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City of Whitehorse surveys residents about possible free transit

The cash fare to ride a Whitehorse city bus is now $2.50. City council is considering whether it makes sense to waive those fares entirely, and a public survey will help them decide. (Asad Chishti/CBC - image credit)
The cash fare to ride a Whitehorse city bus is now $2.50. City council is considering whether it makes sense to waive those fares entirely, and a public survey will help them decide. (Asad Chishti/CBC - image credit)

The City of Whitehorse is conducting a survey to learn more about how and why people use city transit, as council considers whether or not to permanently waive bus fares.

The city's online Free Fare Transit Study is open until Friday. The goal is to help the city "meet the needs of our ridership and support timely, convenient, and accessible transit for all."

Transit was temporarily free during the early months of the pandemic in 2020, and then again for a period in 2022, after a landslide closed Robert Service Way. Transit was again temporarily free last spring, after another landslide along Robert Service Way.

The city survey hopes to help answer questions around what it would take to increase transit ridership, and whether making it free would encourage more people to ride the bus.

Last year, during the six-week period when transit fees were waived for passengers, ridership increased by 40 per cent, according to the city.

"What is it that would entice more people to ride the bus or to ride it more often?" Mayor Laura Cabott said when asked about the survey objectives.

Cabott says more and more people understand that using transit is better for the environment, and she also argues that it's more convenient.

Whitehorse Mayor Laura Cabott outside of city hall after an interview on the bus.
Whitehorse Mayor Laura Cabott outside of city hall after an interview on the bus.

Whitehorse Mayor Laura Cabott outside of city hall. 'What is it that would entice more people to ride the bus or to ride it more often?' Cabott asked. (Asad Chishti/CBC)

The city, the mayor said, is "quite sprawled out and and quite big."

"It's a challenge for us, but we're doing what we can to support those that ride the bus, and encourage more people to ride the bus," she said.

Cabott says there seems to be two schools of thought on city council. She says some council members would favour free transit no matter what, while other councillors would prefer making transit free for those who can least afford it.

The results of the city survey will be made public later this winter.

The number of transit trips taken in 2023 was an all-time high of 816,000.