Councillor Brian Mayes, St. Vital Ward, Winnipeg City Council

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My doubts about the Eastern BRT Corridor

The City is currently studying the Eastern Corridor for the next leg of Bus Rapid Transit. This long-running process has now narrowed to two potential alignments: a) along the centre of Provencher, then turning north, b) north alongside Main to Higgins, then east into Point Douglas, proceeding further east.

In contrast to prioritizing the Eastern Corridor, for the last several years I have been advocating for consideration of the Northern Corridor as the next stage for BRT. According to the City’s 2011 Transportation Master Plan the Northern leg is the shortest and cheapest of the five potential BRT lines, yet has the greatest potential peak hour ridership. Mayor Bowman has, to his credit, stated many times that Council has not voted on which BRT leg, if any, should be the next to proceed.   Recent developments have reinforced my doubts about the Eastern Corridor.

Why should Eastern Corridor be next? There are many answers stated, and I provide my reply to each:

1.  The experts said to do Eastern as the next priority in the City’s 2011 Transportation Master Plan. Reply: This is clearly not true. The original report, prepared by city staff, which went to the IRPW committee in November, 2011 did not make ANY priority as between North, West and East corridors. In fact, the report expressly calls for all three routes to be studied at the same time. It was the elected officials on Council who made the Eastern Corridor the next priority after completing the SW transitway.

 2.  The 2011 TMP cites the need for renewal of the Louise Bridge as part of the reason to build East.

Reply: This is accurate, though this seems to be overlooked by the city staff who are now considering the “centre of Provencher” option as one of two potential alignments for the Eastern Corridor.

 3.  The origin-destination study of 2007-2009 made it clear that Eastern was the next most heavily travelled route after SW.

Reply: I have read through the 2007-2009 WATS report (which is the only origin-destination study anyone has provided to me after much questioning) and there is no way in which it can be argued that it makes the case to go Eastern next. The map (see phtot below) showing the five major sources of traffic into downtown in the morning include NO routes coming from the east. The study actually makes a good case for the SW transitway (now near completion) and then arguably going south-east or north. If, as suggested, the numbers from the 2007 WATS showed that ridership would be highest from the Eastern, why then does the 2011 TMP report show that the potential hourly ridership as 3,200 from north, 2050 from west, and 1600 from east?

 4.  The 2005 City Rapid Transit plan said to make Eastern the next priority after SW.

Reply: This is what the 2005 report says – in part. It actually calls in its First Phase for a “dedicated busway” only from Grey Street to Downtown, with “mixed traffic and queue jump/diamond lanes” for the stretch from Grey Street to Rogeau. The completion of the corridor comes in a second phase. However, the First Phase is to also include work on other “quality corridors” including St. Mary’s Road, Portage, Henderson and Main. This aspect of the 2005 study seems now to be overlooked, while a full corridor is proposed for the East.    

 5.  Going Eastern is best for Transit Oriented Development

Reply: Again the 2011 TMP does not support this statement. The number of “major redevelopment sites within 1 km” is listed as one for both East and North. The TMP also states that for the year 2031 the average residential and employment density within 500m of the corridor is “90” for East, “151” for West, and “187” for North, with the footnote stating that ideally densities of 125 persons plus jobs per hectare are required to support rapid transit.

 6.  The Eastern Corridor is part of a larger network

This is certainly the plan – and building northwards up to Higgins from Union Station (before heading into Point Douglas) would complete a section of BRT that is envisaged in the 2011 as being required for the western route (which has its eastern terminus at Portage and Main) and the Northern Route (which is go northerly from Graham alongside Main).   As with the Louise Bridge issue discussed above, this seems to be overlooked in consideration of the Provencher option.

 7.  Eastern makes sense because the City won’t have to expropriate as much land

Depending on the alignment, this may be true, but if cost is the main issue then the Northern Corridor is again the best option, as the 2011 TMP lists its cost as less than half of the Eastern Corridor.

Councillor Allard has made several arguments in favour of the Provencher option as it will help with “community objectives” for Provencher and area, such as barring heavy truck traffic from Provencher. I commend him for going to bat for his ward. It is my job to do the same for my ward. My comments on this follow below.

Bus Rapid Transit and St. Vital

In 1959 the City of Winnipeg commissioned a study of potential future subway lines. The author made various recommendations, including a line that would have started at Fermor and St. Mary’s, and then curved northwards and across the Red, running below Osborne to downtown. Another line would have cut across the Red near Carriere and headed downtown from there. The author concluded that it made more sense to build subways rather than car expressways. However successive City Councils had an elegant solution – they did neither. To be fair to the short lived Metro Winnipeg Council, they did get the St. Vital bridge connecting Osborne and Dunkirk built in 1965, which has helped car and bus service to and from St. Vital.

Interestingly, the City identified seven regional mixed use corridors in its 2011 planning documents. There is Bus Rapid Transit service planned for five of these corridors – omitting both St Mary’s and St Anne’s. (The 2011 Transportation Master Plan was actually approved while the St Vital Council seat was vacant) (Provencher is NOT one of the seven regional mixed use corridors) At this pace, we will get to 2059 – a full 100 years after the need was identified – without any effort to provide rapid transit to the St Mary’s or St Anne’s corridors.

In my research I found that the City’s 2005 Rapid Transit Plan actually recommended proceeding with a portion of an Eastern BRT corridor, but also called for work on other “quality corridors” including St Mary’s Road, Portage, Henderson and Main. This aspect of the 2005 study seems now to be overlooked, while a full corridor is proposed for the East.

City staff advises me that $106,000 has been spent since 2005 on St. Mary’s Rd for transit priority signals and to create one “queue jump” lane at one intersection. For reference, the 2005 study estimated that the four quality corridors would receive $41 million in “On Street Improvements. St. Anne’s Road has received $211,000 in transit priority and queue jump lanes, I am advised by staff. I am not sure of expenditures on Henderson/Portage/Main.

Talk of completing an entire Eastern Corridor before implementing further improvements on St Mary’s and St Anne, is unfair to St Vital residents, and would ignore the priorities set out not just in 2005, but as far back as 1959.

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Canoe Club Golf Course - Plan for the Future for release June 30,2018

Councillor Brian Mayes announced today the next step in the future of the Canoe Club Golf Course. The plan is to alter the course, as proposed earlier this year in a public meeting, to shorten two of the current nine holes (number 6 and 7) by a total of 275 yards. This would create the space to construct a new grass soccer filed adjacent to the existing BoniVital soccer complex at Memorial Park St Vital.

The first step in this remodeling of the course is to renew the lease with the current operator, Ben Smirnoff, for the new smaller golf course (total of 46 acres instead of current 48 acres) for a three year period starting April 1, 2019. This will ensure that the course remains profitable for the City over the next three years, while keeping an experienced operator in place during the transitional years. The Riel Community Committee will consider the lease renewal of the smaller site at a public meeting at 4:30 on July 16 at City Hall.

The course alterations and new soccer pitch are estimated to cost $498,000. The City has already allocated $1 million to be spent in 2019 for re-imagining the Canoe Club course. The proposal also calls for $125,000 of the budgeted $1 milllion to be spent at each of the neighboring community centres, Windsor and Norberry-Glenlee. The balance of funding will be determined in 2019. The actual expenditure of all budgeted funds will decided by Council as part of the 2019 budget process. For clarity, all funding decisions will be subject to Council approval as part of 2019 budget , but at present there is $1 million budgeted in 2019 for the Canoe Club project.

“I am pleased that after a long public consultation process, we have reached a compromise proposal that maintains all 48 acres of green space while expanding the potential use of the site by converting some of the space to soccer” said St Vital Councillor Brian Mayes. “I am also pleased that Ben Smirnoff wants to renew as operator of the course as we move the Canoe Club forward. This golf course celebrates 100 years in operation this summer, and we will continue to have this valuable green space in St Vital. The May 2011 report on golf to City Council advised that Canoe Club should be sold upon lease expiration for commercial or residential development. I am proud that we have not gone down that path, and instead are taking the innovative approach of preserving golf but having it co-exist with soccer.”

Background

1)     The 2018 City capital budget allocates $1 million for Canoe Club reinvention, to be spent in 2019. These funds are only for capital expenditures, not for on-going maintenance costs. While some members of the public wanted the course converted to park space this would have required considerable new funding for parks maintenance of the site.

2) The soccer field adds no on-going operating costs as the Bonivital Club leases adjacent City land for $1 but is required to do maintenance. The adjacent soccer complex was upgraded in 2015 with a $1 million turf field (provincial funding) and $500,000 upgrade to clubhouse building (City and provincial funding). City is adding lights to turf field in summer 2018.

3) Golf Club stays open during renovations. Golf course lease expires April 1, 2019, and vote in July is whether to renew the lease for three years.

4) The public survey conducted in spring, 2017 indicated that more than half of respondents (653/1,160) supported the idea of soccer being an option for the site. (please note: this was not a scientific survey but rather asked public for input)

5) The new field could also be used by Glenlawn Collegiate for its sports programming as wells as the YMCA.

6) Canoe Club if shortened will play to 2,353 yards versus 1,376 yards at Crescent Drive. Canoe club even if shortened will play longer than front nine at Windsor.

      

Canoe Club has evolved over time:

1918 par 36 2,700 yards

1935 par 34 2,938 yards

1964 par 34 2,800 yards

Now. par 34 2,607 yards

Proposed par 33 2,353 yards


Canoe Club Proposal

The lease for the city-owned Canoe Club golf course expires in May, 2019. In late 2017, a proposal to shorten the current golf Course by about 5% to include six tennis courts came forward from the city. This proposal did not get significant support from the community. We have listened and are coming forward with a new proposal.

This new proposal eliminates the tennis courts. It also builds on the suggestions made at the public meeting that some funding should be used to upgrade existing facilities.

There are a number of practical limits on what can be considered for the Canoe Club site. The city has budgeted $1 million for recreational amenities for the site in 2019 but this is ONLY for one-time capital expenses, and does not include on-going operating funding. Simply eliminating the course and making it into parkland (while desirable from a public access viewpoint) is not under consideration as there is no money set aside to start maintaining additional park space.

New proposal

Recreational land is important to residents of St. Vital. However, the number of golfers in Winnipeg and throughout North America continues to decline. Meanwhile the popularity of soccer continues to grow.

The new proposal involves shortening the current sixth and seventh holes, by a total of 275 yards, in order to create a new grass soccer field at the SE corner of the Canoe Club site. A safety fence would be added behind the new sixth greenThere is an existing soccer complex immediately east of the current Canoe Club golf course site. This complex is operated by Boni Vital Soccer, which pays the city $1/year but maintains the complex with no cost to the City.

  1. The soccer complex was upgraded in 2015 with a $1 million turf field (provincial funding) and $500,000 upgrade to the clubhouse building (city and provincial funding). Later this year the City plans to add lights to the new turf field, as originally planned by the province in 2015. This will also Boni Vital Soccer to earn revenue that can be used to replace the turf field when it wears out after 10-12 years.
  2. After careful review of many options, the city golf staff have agree that the soccer and golf can “co-exist” with two holes being shortened. The continued operation of the golf course was not viable with many other options that were explored (e.g. cricket, walking paths through the course and barbeque pits).
  3. The public survey conducted in spring 2017 indicated that more than half of respondents (653/1,160) supported the idea of soccer being an option for the site.
  4. The new field could also be used by Glenlawn Collegiate for its student programming, as well as the YMCA for some of its programming.

The course would be shortened by 275 yards. However, the course was shortened by a similar amount in 1965, and was shortened again in 1990 when the new condos were built on the first hole, reducing the first hole yardage by 180 yards.  The course will still be hundreds of yards longer than Crescent Dr., and longer than the front 9 at Windsor. Additionally, the plan calls for a new green complex and bunkers at the sixth hole, and two new tee boxes at the seventh hole, both significant upgrades.

Cost estimate: $500,000

Building on existing:

-       Proposal is to use $150,000 for the Windsor Community Centre garage project, and Windsor school basketball court repair.

-         Proposal is to use $150,000 for Norberry Community Centre upgrades, which could include two tennis/pickleball courts.

Remaining funds to be determined. Possibly including outdoor classroom with Louis Riel School Divison at or near Dean Finlay Park.

What other option were explored?

The City considered converting the existing ninth hole into public access for walking, barbecues etc. but city staff concluded that the new 9th fairway would be too close to the public space for safety, and that neighbors to the north of the existing 9th fairway would not support a new use for that part of the course.

Public Access: The City will continue to look at improved winter access to the site. Many residents have requested cross country skiing access. As St Vital ward already has more public facilities than other areas for cross country skiing (free access at St Vital Park, paid access at Windsor Nordic Centre) as well as easy access to trails at Churchill Drive Park, it is unlikely there would be budget support for another cross country ski facility.

However, the City’s only snow shoeing facility is in the west end, and the proposal is to try a winter snow shoe facility as a pilot project at the site.

As stated before, any recommendations would be subject to council approval of the plan, and of the budgeted funding.

CC

 

Canoe Club Background Materials

1. The May, 2011 report to City Council from the City’s Auditor includes an external study of the City of Winnipeg’s public golf services. The report includes the statements: 

“In September, 2010 , City Council approved the construction and development, by a private sector firm, of a health spa complex at the Crescent Drive Golf Course… We believe this partnership provides a template for moving forward on the other City owned, operated and maintained golf courses….”

“The consultant recommends that the City divest itself from the operation of public golf courses… Any surplus property can then be sold for commercial or residential development to raise capital for reinvestment in other open park space…. Recommendation #11 “Assiniboine, Canoe Club and Wildewood are three facilities whose sale is advised upon lease expiration.”

(Note this report was adopted by Council by a 10-6 vote. No action taken to date to sell courses)

2.  City of Winnipeg 2016 survey of resident on civic issues: Golf services ranked 25/26 in terms of civic services (telephone survey), Online survey ranked golf services as 25/25 priorities.

 3. Participation

City’s 2011 report stated that while the number of golfers had remained static over past two decades, the number of courses in North America increased from 15,000 to 19,000 and the average number of rounds per course decreased from 40,000 to 32,000 (Canoe Club has 15,000 rounds per year).

Golf Facilities in Canada 2015 reports p.18 “The vast majority of total course closures were public, stand-alone courses … Nine hole facilities were by far the largest casualty, outpacing 18-hole closures by more than 2 to1.”

Macleans, 2014 “Why Canadian Golf is Dying” “When 40 percent of kids under 15 play soccer and five per cent play golf you realize you need to appeal to a different market.”

 4. Length of Course

Canoe Club, if shortened, will play to 2,353 yards (using only front tees on #5) versus 1,376 yards at Crescent Drive (i.e. 70% longer than Crescent Drive)

Canoe Club has evolved over time:

1918 par 36    2,700 yards; 1935 par 34       2,938 yards; 1964 par 34      2,800 yards;

Now par 34    2,607;             Proposal par 33         2,353 yards

 5. Cost to maintain as park, other park options

Ignoring the one-time costs to dismantle clubhouse, Canoe Club is 20 hectares (48 acres) and park maintenance is $10,000 per hectare. Churchill Drive Park is 26 hectares, similar in size to Crescent Drive Park (regional park).