Express bus service idea floated for Games

The Canada Winter Games is giving Whitehorse transit services a needed kick in the pants. City council is considering providing express transit…

The Canada Winter Games is giving Whitehorse transit services a needed kick in the pants.

City council is considering providing express transit services to key facilities during the Games as a way of testing recommendations from its transit task force, said administrative manager Rob Fendrick.

Only months ago, city officials told reporters any changes to the bus system, recommended through countless studies, would have to wait until the arrival of four new buses the city has ordered.

But while those buses are still not in the Yukon — they’re expected in mid-December — five proposed alterations to transit services during the Games are now included in the city’s upcoming budget, said Fendrick.

“The goal is to enhance service to the main venue, which is the Canada Games Centre,” he said on Thursday.

Each idea comes at a cost — but he refused to say how much.

Though the city’s budget could be voted on and approved as late as January, council is being asked to tell Fendrick and others by mid-December whether any of the express transit ideas will be approved, said Fendrick.

Time is of the essence to change schedules and other parts of the system, he said.

“The overall idea will be to try and reduce car traffic and increase transit use,” said Fendrick, noting that 3,800 athletes and coaches, not to mention spectators, are descending on the city.

“A lot of people are coming here expecting to be able to move around.”

Games volunteers will also receive free bus passes, he said.

Fendrick refused to give specific details about the five budget proposals, adding that they will be discussed at next week’s council meeting.

But one idea being bandied about is a commemorative Games transit pass that will allow spectators to pay a one-time fee to travel the city’s buses for one-week periods, revealed Fendrick.

“Most people come for only one week,” he said.

For several years, the city’s transit department has been working with a task force to study routes and schedules, said Fendrick.

The Games present an opportunity to test some of those ideas out, he said.

“That’s one of the benefits.”

But any transit changes depend on the arrival of the new buses, said city manager Dennis Shewfelt.

“Yeah, if we don’t have the additional rolling stock, we can’t put any more buses on the road,” he said.

The four Nova buses, being built in Montreal, are due to hit the production line this month, he said.

City officials should know soon whether the buses will make it by mid-December or not, added Shewfelt.

Officials with the Canada Games host society refused to comment on the need for transit service changes during the Games.

City reaches

deal with PSAC

City workers will receive a 9.75-per-cent wage hike and 1.75-per-cent boost in benefits by the end of 2008, thanks to a new collective agreement city council ratified Tuesday.

The old collective agreement between the city and PSAC local Y023 expired at the end of August.

Officials from PSAC and the city have been bargaining since May.

The discussions were put on hold during July and August, and finally concluded in October, said city manager Dennis Shewfelt.

“It’s just, in my mind, a function of the process,” said Shewfelt of the delay.

“The negotiator from PSAC does this across the North, so he has several negotiations going on at a time. There was no major sticking point.”

The new agreement will cost the city about $1.2 million over the next three years.

The city has 186 full- and part-time employees under the PSAC Y023 local.

Currently, those employees make an average of $26.82 per hour.

Before being adopted as a bylaw, its language has to be “wordsmithed” and verified, said Shewfelt.

Changes to the collective agreement include increases to employer RRSP contributions, as well as increases to bonuses for city employees with more than five years seniority.

Bylaw constables and parking meter attendants will also benefit.

Constables will be issued winter gloves as part of their uniform, and meter workers will be provided with foot orthotics, if needed.

The new agreement also states employees who work overtime must receive an eight-hour rest period before starting their regular shift again, without losing pay. (TQ)