial
debt are disappointed by the eight-year time horizon outlined in the government’s
first budget. With a $14-billion budget, surely deficit elimination can come earlier. Transformation
is needed, and with a solid majority in the legislature it should be delivered.

Manitoba Forward suggests three small policy steps that could be taken immediately, to signal
a new policy environment for those eagerly waiting.

The NDP implemented regulations based more on Facebook opinions than science. The urban
ban on pesticides (approved for use by Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency) is one
of those foolish opinion-based policies. Immediate repeal of the regulations would send a
strong signal that the new government will rely on science when regulating health and safety.

What would this signal offer? Companies, then-knowing provincial regulations will be based on
sound science, will be more likely to invest.If they believe that regulations will follow the
whims of the internet, they go elsewhere. Removal of the pesticide ban will signal to investors
that Manitoba is a safe place to put their money, while helping to preserve our parks
and recreation areas.

Our healthcare system needs productive work.The previous government had seventeen years
to end hallway medicine and reduce wait times, but failed miserably. Reform will take time
and be difficult, but the new government should send signals that it will move quickly in the
right direction.

The new government should signal it will not accept the status quo by announcing a review
into ways of splitting the provision of healthcare insurance (single pay or) from the provision
of healthcare services. This represents most effective public healthcare models in Europe
and, as well, how public car insurance works. MPI provides a single universal plan but policyholders
are free to select the auto-body shop of their choice when accidents happen.

The announcement of such a healthcare review would send a strong signal to the healthcare
sector that its current performance is not acceptable. We can, indeed must, do better on
healthcare.

Manitobans also need a signal on taxes. Best a strong signal that taxes in Manitoba will move
in the right direction, down. Manitobans should be promised that payroll taxes will be gone by
2020. The “tax on jobs” reduce take-home pay for employees, encourage employers to have
fewer staff and discourage investment. The announcement that payroll taxes will be eliminated
will open Manitoba up for new investment.

These are just three examples. There are others, not just on the future direction of hydro,
public service spending, education reform, but many more. But the PCs need to start sending
signals on sound regulatory policy, meaningful healthcare reform, and tax policies that encourage
employment – all a good place to start.

Manitobans are willing to give this government some time, but need a signal of a new direction
soon.

Graham Lane leads Manitoba Forward, supportive of sound public policy