The wheels are in motion for a new Whitehorse transit schedule coming into effect July 1.
The new schedule and routes were released June 8, showing five routes, three transfer hubs, and scheduling that will see the earliest bus hit the road at 6:05 a.m. with the final bus ending its route at 11:36 p.m.
Each route has a varied start and end time with most routes operating on a 60-minute schedule during non-peak hours, and moving to a 30-minute schedule during the morning and late-afternoon rush periods.
The Whistle Bend route is an exception in that there is no service between 10:43 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. through the week. The route begins at 7:15 a.m., then moves to a half hour schedule at 8:15 a.m. When service recommences after 3:45 p.m. it is again offered on a half hour basis until its final run starts at 7:15 p.m.
Weekend service on that route is also provided on a half hour basis beginning at 8:45 a.m. with the last stop at 8:43 p.m.
The changes come out of the City of Whitehorse’s 2018 transit master plan, which showed a need for improved frequency, more direct connections and for buses to meet the times of the posted schedule.
“We needed to rethink how we offer these services,” transit manager Jason Bradshaw said in a June 9 interview.
Fewer services to some neighbourhoods
While work was done to make those improvements throughout much of the city, Bradshaw said the city had to find ways to modernize the system within existing resources and for residents of Lobird, Ravens Ridge and the Kopper King neighbourhoods, that results in less service.
Rather then being able to catch a bus in their own neighbourhoods, residents of those areas will have to request pickup service available on an hourly basis from 6:45 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. on weekdays and 8:45 a.m. to 8:15 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Riders will need to book a trip at least an hour in advance, which will pick them up and drive them to the nearest of three major transfer sites: the Canada Games Centre, Yukon University and Whitehorse City Hall where they can then access the conventional system.
Bradshaw said the three neighbourhoods see lower ridership numbers and hence were reluctantly chosen as routes that would move to the on-demand service.
“It was a hard decision,” he said, adding the city didn’t want to leave residents there without any service, thus the on-demand service will be offered during peak periods.
Acknowledging the peak-only service means no service between 11:15 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. through the week — when ridership is typically at its lowest in those areas — Bradshaw said the city will be looking at how the schedule works over the next three to six months and may make changes if needed.
The schedule for the on-demand service from the three neighbourhoods aims to get people to the nearest transfer point on schedule to catch their bus.
“The times should line up,” Bradshaw said.
He noted the overall schedule is “padded with extra time” so that transfers won’t be rushed and passengers will have more time for things like attaching their bike to the front of the bus and boarding.
In particular, Bradshaw said, extra time is allotted in the schedule for boarding at Whitehorse General Hospital to help accommodate those with mobility challenges.