10 things you need to know about taking the bus

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The most common way to travel around Winnipeg is by bus.

Winnipeg Transit has 93 regular routes and 34 school routes using a fleet of 640 buses (as of 2019). They operate from 6:00 am to until past midnight, and are available the entire week. However, fewer buses ply the routes on Saturdays and Sundays (only Easy Access service buses). Weekday rush hours are 7-9 a.m. and 3:30 -5:30 p.m., so more buses are available at these times.

Buses are generally reliable. Unless there is heavy snow, traffic mishaps or other emergencies, you can count on the bus to come on time.

If you are preparing to be a regular commuter, here are the 10 essential things to know about Winnipeg Transit, plus some do’s and don’ts to make your ride pleasurable and hassle-free:

  1. Know your bus

    Winnipeg Transit has three routes: the Main line, Express, and Suburban feeders. The Main line goes from suburban neighbourhoods to downtown, observing all bus stops, seven days a week. Express lines operate during rush hour to downtown, observing only a few stops. Suburban feeders service suburban areas where demand is lower. There are also extra buses called school charters that go along routes near junior high and high schools throughout the city. They run in the morning and afternoon so that overloads do not occur on regular transit service during week day periods. School charters only operate when school is in service. They are cancelled on early dismissal days, in-service days, and during school vacation periods.

    • All Winnipeg Transit buses are low floor and accessible. Buses have the capability to lower the front part (kneel) to within four inches of standard curb height to make the first step easier when boarding or alighting from the bus for seniors or persons with disabilities. The buses also have a flip-down ramp for people on mobility devices.
    • Bus routes and destinations are identified by route number, route name and route destination. You can see this sign in front of the bus and on the side.
      Winnipeg Transit bus, identified on front and side as Route 55 Meadowood

      Wpgtransit55 by NellieBly. CC BY

    • You can get free rides all over downtown from Downtown Spirit buses. They go around major downtown destinations every day of the week. Downtown Spirit Schedules.
    • Dial-A-Ride (DART) buses service communities in South and South East Winnipeg. They operate during off-peak hours and can pick passengers up to and from transfer connections. Passengers need to call in advance as rides are on a first-come, first-served basis. Call 204-287-DART or 311.
    • Transit Plus (formerly known as Handi-transit) are cars, wheelchair-accessible mini vans and mini buses that are offered as a door-to-door service for persons with disabilities. You have to apply for this service. Read the Transit Plus page for information on eligibility, registration, trip requests, fare and other inquiries.
  2. See you at the bus stop (or bus shelter)

    Image of three different Winnipeg bus stop signs

    3 different Winnipeg Transit bus stop signs, photos by English Online Inc.

    To know when and where to catch the bus, use the Navigo Trip Planner All you need to do is indicate your address (or origin), your destination and the time you need to get there. You can also plan your return trip on Navigo.

    • Make sure that you understand the directions on the trip planner. You can always check the map on the right side of the screen to give you an idea of the direction your bus will be taking, as well as the streets and landmarks you can watch out for. You can click on the map to zoom in and see an actual picture of the bus stop so that you’ll know what the area looks like.
    • Always note whether the bus stop is northbound/southbound or eastbound/westbound. To be doubly sure, note the 5-digit bus stop number to ensure that you are on the right stop. You can always ask the friendly drivers if you are not sure about your destination. The key is asking ahead so that the driver has advanced notice.
    • Remember that it is always safer to leave your house early (5-10 minutes earlier than the stated arrival of the bus on your Trip Planner) and be at the stop before the bus comes.
    • If you are always on-the-go, various online and mobile Transit tools are also available. Learn about TeleBUS, 311, Busguide, BUStxt, BUSWatch, BUSgadget, and QR codes and how these can help you get real-time schedule information and other updates. If you prefer to see the schedules in print, you can pick up timetables and maps at Winnipeg Transit centres downtown. They are also posted on major bus stops all over the city.
  3. Do you have your peggo card?

    Winnipeg Transit introduced the peggo card the summer of 2016 but you can still pay your fare in cash. If you’re paying cash, make sure that you have the exact amount as drivers do not carry change. Check the latest fares here: Transit Fares. If you are a student (17-21 years), you can pay the reduced fare, just show your GoCARD photo ID.

    • You can buy your peggo card at all 7-Eleven stores and all Shopper’s Drug Mart outlets (here’s a complete list of outlets). You can also buy it online or by calling 311. The card will be mailed to you (at no cost) within 14 days.
    • Peggo comes in two variants: The green peggo card is for passengers paying a reduced fare such as youth and seniors. The white peggo card is for full fare-paying passengers. Holders of green cards must register them to continue receiving reduced fares. White card holders can choose not to register, although there are benefits to doing so, such as card protection (your balance is protected if your card is lost or stolen) and online reloading.
    • There are two types of fares: e-pass and e-cash. Buy an e-pass when you need unlimited number of trips during a set number of consecutive days. Meanwhile, e-cash is for single rides. When you use e-cash, a 75-minute transfer is automatically loaded on your peggo. You don’t need a paper transfer anymore. You can choose to load both e-pass and e-cash on your card. However, because the system automatically activates the e-pass on your card, you have to tell the bus operator if you want to use your e-cash (instead of your e-pass) before tapping the card.
  4. Priority seats

    Seats in front of the bus (usually 2 rows of three seats facing each other immediately after the driver) can be folded to make space for baby carriages, wheelchairs or strollers. The first row of seats facing front should also be vacated when needed since these have the wheel locks for wheel chairs underneath. These are called Priority Seats (or wheelchair accessible seats). Please vacate them when needed (and if possible, assist in folding them) to give way to seniors, parents with baby carriages, or persons with disabilities.

  5. No smoking please!

    Smoking is not allowed on the bus. It will also be appreciated if you don’t eat or drink on the bus (but if you really must, don’t leave your trash behind). Also, no pets are allowed, except for seeing-eye and hearing dogs and small pets in carry-on containers. People wearing inline skates are asked to remove them or remain seated for safety. Intoxicated and unruly passengers may be picked up by police.

  6. Stop the bus!

    You will notice that the next stop is announced before the bus reaches it. You are given enough time to press the stop button (a red button on several poles of the bus near the doors) or pull the yellow string (along the side of the windows) if you need to get off. Pulling or pressing makes a pinging sound and a “stop” sign appears on the screen announcing the next street (screen is located behind the head of the driver, near the front door).

    As much as possible, it is suggested that commuters exit using the back door. However, if you are near the front, you may exit there as well. You will notice that commuters move near the door where they intend to exit even before the bus stops. Considerate Winnipeggers wish to minimize the time the bus is stopped so that it can go on its way much sooner. This is appreciated by passengers especially during rush hours (mornings 7-9 and evenings 4-6).

  7. Request stop

    Getting home past 7:00 pm? If the usual bus stop to your destination is unsafe beyond 7, you can request the driver to drop you off the street nearest your destination. Remember to ask the driver ahead of time.

  8. Why me?

    If somebody is harassing you while on the bus, the best thing to do is to complain to the driver. You are being harassed when someone says offensive things to you, making advances or bothering you, or other inappropriate actions that restrict you from traveling in comfort and peace. The driver can help you handle the situation by asking the offending party to get off, or depending on the gravity of the situation, call the police to help out.

  9. What is Busology?

    This is Winnipeg Transit’s lighthearted way of reminding people about practicing common courtesy when using public transit. These bus posters show situations that make the ride unpleasant for passengers such as “Back-A-Da-Bus-O-Phobia”, “Prioritus Seatus”, and “Backus Packus Smakus”. To see all of the posters, click here.

  10. Lost and found

    If you left something on the bus, call the Lost Property Office (311). You must give a brief description of the item, route number traveled and the time you traveled. The office is located downtown, in the South West Concourse, under Portage and Main. You can also notify 311 if you found something on the bus. Otherwise, you can just surrender the item to the bus driver.

 
With thanks to Gerry Pearson, Transit Travel Trainer, for reviewing and updating this article.

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