Traffic backs up along Lewes Boulevard near the bridge in January 2016. The city is now running a pilot project for a bus-only lane on this busy section of Riverdale. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

Smooth sailing on day one of transit pilot project

Transit manager said buses moved well through Riverdale traffic

A city bus driver gave the thumbs-up to a watching photographer as the bus zipped past idling traffic on Lewes Boulevard Monday morning.

That was Day One for a pilot project testing a bus-only lane along Lewes during morning rush hour. The lane, separated from car traffic by pylons, will remain in place Jan. 15 to 19, from 7:30 to 9 a.m.

The project is aimed at reducing transit wait times on weekday mornings, when the city said Riverdale buses can be up to 17 minutes late.

Duncan MacDonald said the longest he’s waited for a bus is 10 minutes.

On Monday morning, MacDonald stood at the bus shelter at Lewes and Tummel Road, waiting for the 7:47 a.m. bus (it arrived at 7:52 a.m.) to get to F.H. Collins, where he’s in grade 12.

MacDonald said it’s not the wait at the shelter, but the wait on the bus that’s most irritating.

There have been times it’s taken almost 30 minutes to drive the less than one kilometre between the bus stop and his school.

More than once, he’s gotten off and just walked the rest of the way to school.

Riverdale resident Kate McConnell has made similar decisions in the eight years she’s been a transit rider.

Some days, she said, she walks out of her apartment to find traffic backed up to Grey Mountain. On those days, she forgoes the bus and walks to work downtown.

“This time of day, it sometimes takes 20 to 25 minutes,” she said, as she waited on Lewes for the 8:27 a.m. bus (it arrived at 8:31 a.m.).

She said her employer is understanding, but notes that buses have been particularly late this winter, and it’s getting to be problematic.

In the summer, McConnell said it’s nowhere near as bad. In her experience, the snarls are tied to school traffic, which may have experienced a decerase the week of the pilot project.

The Department of Education confirmed this is exam week for all Whitehorse high schools, two of which are in Riverdale.

Cheri Malo, transit manager, said the city wasn’t aware of the exam period until after the project was set up and ready to go.

She said traffic levels might be down from what they are during a non-exam week, but they might also rise when the new French first language high school is built on the Riverdale education reserve land. Traffic changes day-to-day, Malo said, but predictable transit is still important.

“Our goal is to have the traffic flow as normal as possible at all times,” she said, noting that, typically, the 8:20 a.m. buses to Porter Creek and Copper Ridge get stuck every day.

“Realistically it’s not about the traffic. It’s about transit being dependable.”

“When they get in their cars they have their own ability to know what they’re doing. If you get on the bus, you don’t get the choice to make a different choice.”

The city will take the information gathered from the pilot, look at the city’s master plan and the Lewes Boulevard study, and consider how traffic is managed.

Riders and drivers are invited to fill out an online survey (whitehorse.ca/transit) at the end of next week.

Cyclists are reminded to ride in the bus lane during the pilot phase.

Results of the project will inform future Transit Master Plan recommendations.

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

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