School children board a school bus in Whitehorse. One Grizzly Valley resident is raising concerns about the lack of a bus route for her children and the area. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)

Grizzly Valley resident upset about the community’s bus service

“It’s not really designed with a good sidewalk or anything so parents are understandably concerned”

A Grizzly Valley resident says that her children haven’t been able to access a bus service in the two years she’s lived on the subdivision’s Ursa Way and she’s fed up.

“For me, as a taxpayer, I don’t think that’s normal that you develop a subdivision and don’t think of that detail,” said Rachelle Dufour.

“You build a subdivision for 50 families and you don’t think about that? Helloooooo.”

Dufour said that she has been talking to the Yukon government about the issue ever since she and her partner moved into the area with their kids, aged 11 and 13.

She said she has been told the grade is too steep for the bus to safely navigate, but Dufour points out that oil and water delivery vehicles are able to make it into the subdivision.

As well, said Brad Cathers, MLA for Lake Laberge, emergency vehicles are able to drive the distance into the subdivision loop, which Cathers told the News measures two miles along the road.

The subdivision was developed when the Yukon Party was in power. Families were living there just before the 2016 election. Cathers said that was the first time he heard a complaint about the lack of bus service.

Dufour confirmed that complaint was hers.

“It’s not really designed with a good sidewalk or anything so parents are understandably concerned about the idea of having their kids walk down to the highway for the bus,” said Cathers, who previously raised the issue in the legislative assembly this October.

On Oct. 23, Cathers tabled a motion to “confirm that school bus service will be provided to the existing lots in Grizzly Valley subdivision as well as to the 20 new lots in Grizzly Valley subdivision that the government recently put up for sale via land lottery.”

That land lottery closed November 14.

Premier Sandy Silver responded to Cathers at the time by pointing out that students do have a bus service, they just have to walk out of the subdivision loop for pickup. Silver said that was because winter conditions affect the ability of school buses to travel safely on the road.

Kyle Nightingale, a spokesperson for the Yukon Department of Education, said Standard Bus Service has concerns around the steepness and grade in the subdivision making it unsafe to navigate in winter conditions.

The subdivision was developed according to guidelines set out by the Transportation Association of Canada.

Nightingale said the number of students living in the subdivision is currently less than 10. He said none are registered for pickup in that spot. He also said there have been no requests for transportation subsidies from any families in the subdivision.

The Yukon government offers a travel subsidy of 62 cents a kilometre, up to a maximum of $13 a day, for families located more than 3.2 km from the nearest bus stop. Nightingale said there are currently 18 families in the city collecting this subsidy.

Dufour said the subsidy doesn’t erase the fact that there is a dilemma. She said there is a logistical challenge in driving the kids to the bus stop, or to school, or in having neighbours pick them up – something she has done in the past.

She said the kids don’t want to walk the roughly 5 km to the bus stop, especially not in winter.

Cathers said that while there are currently only a handful of people affected by the situation, he said he knows of other families that will be affected in the future, and families for which service was a consideration when looking at lots in the area.

“Certainly everyone had the expectation that a government-developed subdivision would have bus service,” Cathers told the News.

He said the minister of education has told him there’s a safety issue, while the minister of community services has told him it meets the design standards for school bus services.

“I have yet to get a reasonable explanation,” said Cathers.

Nightingale said that service will not be extended to the area at this time, again citing Standard’s concerns.

Dufour isn’t satisfied.

“School buses?” she said. “That’s an essential service.”

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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