EDITORIAL: Transit users shouldn’t have to be hermits on Sundays

Sunday buses would do more than move people

Like the blooming fireweed that marks the end of summer, Yukoners can tell a federal election is around the corner when Ottawa starts raining money down on the territory.

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell has been popping up all over the place promising money for everything from farming to recycling in a transparent attempt to secure votes ahead of October’s election.

One of the latest gifts from Larry Claus is millions towards improved transit in the City of Whitehorse.

Combined with cash from the territory and the municipality, Whitehorse is planning to put the money towards roadwork, new buses and a fancy new heated shelter in the downtown core.

The city wants to increase ridership and has the goal of increasing the share of commuters who use transit from seven per cent in 2016 to 15 per cent by 2036.

While the upgrades paid for by Ottawa may help towards those goals, more significant change could have come if Whitehorse had decided to put some of that federal money towards Sunday bus services.

The city’s own documentation shows that riders have been asking for Sunday service since at least 2002 but that hasn’t seemed to matter to anyone with the power to actually do something about it.

No one thought that Sunday service was important or likely enough to include it as even a possibility when the city was signing off on its latest union contract. As it stands the agreement with city employees would have to be reopened to allow for buses on Sunday.

In the latest transit plan, released last year, the consultants again acknowledged that Sunday service is something riders want. Many non-riders (the people the city claims it is trying to entice to take the bus) noted they are deterred by a lack of Sunday service and reduced Saturday hours.

Despite the calls, those in charge insist that a set Sunday bus schedule is not economically viable.

It’s true transit costs money. It’s not reasonable to expect transit users to pay for 100 per cent of the cost of every bus and driver. Transit systems are subsidized in almost every city. Whitehorse is not special.

What the city’s number crunchers don’t appear to have truly considered is the economic benefit that would come with Sunday buses.

A 2013 study in the journal Urban Planning found that expanding transit led to between $1.5 million and $1.8 billion (US) annually in economic benefits depending on the size of the city.

Even though Whitehorse would obviously be at the low end of that range, those numbers are worth considering the next time the city thumbs its nose at the idea of Sunday buses.

As reported by the American publication City Lab, every time a metro area added about four seats to rails and buses per 1,000 residents, the central city ended up with 320 more employees per square mile — an increase of 19 per cent.

Even if Whitehorse’s size means it couldn’t hit those numbers, the statistics prove an important point – buses do more than move people.

Buses reduce the traffic congestion that can hinder growth.

Sunday buses would mean more residents shopping and working downtown. This summer, restaurants and other small businesses have been forced to reduce hours or shutdown completely due to a lack of employees.

People working low-paying jobs are more likely to need a thriving transit system if they are going to consider moving north. A cab from many of Whitehorse’s neighbourhoods to downtown costs more than two hours of work assuming you’re paid minimum wage. Who wants to work a full day on Sunday if half of your pay for the day is spent getting to and from work?

Sunday buses would mean more people could live in neighbourhoods further from the downtown core.

If residents continue to resist downtown densification Sunday transit becomes even more important.

Transit users won’t live in neighbourhoods like Whistle Bend if it means becoming hermits in their homes on Sundays.

The consultants paid to compile the Whitehorse transit plan do suggest one Sunday option. They suggest holding the faint hope of Sunday bus service hostage in exchange for eliminating the Handy Bus service for users with disabilities and replacing it with a cheaper, taxi-based program.

According to the suggestion, the Handy Buses and the program’s budget could then be used to pilot a first-come, first-served on demand Sunday service as opposed to the fixed-route and scheduled stops that happen any other day of the week.

This is a mistake both ethically and legally and this recommendation should be ignored.

The consultants who wrote the report appear to be under the misguided belief that the city is not legally required to provide the Handy Bus service which suggests they’re not familiar with the multiple human rights cases surrounding accessible transit.

The city should provide the Handy Bus and Sunday service. Those two things are not mutually exclusive.

Ottawa could have been asked to spend its money on similar smaller buses to launch the proposed pilot program on Sundays without having to eliminate the Handy Bus.

Now was the time to ask.

(AJ)

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Yukon Budget 2.0

If the banks that finance the Yukon’s growing debt were the only… Continue reading

Yukon Supreme Court Chief Justice Suzanne Duncan dismissed an application on May 3 seeking more transparity on the territory’s state of emergency declaration. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Supreme Court rules confidential memo can’t be used in challenge of state of emergency

Court upholds cabinet confidentiality after request to use internal government memo as evidence.

XX
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for May 7, 2021.… Continue reading

Yukon Party MLAs Wade Istchenko and Stacey Hassard are facing criticism for crude text messages in a group chat. (Submitted)
First Nations leaders call for stricter punishment of Yukon Party MLAs

Queer Yukon has also criticized the two individuals involved in an inappropriate group chat

Fire chief Jason Everett (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City launches emergency alert system

The city is calling on residents and visitors to register for Whitehorse Alert

Two young orienteers reach their first checkpoint near Shipyards Park during a Yukon Orienteering Association sprint race May 5. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Orienteers were back in action for the season’s first race

The Yukon Orienteering Association began its 2021 season with a sprint race beginning at Shipyards.

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its May 3 meeting and the upcoming 20-minute makeover.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland met with MP Larry Bagnell and representatives from the Tourism Industry Association via Zoom on May 4. (Facebook)
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland met with MP Larry Bagnell and representatives from the Tourism Industry Association via Zoom on May 4. (Facebook)
Deputy Prime Minister talks tourism in “virtual visit” to the Yukon

Tourism operators discussed the budget with Freeland

Polarity Brewing is giving people extra incentive to get their COVID vaccine by offering a ‘free beer’ within 24 hours of their first shot. John Tonin/Yukon News
Polarity Brewing giving out ‘free’ beer with first COVID vaccination

Within 24 hours of receiving your first COVID-19 vaccine, Polarity Brewing will give you a beer.

A Yukon government sign is posted to one of the trees that have been brought down for the sewer project in Riverdale explaining the project. The area is set to be revegetated with grass when it is complete. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Planned stormsewer outfall will improve drainage on Selkirk Street

Resident raises concern over clearing as council considers agreement.

The Yukon Wildlife Preserve’s baby bison, born April 22, mingles with the herd on April 29. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Yukon Wildlife Preserves welcomes two bison calves

A bison calf was the first 2021 baby born at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve

A map provided by the Yukon government shows the location of unpermitted logging leading to a $2,500 fine. (Courtesy/Yukon government)
Man fined $2,500 for felling trees near Beaver Creek

The incident was investigated by natural resource officers and brought to court.

Most Read