A mayor, a minister and a member of Parliament walk on to a bus. No, it’s not the opening line of a joke — it was the lead-up to an infrastructure announcement.
Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis, John Streicker, the territorial community services minister, and Yukon MP Larry Bagnell took the 10:20 a.m. Granger bus to the Canada Games Centre on Feb. 20.
There, they announced the completion of seven projects in Whitehorse, one of which was the recent purchase of two new city buses.
The buses, which have been on the road for the last few months, replaced two older buses, bringing the city’s fleet (which includes two handy buses) to 15.
The vehicles were purchased with an $890,000 contribution from the federal government’s Public Transit Infrastructure Fund, and a $297,000 contribution from the Yukon Government.
At the moment, both buses are running along existing routes.
Curtis said any potential new routes or additional pick-up times would be decided by the city’s Transit Master Plan, which will be presented to council by city staff this March.
As part of the plan, the city launched a public transit survey last October.
“Sadly the transit didn’t come out all thumbs up,” said Curtis. “A lot of people thought it wasn’t as good as it could be or should be.”
He said the plan will likely address expanded service to Whistle Bend. He also said the lack of Sunday service, a common lament among transit riders, isn’t something that’s financially viable.
“The vast majority of the people we have using our bus are students and people going to and from and on Sunday, the traffic is just so miniscule it would be more than we could handle in terms of costs,” said Curtis.
The city did not respond before press time to questions about how potential Sunday bus traffic has been measured.
Bagnell pointed out that the addition of evening service in 2013 improved things in his neighbourhood.
“Last night I was coming home at nine o’ clock at night and I live in Lobird Trailer Court and I was delighted to see a bus coming,” he said. “It didn’t used to be like that. There used to be a lot of gaps in the service and when you invest in transit I mean, how many of the people who live in my trailer court, how would they get to work, how would they get to take education courses, how would they get to come here to the games centre and recreation if there wasn’t a bus?”
The CGC, which Curtis said sees 2,000 to 3,000 users daily, was also the beneficiary of one of the city’s infrastructure improvements. Both it and Takhini Arena have had LED lighting installed.
“It’s hard to overstate how important these facilities are to the well-being of Yukoners,” said Streicker. “They are go-to places for sports events, community celebrations, trade, craft shows and, of course, overall wellness. The new energy-efficient lighting will help the city of Whitehorse reduce its carbon footprint and reduce the consumption of electricity as well.”
Additional improvements, funded by the federal Gas Tax Fund, included replacing the entrance to the Valleyview reservoir, improving the storm sewer at Burns Road, and building a 500-metre path linking McIntyre Creek to the Pine Street connection in Porter Creek. The plane and boat launch at Schwatka Lake has also been rebuilt.
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