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Yellowknife

Yellowknife’s planned Kam Lake transit expansion is questioned


The City of Yellowknife’s latest plan to introduce bus service to its Kam Lake neighbourhood didn’t satisfy all city councillors at a Monday meeting.

Service to Kam Lake, a mostly industrial area south of the city’s downtown, is now anticipated to begin by the summer of 2023. Previously, the city had anticipated introducing the route some time in 2022.

The city’s express route would be expanded to run through Kam Lake every weekday morning and afternoon, coinciding with the school day.

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Wendy Newton, the city’s engineering manager, said expanding the express route is simpler and more cost-effective than other options, like an entirely new and separate route.

Newton said an expanded express route would also mean better service to Yellowknife’s downtown from other areas of the city.

Not all councillors are sold.

A city map of the proposed expanded bus route in Kam Lake.

Councillor Niels Konge said the city is “looking at this whole thing wrong.” 

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Konge owns a construction company in Kam Lake. He said other business owners and residents in the area aren’t concerned about getting from Kam Lake to the downtown, but about employees and customers getting to their businesses from elsewhere in Yellowknife. 

“Unless that’s dealt with, I’m going to have a very difficult time supporting this,” he said. 

The current draft sends a bus from downtown to Kam Lake and back shortly after 7am, then again between 3:50pm and 4:30pm. The bus would serve Kam Lake, Grace Lake, Enterprise Drive, Taltheilei Drive, and Deh Cho Boulevard. Exact locations of bus stops are to be determined.

Councillor Julian Morse tentatively supported the plan but wants to hear from Kam Lake residents first. He is concerned that not many people in the area will use the bus, but believes the city has an obligation to provide service to all neighbourhoods. 

“I don’t really know if this service is going to work for Kam Lake residents,” he said.

“I think it’s worth trying it and seeing if it works.”

City manager Sheila Bassi-Kellett acknowledged the route may not have much uptake – Kam Lake has a low population density – but said proposed changes to downtown parking in the city’s new zoning bylaw could make public transit more attractive. She said expanding public transit is a good way to advance Yellowknife’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Newton noted students are expected to account for a large portion of ridership.

The public will have a chance to provide input on the proposed route expansion between January and March 2023.

The proposed changes come after a consultant reviewed the city’s transit service in 2019 and recommended changes. It’s not clear why alterations are now scheduled for 2023 rather than 2022.

The city also plans to improve the accessibility of its buses by December 2022 – including low floors, automated announcements, and electronic fare boxes – and offer simpler, expanded fare options like day passes and a family travel program. 

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