Passengers want transit system to keep rolling

Residents sign petition in shaky script while bouncing along in bus



Regular passengers of Iqaluit’s colourful bus want the city to put the public transportation system back on the streets.

The four-week test run ended on Nov. 18.

In its review of the test, city council plans to look at the popularity of the service and determine how much it would cost to start up a full-time transit system.

Council will debate the issue during next month’s budget session.

In the meantime, Iqaluit residents who rode the small bus with green, red, yellow and blue stripes have begun a lobbying campaign to get the bus back on the road.

A group of passengers, calling themselves “Riders of the Bus Group,” signed a petition days before the transit service ended to rally city council to keep the bus running.

“We would like to support a decision to continue this service in Iqaluit for both environmental and social-economic reasons,” the riders said in their letter.

The passengers, who boarded the bus each morning to head to work, signed their names on the petition in shaky script — the result of writing while riding along Iqaluit’s bumpy roads.

The Riders of the Bus Group even tried to persuade the city to increase the length of the trial run.

“We also feel that a one-month pilot period is inadequate to properly assess the feasibility of the service in terms of numbers of clients and route selections,” they wrote.

Two other bus users, Neida Gonzalez and Elise Maltin, encouraged council to make public transit a permanent city service.

“The colder weather is just upon us — it would be good to continue the service that has proven to be popular, even with very little time to set it up or publicize it,” they wrote in a letter, dated Nov. 18.

Gonzalez and Maltin asked that the money the city plans to spend reviewing public transit be put toward the cost of running the service.

“We see that the service is wanted and needed and it would be a waste of money to hire outside consultants to study the issue,” they said.

The bus riders even had suggestions on the best way to evaluate the successes and failures of the bus service.

They want the city to put together a focus group made up of bus users, the bus driver and city employees to talk about which routes and times worked best and how the service could be improved.

Ericka Chemko, an Apex resident who rode the bus twice daily to bring her son to daycare in Iqaluit, is confident the popularity of the bus will pick up.

“These numbers will increase as it gets colder and those who now walk start riding,” she wrote in a letter to council.

“Also, with the consistent availability of the bus and knowledge of the stops and schedules increase, people will choose to take the bus over a taxi because of the cost and the sociability that occurs while riding the bus.”

The Baffin Regional Agvvik Society, which runs the Qimmavik women’s shelter, also came out in support of keeping the bus on the road.

“We are located in Apex, which is about five kilometres from the main businesses and services of Iqaluit. This distance creates transportation problems for our staff coming to and going from work and for our clients while they are participating in social activities,” the society’s letter said.

At this week’s city council meeting, deputy mayor Kirt Ejetsiak spoke out in favour of the bus service.

“I think this public transit, if we adopt it, will have more benefits than we realize,” Ejetsiak said.

“I look forward to the day we can go to council meetings on the bus,” he joked.

During its budget session, scheduled for Dec. 10, city council will discuss the cost of running a full-time bus service.

“We are moving ahead in considering transit for 2003,” said Matthew Hough, the director of engineering, who oversaw the trial run. “It’s up to council whether they will put the dollars toward the service.”

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