Whitehorse’s bus routes will no longer be changing on July 1.
At council’s June 27 meeting, a motion to delay the new transit route was passed unanimously.
Since the public release of the modernized transit route, there has been an abundance of “overwhelmingly negative” responses received through direct emails, social media and other sources.
Coun. Ted Laking said he hasn’t received this much feedback on his email since “Snowmageddon” last winter.
“It is important to note that members of the community who rely on transit to get to work, to pick up their families or get to the groceries are concerned and stressed about the impacts of what this may have on their daily commute,” he said.
While acknowledging the City of Whitehorse has “evidently outgrown [its] current transit route schedule,” Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu said the public never saw a draft of the new schedule, and once a launch date was announced, citizens came back with concerns, criticisms and confusion.
“Obviously any change is difficult, but it looks like a lot of people have significant concerns,” she said.
Coun. Curteanu called on city staff to review the feedback received and organize more public engagement opportunities to collect additional input before any changes to transit routes or schedules.
She said it’s best to take a step back and give city staff the time they need to review everything and come up with a plan that better meets the needs of transit riders. Hitting the pause button will allow the city to get this right the first time and get the proper investment value for taxpayers.
A report containing improvement recommendations and the estimated cost for implementation will be presented to council for consideration in December 2022. It is likely no major changes to bus routes will happen until next summer.
Mayor Laura Cabott said the aim of the new transit system was to increase ridership, reduce congestion and provide a reliable bus service to everyone in Whitehorse. This included adding routes to areas like Yukon University and Whistlebend, which are expanding in population but only have access to bus services once an hour.
A number of years of work went into this new transit plan, and wanted to do all this in a cost-neutral way, but the rollout didn’t go as we’d hoped,” said Mayor Cabott.
She said the goal remains to “efficiently [connect] residents to their places of work, play and daily errands” and “make it easier to choose transit to travel throughout the city.”
While Mayor Cabott recognizes there is more work to do in order to achieve that goal, she also cautions that while the investment is worthwhile, it is also costly. Just adding the Sunday bus service alone cost the city $250,000 this year.
“I don’t want to be the doom and gloom, but transit is expensive. A better system will cost more money,” she said.
Contact Magan Carty at email@example.com