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Mayor hops on a bus

Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis says he's really enjoying taking the bus to work every morning. Earlier this week he was getting off at the stop across from city hall downtown when he thanked the driver.

Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis says he’s really enjoying taking the bus to work every morning.

Earlier this week he was getting off at the stop across from city hall downtown when he thanked the driver for the positive experience and shook his hand.

The driver pointed to city hall and said, “You’re welcome. Wait, Do you work here?” the mayor remembers, laughing.

While other mayors might be concerned about their lack of recognition, Curtis puts a positive spin on things.

“It means he’s that nice to everyone, he didn’t have any other motivations.”

Curtis, who lives in Riverdale, started taking the bus this week in response to concerns about the amount of congestion coming out of the area in the mornings.

“I thought about it and decided I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem,” he said.

He said he loves his new route to work and plans to continue.

At peak travel hours, when the buses are at their fullest, with people heading to work or school, it’s not uncommon to watch those braving the cold on foot out-pace the buses and cars as the vehicles crawl out of the subdivision.

The mayor estimates it takes about three minutes to walk from his house to the nearest bus stop and then another 18 to 20 minutes to get to work depending on the traffic. That’s sometimes quicker than a drive, he said.

“Driving is not painless,” he added. “You have to get up every morning to warm up your car and clear it off.”

Riverdale is a busy subdivision. It is home to five schools as well as the city’s only hospital.

Earlier this year, a new set of stop lights at Hospital Road were turned on.

Acting city manager Brian Crist said lights were chosen for the intersection - as opposed to something like a roundabout - after a traffic study was completed.

The decision was made based on traffic flow and the amount of cars moving through the area, he said, adding that it is important to help people turning into the hospital.

Crist, like the mayor, also lives in Riverdale. He says the length of his commute has not changed since the lights were installed.

The wait can change depending on what time you are heading downtown, he said.

“If you leave before 7 a.m. there is no waiting time. If you wait until 8 or 8:30 there is some stack-up.”

Before the lights, things could still back up in the area when drivers would stop to let others make the left turn to Whitehorse General Hospital, Crist said.

They are also important for emergency vehicles looking to access the hospital.

Lights and sirens from approaching ambulances can change the lights if necessary, he explained.

Crist said the city has the ability to adjust the timing of the in-ground sensors that trigger the lights when standard vehicles are stopped.

Crews usually come north once a year to do that kind of work.

A new traffic study for the area will be done after the lights have been up for some time, he said.

Contact Ashley Joannou at