Buses running empty

Need some alone time? Then take a ride on Whitehorse Transit’s downtown loop. You’ll likely encounter less than one other person,…

Need some alone time?

Then take a ride on Whitehorse Transit’s downtown loop.

You’ll likely encounter less than one other person, according to figures released during Monday’s council meeting.

The route is a pilot project to determine whether a permanent route should be installed linking the Canada Games Centre and the downtown core. It began on July 1st.

It costs $190,000 to run the downtown loop for a full year.

Since then, rider numbers have steadily climbed but remain very low.

There were 457 riders in July. That number skyrocketed to 1,442 in August, but this number includes the increased ridership during the Lutheran youth gathering in the middle of the month. The regular amount would have been around 642, said Whitehorse Transit officials.

September saw a small bump in riders, hitting 614.

But a transit official bragging about the success of the downtown loop was stopped in his tracks by councillor Dave Stockdale at Monday’s council meeting.

That’s an average of only 12 rides a day, said Stockdale. That means less than two riders per bus.

The loop adds another nine trips on Friday evening, and Saturday’s schedule includes 31.

The figures were only an update from a larger study being done. A complete report will be released in November.

A lot of people lobbied for the bus route, but sometimes an interest group can be wrong about whether there is a need for a service or not, said Stockdale.

“We heard from seniors and a lot of other groups that it was difficult getting downtown,” said transit manager Dave Muir.

“But it’s lower than expected,” he said.

Transit has put a lot of effort in marketing the loop. Advertisements have been made on radio, television, maps and posters. Transit also held a draw for a bus pass to promote the route.

But the effect so far has been negligible.

Councillors brainstormed on how to increase ridership in council.

Many of the buses that come around Yukon College are empty, said councillor Doug Graham.

“I can see them from my office and there are no students on them.”

A student bus rate might be a good way to increase ridership, he said.

The costs of providing services is high, transit officials told council. The unpopular pilot project is also happening at a time when fuel is expensive.

When transit first held tests to evaluate whether or not there would be an interest in a downtown loop, they were held in December 2006 and the during the 2007 Canada Winter Games.

“We tested it when there were things happening,” said Muir.

Eight riders per ride is an acceptable amount of riders, he said.