A group with representatives from 18 local charitable organizations is working to make a case for public transit in Steinbach and the surrounding area.
Gay Boese is a member of the South East Equity Coalition. She notes one of the main purposes of their group is to provide an opportunity for local organizations to coordinate their efforts but they also advocate for those in need.
When the South East Equity Coalition was first founded in 2019, Boese says they quickly identified public transit as a need in Steinbach and the Southeast.
“We were aware of a transportation study that was done in 2006 that at that time said that Steinbach was well-positioned to move into public transportation so it became the issue that we decided we could actually sink our teeth into and start working on immediately after the pandemic settled down a bit.”
Boese notes first they need a clear picture of the issue.
“We created a survey, and it basically says ‘Would you use it? How often would you use it? Where would you go? Tell us a story about a time when you could’ve used it.’ We’ve got over 1,300 of those distributed. We are just waiting for that, it will come in the end of May and then we can see exactly what kinds of things are needed.”
As an example, Boese says when she first moved to Steinbach many years ago, she and her husband only had one vehicle. When he left for work, Boese says she was left at home with three kids and no way to get around Steinbach outside of walking.
She says “It was fine for us, but it isn't fine for people who need to get to work, in order for people to get to medical appointments, in order for people to get food and groceries.”
Boese adds they believe public transit would benefit not just those in need but also local organizations and businesses.
“We have also been approaching some organizations with a letter of support where they could indicate whether they think this is something that could benefit them. Employers, some people can’t hold a job because they can’t be reliable in transportation to and from a job.”
Retail businesses are also being encouraged to weigh in.
Once this information is tabulated, Boese says they hope to bring their findings to Steinbach City Council to see whether they can collaborate on a solution.
"We have talked to the mayor because we want to work together, this is not about undermining somebody or any groups. We want to work together to do what we feel is best for Steinbach.”
Boese also notes this public transit issue may require some creative thinking.
“We immediately think of a bus that is doing a loop and that may be what we do but we have to get our information first and we have to find out what would work for us because there is no one way that is going to work for everybody.”
She adds they have connected with Selkirk and have used their model as a possible jumping-off point, but notes “We are not Selkirk, we have unique situations, we have a unique distribution of people and distribution of businesses and health facilities and areas where people can go to get help and so we have to build it according to what the needs are here in Steinbach.”
Though this is no small task, Boese says “I am really hopeful that with all of us working together that this can happen. It is happening elsewhere, there is no reason why Steinbach can’t have public transport of some form.”