A petition launched at change.org calls on the City of Whitehorse to cancel major transit route and scheduling changes set to take effect on July 1.
Teagan Beemer started the petition on June 13, five days after the city released the new schedule and routes, with more than 200 people attaching their name over three days. The updated bus system has five routes, with some neighbourhoods moved to service-on-demand with pickup available at an hour’s notice.
The Whistle Bend neighbourhood will be also be without service between 10:43 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. during the week.
Transit manager Jason Bradshaw said the city will trial the new schedule over three to six months.
In her petition, Beemer argues service on all the new routes is focused on the three transfer hubs at Yukon University, the Canada Games Centre and Whitehorse City Hall, making it difficult to plan trips anywhere else in the city and adding unnecessary transfers that make for longer trips and wait times.
She also points to the cuts in service for Lobird, Ravens Ridge and Kopper King and changes to weekend service that will have some routes starting 45 minutes later than the current routes in those neighbourhoods. For residents in some areas, it means they won’t be able to get a bus downtown before 9 a.m. on weekends, she noted.
Beemer said when the schedule was released, she was frustrated and saw others expressing the same frustration over routes and schedules that no longer work for them.
In her own case, Beemer uses the system up to three times daily working two part-time jobs. Under the changes, she’ll likely have to leave her first job about 10 minutes early to get to her second job in the Marwell area.
It also means she’ll have to take a cab to get to a weekend appointment she booked a few weeks ago for 9 a.m. Beemer emphasized while she is able to get a cab when the bus is not available, not everyone has that privilege.
At city council’s June 13 meeting, Coun. Michelle Friesen wondered about public engagement opportunities and how the city is responding to questions on social media.
Mike Gau, the city’s director of development services, cited letters sent out to residents in neighbourhoods that will see a major change in bus service, along with advertising, answering questions on social media and more.
“We are looking at an online meeting or Zoom call to answer questions, but also to run some scenarios, to demonstrate how to use the schedule as that seems to be the reoccurring problem,” he said, going on to note under the new system there will be multiple options to get from one part of the city to another.
“So if you’re just looking at a linear way you always used to take, it may not produce the desired frequency or speed, but if you were to transfer you would likely get to your destination just as fast or faster.”
Interim city manager Jeff O’Farrell also reminded council the new routes and schedule came out of the city’s 2018 Transit Master Plan, a document focused on increasing ridership.
While the changes are aimed at increasing frequency on the city’s busiest routes to help increase ridership, the current system is more focused on geographical coverage for the city’s main urban areas.
In an interview following the council meeting, Mayor Laura Cabott said change can be difficult when riders are used to a routine and expectation with service. She emphasized the city is listening and open to hearing from people on the matter.
While not everyone will be happy with the changes, it’s hoped that for many the service will be an improvement and that ridership will increase, the mayor said.
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