In the writing game, plans frequently go awry (or, as Robbie Burns would have it, they gang aft agley).
When I embarked on this particular piece, my intention was to write a lighted-hearted screed about the joys of people-watching on public transit.
Alas, somewhere around Draft 17, things started to go sideways.
So my whimsical ruminations on the fascinating characters one sees on the bus, both in the passenger seats and behind the wheel, will have to wait for another day.
Instead, I’ll use my allotted 711 words to address a related topic.
As mentioned previously in this space, I have been a regular user of public transport in Whitehorse for just over a year.
Like everyone else who rides the bus, I had a lot at stake when July 1 rolled around.
That’s the day the new bus schedule came into effect, complete with its “loopy” new route layout.
The big worry, of course, was that changing to an hourly schedule from a frequency of 40 minutes (more or less) would mean a reduction in service.
Five months later, after travelling on three of the routes regularly and all of them at least once, I gotta say it right up front: I like it.
The new system isn’t perfect, of course. Never will be. Anything that looks as simple as a bus schedule is actually highly complex, with many variables and a whole heap of compromises involved.
This is true even for a small system like ours, which has only five routes, but a big chunk of geography to cover.
Add in the fact that change of any kind can be unsettling, it took a measure of courage for city council to endorse the new scheme.
Now, if you have a table surface big enough to spread out the full schedule – it’s a sprawling 17 x 28-inch document – a few things become readily apparent.
First, riders no longer need a slide rule to figure out when the next bus is due. If there was one at 8:22, the next one will be at 9:22, and so on through the day.
For a Bear of Little Brain, such as I, it’s reassuring to know that when the big hand reaches a certain point on the clock it’s time to head for the bus stop, regardless of where the little hand is.
Admittedly, for those with ready access to only one bus, the new schedule does present fewer departure options than the old one.
The compensating factor, at least for those willing and able to walk a few extra blocks, is that there may be more routes to choose from, depending on where they live.
In my case, living in south Riverdale, I feel spoiled rotten.
I now have access to no fewer than four separate buses within a 10-minute walk from my home.
With a little careful planning, I can pack a lot of travel into a fairly short span of time.
Case in point: a few weeks ago, I was able to leave the house, get to the airport (by a remarkably intricate route), conduct an interview and be back home in less than 90 minutes. Not bad.
More than once, I’ve been able to get off at Bankers’ Corner, make a quick cash withdrawal, hop on the very same bus and get to the mall with enough time to spend said cash and be back home in just over an hour. Not bad at all.
A second thing the schedule reveals is that all five routes have a few things in common.
They all run along Second Avenue, right through the downtown core.
And – just as all roads are said to lead to Rome – all five buses can deliver you to Walmart, should you care about that.
Is it a perfect system? Far from it.
There’s still no Sunday service. There’s still no evening service to key facilities such as Yukon College, the arts centre and the Canada Games Centre.
There’s no service to the subdivisions south of the airport. And even downtown, the new schedule means longer walks for many riders, including those lugging heavy bags of groceries.
But is the new system an improvement? From where I sit, I think it is.
And the people-watching is still terrific.
Brian Eaton is a cinema buff who reviews current films and writes on other film-related topics on a regular basis.