Building a better bus service

Do you ever consider how much it costs to run your car every day? It’s expensive, Bubba. Factor in gas, parking, insurance, wear and tear and…

Do you ever consider how much it costs to run your car every day?

It’s expensive, Bubba.

Factor in gas, parking, insurance, wear and tear and the occasional parking ticket and you easily top $5 a day.

It’s probably closer to $10.

Do the math.

In gas alone, a small fuel-efficient hatchback is going to run you about $2 for every 18 kilometres you drive this winter — say from Copper Ridge to the main government building. A four-wheel-drive beast will hurt far worse.

Toss in $1,500 a year in insurance, you’re immediately beyond $6.

Then there are oil and fluid changes and other maintenance … it gets expensive quickly.

Not to mention the hidden environmental cost.

Yet we fire the things up without thinking.

Why?

Because they’re convenient and easy. And the costs are largely hidden — you don’t pay every time you turn the ignition, so people don’t think about it.

Which brings us to the city bus service.

It’s not convenient. Or easy.

It’s erratic and frustrating and anything but convenient. And every time you ride the stupid things you’re reminded you have to pay for it — $4 per round trip.

The buses don’t come often enough during the day.

They don’t come early enough in the morning to get early risers to work, and they don’t run late enough at night to be particularly useful.

And you might as well walk on the weekends.

Let’s face it, the existing bus service is useless.

That needs to change if you want the public to use it.

Which is why Whitehorse’s proposal to declare the bus service a utility is so appealing.

The idea was floated at its recent sustainability charrette.

What was particularly appealing was that the city was finally considering building a good bus service — reliable, fast, easy. The type of service that would whisk you around town almost without thinking.

It’s been done in Boulder, Colorado, a city that has satellite subdivisions similar to Whitehorse’s.

Boulder made the bus service a municipal utility. Charged all homeowners for the service, improved it and made stepping on the bus free.

Not surprisingly, people started riding them to work.

Today, its downtown core is largely car free.

The plan cut city pollution and traffic congestion, which is a major source of stress and unhappiness among commuters.

And, even with our small population, similar problems are beginning to affect Whitehorse.

Don’t believe it? Talk to someone trying to leave the Copper Ridge subdivision at 8 a.m.

An efficient bus service to the community would alleviate the congestion. And you could read while you travelled to work.

Whitehorse council is still a long way from initiating this plan.

But building a good bus service would improve the city.

The estimated cost of such a service is pegged at $50 a month per household.

People may grouse that it’s a lot of money.

And it is.

But it is less than half the cost of a single person driving a car to work for a month.

And, in the long term, the savings to city residents and the municipality could be significant.

Do the math. (RM)

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