As the City of Whitehorse continues its efforts to come up with a new transit route system, it is releasing a report detailing the public feedback received over the proposed plan.
The What We’ve Heard report shows the feedback that came from 215 online survey responses, a virtual town hall and a number of stakeholder meetings.
“The city’s goal is to create a plan that reflects our community’s needs for our transit system,” officials said in a statement. “The city will work to finalize the new transit route network and present it to city council later this year before it is implemented.”
The potential changes come out of the city’s 2018 transit master plan, which included a long list of recommendations aimed at improving transit route alignment and the schedule to better match demand.
Among the proposals for routes outlined in the consultation was the elimination of some routes that have low ridership in favour of a home-to-hub service that would be provided to customers in areas where they would call for a ride to the nearest transit hub.
The survey also contemplated a total of five bus routes that could be in place compared to the six routes there are now.
The changes, it was stated by the city in the survey, would simplify the bus network, remove service duplication and better match transit service with the demand.
There would be increased service to and from Yukon University to accommodate growing demand with coordinated schedules aimed at facilitating transfers at the university and Canada Games Centre.
All routes would be serviced every hour with half-hour service at peak periods on all except the Hillcrest/Airport route that would travel from that neighbourhood to Porter Creek and Whistle Bend.
Other routes that were outlined would travel from Riverdale to Yukon University, Copper Ridge to downtown and (during peak periods) Riverdale, Porter Creek and Crestview to Yukon University, and Whistle Bend to Yukon University with various transfers between the routes.
The current system provides coverage throughout the city with transfers along Second Avenue. It also “serves long distances between neighbourhoods with very few stops and low passenger activity (for example, from Downtown to Lobird and from Lobird to Granger)” and “does not align with existing demand – three or more routes serve Downtown, Porter Creek, Granger, and Riverdale, yet only one route serves Yukon University and service to Whistle Bend is only provided during peak periods.”
The current system also provides one-hour frequency on all routes with half-hour service during peak periods on the Riverdale and a Copper Ridge/Granger route.
Of the 215 who responded to the survey, 70 per cent said they had used the transit system in the past year, while 16 per cent said they had used the system in the past year but only prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. A further 14 per cent had not taken transit in the past year.
“Based on the number of respondents who have not ridden in the past year and/or have not ridden since the start of the pandemic, it is unsurprising that 25 per cent of survey participants indicated they use transit less than once a month,” the report notes. “Approximately one-third of survey respondents reported taking transit at least five days per week.”
The report goes on to highlight comments that came in by neighbourhood, with Riverdale and Porter Creek showing the highest number of responses.
A chart showing the major concerns by neighbourhood do not detail any for Riverdale, but highlighted three common concerns from respondents in Porter Creek.
Among them, it was suggested that the city should run buses in both directions and argued that under the proposed changes the commute from Porter Creek to Downtown would be too long and that there are too many buses proposed to go to the Yukon University campus with the suggestion that those at the university should walk to the Mountain View Drive bus stop rather than having a transfer hub at the school.
In response to those concerns, the city noted it would not be feasible to have buses running in both directions and switching directions every other trip could add to the confusion. It was also pointed out the transfer hub proposed for the university comes out of feedback in the transit master plan to address growing student demand for the service.
Finally, on travel time between the neighbourhood and downtown being too long, the city noted: “Routes 1 and 4 will interline at Yukon University and riders will not be required to alight from the bus to make the transfer, which will save travel time for passengers. An express service between Porter Creek and Downtown will also be explored as part of the transit network options.”
Among other more general comments, survey respondents said buses are often unreliable. They suggested service should be more frequent, free, operate on Sunday and that improvements should also be made to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists.
In response, the city noted the new system would address scheduling issues, improve service frequency with Sunday service expected to be proposed in the future when additional funding is identified. It was also noted that fares help recover part of the operational costs of the system and reducing the fares would impact service levels.
It’s also noted that improvements for pedestrians and cyclists are anticipated.
The results also showed an overall “hesitation” about the proposed home-to-hub service.
“Some participants identified that not all residents have access to a smartphone to book trips,” it was noted. “As discussed above, there are also questions about how booking will work and how they can ensure they will make it to their destinations on time. Providing alternative booking methods, such as a dial-in option, as well as communicating information about how the service will work will likely reduce the initial dissatisfaction with the proposed service.”
The service would first be tested as a pilot project.
In a January interview, transit manager Jason Bradshaw said though there’s no set date on when a new schedule would come into effect, officials are considering having it coincide with a holiday to make it easier for residents to remember when the changes will be implemented.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org