This past Tuesday, Steinbach City Council Candidates participated in the Municipal Election Forum hosted by the Steinbach Chamber of Commerce.

If you would like to re-watch the forum, the full video can be found at the bottom of this story. 

Questions were submitted by the public and curated by the Steinbach Chamber of Commerce.  

The seven candidates had an opportunity to dive into a number of election issues including this question about transportation:

“How do you feel about transportation options currently available in our city? Can all the residents affordably get where they need to go? And if not, what would you do to improve transportation here in the City of Steinbach?” 

Here’s what the council candidates had to say: 

Michael Zwaagstra

“Well, let's say that obviously there are some challenges. I think that we've done a good job of improving our roads. And when you look at some of the intersections along Brandt Street in partnership with the province, there have been major improvements there. 

We want people to be able to get from one spot to the other as efficiently as possible. As far as other options, we have the Handi-Van option which is available. The city funds are given now to the Pat Porter Centre and they run that quite well and so that serves a unique demographic. 

We also have several taxi options within the City of Steinbach, and so there's some healthy competition there. A few years ago, council had the opportunity to get more involved in regulating it and artificially keeping prices high. We said ‘no, we're not going to do that.’ 

We want to have competition so that way prices stay as low as possible. Obviously, at some point in the future, a transit system will have to be considered. I don't believe we're at that population level yet, though.  

In the interest of full disclosure, I just want everyone who's listening to know that next year for a few months, traffic is going to get really bad on Brandt Street right around the intersection of Loewen and Brandt. But, it's for a very good reason. In partnership with the province, that entire intersection is being reconstructed. There are going to be additional turning lanes. Everything is going to work far better. 

Just letting everyone know, it's going to be painful for a few months, we really are going to appreciate the improvement to that. That's probably our worst intersection right now in the city. It is going to get fixed, but it is going to get worse for a little while.” 

Jac Siemens

“That's a question that gets asked frequently of city council. I think one of the things is that we had worked together with the Manitoba Transportation too with the highways and we had a project on Highway 12. 

So that highway, that project lasted six years. We've done some improvements there, but traffic still is not moving quickly. So, we get a lot of perimeter traffic. We know all those things and we keep looking at them. It's not city council on its own that's going to solve this issue, it's going to take partnerships with Manitoba Highways. It could take partnerships in a variety of different places, potentially. 

I'm a big proponent of moving traffic. That means, I think, that we need to go to traffic circles where possible, where it makes sense, we need to put in traffic circles to keep traffic flowing so it doesn't back up. 

How do we get people from A to B? How do you get people in and out of Steinbach? Are there other areas besides just the number 12 highway?  

I think I'll add too, public transportation, that is something that we need to keep an eye on and work on, but I think there has to be a better option than a bus running around in circles. I think there are public-private options that we can look at potentially to move people and, I don't know, if we had a bus running circles around Steinbach that people would use it. 

I don't know if it would be effective enough to be used. I don't know if people want to stand at a bus stop in Steinbach. I'm not sure of that, but I think there are lots of different options available.” 

Susan Penner

“I think traffic growth is one of the main challenges of growing as a city in general. 

I know people who lived in Steinbach for a while find it frustrating that it's not like the good old days when they could just get anywhere within five minutes but, that's something we're always working on, also with Manitoba Infrastructure to try and figure out even how to time the lights on the highway, etc.  

When it comes to public transportation, that's a challenge in our climate because really, our city isn't that big in terms of footprint. When the weather is so cold it does make it difficult in terms of pathways. People want to use them or bike but it's too cold.  

But, as councillor Zwaagstra mentioned, we are not at the population level yet where that's going to be an affordable option for us, but that is certainly something that's on our radar and that we keep looking at and talking about.  

I just would make the comment that a lot of the need for rides is with our elderly population. Let's say in terms of going to appointments, doctor's appointments, going to church, that type of thing. I think that's also something that us as residents in the community can even perhaps volunteer to do. It's a great way to volunteer and contribute to our community to do those types of things as well, so they're not so reliant on maybe formal public transportation.” 

Damian Penner

“As I’ve been beating the drum here, I've been investing in the infrastructure and we have projects coming forward that council has worked really hard on of getting the Loewen Boulevard and Highway 12 intersection redone.

In addition, one of the initiatives that council took over was getting synchronization of the lights on Highway 12 to move the traffic a lot better. But in terms of public transportation, it's not the actual moving of cars, but something that's dear to me is reinvesting into our downtown to locate our services and our shops and grocery stores further spread throughout the city so that not everybody is needing to go to one location. Where our highest population is intended to be in the downtown core, reinvest into the downtown area so that we can have that there, that there isn't as much of reliance on public transportation, and it's much closer to the higher population in densely populated areas.  

And with regards to public transportation moving forward, I think there definitely is an opportunity for a private-public partnership.  I've always been an advocate that we as councillors aren't necessarily the ones that come up with the answers. We’re the listening ear that can work along with the organizations that are much smarter, wiser than us and specialize in those areas and work with a partnership with them to come up with an appropriate solution. 

So, that's definitely something that I'm hoping will come forward in the near future and something that I'll be working towards trying to get it moving along.” 

Shawn Liska

“As a delivery driver here in Steinbach, I do come across a lot of issues regarding traffic and the traffic flow in Steinbach. 

It does seem to take longer than I think it should to get from Highway 12 to the other end of Steinbach currently, but those are things that we'll need to work together with Manitoba Highways, I guess to improve that situation.

Something else I've also noticed driving around Steinbach is the increased presence of taxis on the streets and sometimes this makes me think that there will be a need for public transportation in the near future. I agree with councillor Zwaagstra, I don't think Steinbach’s quite at the population level to keep that sustainable at the moment, but I feel like we need to be planning for that in the very near future. 

That also includes some corridors, maybe we need to look at widening some streets in anticipation of these types of efforts.  

I would just like to add some of the concerns that I've heard from residents in the Wyndham Estates area about how beautifully the roundabout works in that neighbourhood. People may be skeptical about their effectiveness. But from what I hear, that's been really successful, and I believe city council should be maybe looking at more intersections where we could utilize a roundabout.” 

Jake Hiebert

“I think when we talk about public transportation, we're also talking about how do we move people within our city? 

There are various ways in moving people. We look at our sidewalks, people walking, people walking not only for exercise, but going back and forth to work. We look at our downtown where the streets are, we have probably one of the nicest cities, beautiful cities within Manitoba or even within Canada. So, we make that available. We have places for scooters to go. We have bicycle paths. We have other ways of transportation.

But, when we also talk about public transportation as they've been indicating, people have asked, ‘why don't we have public transit for people to go from one end of the city to the other or to go grocery shopping or doctor's appointment?’ As indicated by Councillor Zwaagstra earlier, we don't have enough people in Steinbach right now to support that type of industry. Our roads are in great shape and we're in good shape here in the city.  

One form of public transportation that's been used a lot and is being used a lot in Steinbach of course is the Handi-Van and then a real proponent of that, and I'd like to thank the people that are involved in the volunteers of the people driving. 

It's really an asset to a lot of the people that can't afford it, whether it's cabs or many of the handicapped people. So, I'm really happy and thank you to all the people there.” 

Bill Hiebert

“I’m going to repeat what a lot of them said here, from Michael on, that we've deregulated taxis, which I think has been beneficial, and we've synchronized lights. 

We've also added Acres Drive which brings a lot of traffic that way relieving some of the other areas. We're also looking at, what we're in the process of doing Park Road West which will open up areas again for bypass traffic. So, all around there is a lot of traffic and I know that on Friday afternoons, when I go home from work, it's hard to make it in 10 minutes and it should take no more than five minutes. 

So, traffic is a real issue, and, in the future, I can see public transportation as well. So, it's something that we need to keep looking at. 

I wanted to just add that what Jake just mentioned, the Handi-Van used to be run by the city of Steinbach. And we hired people in the city and organized by the city, and we passed it on to the Pat Porter Centre. We were doing a really good job and I'm thankful that they took on that job to run that system.”