A vehicle drives down Lewes Boulevard in Whitehorse on Aug. 27. Beginning Sept. 3 for six weeks, Whitehorse Transit will be testing a dedicated bus lane that heads out of Riverdale. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Bypassing the Riverdale rush

A dedicated bus lane will be piloted for six weeks

Whitehorse Transit riders heading out of Riverdale can expect to bypass cars, trucks and other vehicles for six weeks beginning Sept. 3 thanks to a dedicated bus lane.

“We’ll be scooting by the traffic every day,” transit manager Cheri Malo said in an Aug. 26 interview shortly after the City of Whitehorse announced plans for the temporary lane on the north side of Lewes Boulevard.

This will mark the second time the city has piloted a transit lane on the north side of Lewes Boulevard. The first was for a week in January 2018.

This time around things are a little different. The dedicated lane will be in a smaller area beginning at the Lewes Boulevard and Alsek Road traffic circle and continuing to Hospital Road rather than running the entirety of Lewes Boulevard as it did in the first pilot. Malo explained that first attempt found the major area of traffic congestion for Riverdale began closer to Alsek Road.

The other major change is that riders will have a full six weeks to take advantage of the new bus lane. Last time around it was only in place for a week.

The longer period will give the city a better sense of how a dedicated transit lane could work on a permanent basis while riders will have more opportunity to see the advantages of taking transit as buses move past the vehicles potentially stuck in traffic.

“What we’re looking at is changing behavior,” Malo said.

If residents can see how much quicker and more convenient it is to take transit, they may opt to leave their vehicles at home in favor of getting on the bus, she said, pointing out the potential it also has to encourage high school students in Riverdale to catch a bus rather than getting a ride to school.

Without the dedicated lane, Riverdale road congestion can leave buses up to 17 minutes late, impacting the system throughout the rest of the city.

After the trial, officials will look at the results — ridership, traffic impacts and so on. If deemed successful, the city will explore how a permanent lane could be added and the costs associated with that. Additional road maintenance for the bus lane is one example of the financial implications it could have on the city, Malo said.

The next step would then be adding the bus lane into the 2020 budget for consideration. If that proceeds the lane would likely be added next year. Right now it is only at the pilot project phase.

Drivers are being reminded not to stop or park along any part of Lewes Boulevard during the pilot.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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