City aims to cut traffic congestion

Whitehorse wants you to drive less. Last week the city adopted its 25-year Transportation Demand Management Plan.

Whitehorse wants you to drive less.

Last week the city adopted its 25-year Transportation Demand Management Plan, which seeks to get 50 per cent of Whitehorse citizens commuting via anything but cars within the next quarter century.

Right now, three-quarters of people in the city drive to work alone in private cars, according to Shannon Clohosey, the city’s sustainability manager.

“(This plan) is basically providing a tool-kit or policy system to encourage a shift in behaviour from single-occupant vehicles to other modes of transportation,” Clohosey said.

The concept is nothing new for the city. It’s the same logic behind expanding bike paths and adding bike lanes to major thoroughfares, Clohosey said.

“We were looking for a plan to help us decide what’s next. Now that we’ve made some investments in infrastructure, how do we insure that that infrastructure is being used the best way it can,” she said.

Right now, there are almost twice as many cars in Whitehorse as there are people: roughly 54,000 vehicles versus 28,000 people. That figure, tallied by a consultant who worked on the report, comes from casting a wide net that includes everything from city buses to work vehicles to trailers.

According to the city’s research, the population of Whitehorse is expected to grow by 15,000 people in the next 25 years, adding an estimated 36,000 more vehicles to the city’s roads.

If we keep driving as much as we currently are, it will cost taxpayers an expected $40 million just to pay for all the new parking spaces required. The cost to build wider roads and fix up the existing ones will be enormous, Clohosey said.

The plan will be phased in over a number of years, Clohosey said. In the short term, the city will look to create a traffic demand manager’s position. That person will be charged with charting the path forward, and monitoring the implementation of parts of the plan.

Transportation issues in the city have always been controversial. After the city adopted its new traffic demand plan, online forums exploded with irate drivers upset that they might have to give up their time behind the wheel.

Whitehorse citizens also famously love to complain about traffic management. Roundabouts are one particular sore spot, as are the frequent traffic jams in Riverdale during the morning rush. Often, the frustration is directed at the city, with people demanding that someone else solve the problem.

But as Whitehorse’s engineering manager Wayne Tuck points out, the vast majority of the vehicles coming out of Riverdale contain one, maybe two people; parents dropping their kids off for school before heading to work themselves, alone in their cars.

“Those kids could be walking to school, and those drivers could be taking the bus. That would clear up a lot of the issues,” Tuck said.

The first place the city wants to focus is on improving its transportation maintenance program, which includes doing a better job of things like clearing snow from sidewalks and bike paths, and increasing education around transportation alternatives, Clohosey explained.

What the city’s not going to do is tell people they have to stop driving.

“We’re not asking everyone to suddenly sell their car and bike to work. Even if people want to ride one day a week, or take the bus one day a week, that would be great,” Clohosey said.

Paris, France made waves in the news recently with the announcement that the city would ban vehicles with odd-numbered license plates for one day, and ban even-numbered cars the next, in a bid to reduce cars on the road and pollution in the air.

Clohosey said that kind of unorthodox thinking is interesting, but the city isn’t anywhere close to forcing people to leave their cars at home.

“We definitely welcome out-of-the-box thinking, but let’s be proactive and work on this while we have a lot of time and some flexibility so it doesn’t get to that point,” she said.

Contact Jesse Winter at jessew@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Jesse Whelen, Blood Ties Four Directions harm reduction councillor, demonstrates how the organization tests for fentanyl in drugs in Whitehorse on May 12, 2020. The Yukon Coroner’s Service has confirmed three drug overdose deaths and one probable overdose death since mid-January. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three overdose deaths caused by “varying levels of cocaine and fentanyl,” coroner says

Heather Jones says overdoses continue to take lives at an “alarming rate”

Wyatt's World for Feb. 24, 2021.
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Approximately 30 Yukoners protest for justice outside the Whitehorse courthouse on Feb. 22, while a preliminary assault hearing takes place inside. The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, based in Watson Lake, put out a call to action over the weekend. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Courthouse rally denounces violence against Indigenous women

The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society put out a call to action

Then Old Crow MLA Darius Elias speak’s in the community centre in Old Crow in 2016. Elias died in Whitehorse on Feb. 17. (Maura Forrest/Yukon News file)
Condolences shared for former Vuntut Gwitchin MLA Darius Elias

Elias is remembered as a proud parent, hockey fan and politican

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

US Consul General Brent Hardt during a wreath-laying ceremony at Peace Arch State Park in September 2020. Hardt said the two federal governments have been working closely on the issue of appropriate border measures during the pandemic. (John Kageorge photo)
New U.S. consul general says countries working closely on COVID-19 border

“I mean, the goal, obviously, is for both countries to get ahead of this pandemic.”

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Start of spring sitting announced

The Yukon legislature is set to resume for the spring sitting on… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

(Submitted)
History Hunter: Kwanlin Dün — a book of history, hardship and hope

Dǎ Kwǎndur Ghày Ghàkwadîndur: Our Story in Our Words is published by… Continue reading

(File photo)
RCMP arrest Saskatchewan murder suspect

Yukon RCMP have arrested a man suspected of attempted murder from outside… Continue reading

Most Read