The City of Whitehorse is closer to having a transit app in place in time for the 2020/2021 school year.
Whitehorse city council voted Dec. 9 to award a contract for the development and maintenance of a Whitehorse Transit app to DoubleMap.
The contract includes a one-time cost of $110,000 for the app with an annual cost for $12,750 for software maintenance and $11,050 in data charges.
While council unanimously supported the contract award, members also highlighted concerns that were outlined in a letter to council from the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition.
The coalition said it hopes that the contract award was not the only improvement being pursued for city transit.
The letter went on to urge the city to consider a fare-access program that would provide lower transit fares to those with lower incomes. It also noted that those with a lower income may not be able to afford a smart phone or if they have a phone they may not be able to afford a data plan for it to use the app.
In a Dec. 10 interview YAPC executive director Kristina Craig said the coalition sent the letter to draw attention to issues. The coalition is currently researching fare-access programs elsewhere in the country and will bring the information it collects to the city in January.
“We see it as a win-win-win,” Craig said, noting such a program could increase ridership around the city.
While city staff told council there are a number of agencies who provide transit tickets or funding for passes to their clients, Craig noted many with lower incomes don’t always want to go ask for the help.
A fare-access program, she suggested, would provide a more dignified way for residents who need assistance with transit fares access to the system.
She also highlighted Sunday transit service as an improvement she’d like to see the city consider, noting there’s a number of residents who work on Sunday and could use the system to get to work.
Responding to a question from Coun. Laura Cabott about what it would take for the city to provide a fare-access system, director of community and recreation services Jeff O’Farrell said it would be a matter of looking at revenues and costs. Currently the city transit system costs about $4.5 million to operate each year, with approximately $1 million in revenues coming in. If the city provided a program offering lower fares, that equation would have to be adjusted.
Acting city manager Valerie Braga said council would have to direct administration to look at that. If such direction was provided staff could produce a report for consideration.
Along with passing the contract award for the app, council also approved a contract for the supply of new buses over the next few years.
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