June 25, 2013 - 9:14 AM
Over the next three years Kelowna's transit system is expected to grow as much as the city itself. To expand the system and keep it running smoothly will take more money from taxpayers.
Regional programs manager Jerry Dombowski says Kelowna is entering a new phase of growth which will translate into a larger base of transit users. Signs of growth stretch from the downtown revitalization (Bernard Avenue, the new marina, expansion of Interior Health and new RCMP headquarters) to Kelowna's growing campus communities (UBCO is expected to get 9,000 students by 2016) to the new tourism developments planned for Manteo Resort and the Hiawatha park.
The cumulative impact, Dombowski says, is a greater demand for commuter transit.
New and replacement busses needed to get commuters around the city will cost $4.4 million. But that money will come from a Regionally Significant Gas Tax fund, approved by city councillors yesterday.
BC Transit representative Matthew Boyd says over the next three years they plan to introduce a new bus route down Gordon Drive and a second route going to Kelowna General Hospital, many of its employees commuting from Rutland. Boyd also says it's likely the city will need to fund more frequent, reliable bus service to and from the Kelowna Airport.
But some city councillors say Kelowna isn't ready for a Vancouver type airport shuttle.
Counc. Andre Blanleil questioned whether there is sufficient demand for expanding the airport bus service.
“I think it's just easier to call a friend to drive you to the airport,” he says.
“We're just not a big enough city for that" he says, adding that the city's taxpayers wouldn't likely agree to the funding of that service.
Boyd explained many of Kelowna's airport users are going for one day travel, creating a steady and predictable commuter base, in addition to airport employees looking for transit options.
Counc. Robert Hobson noted the cost of a taxi is too much for some of the city's travellers.
“The bus system doesn't discriminate against who takes it....For some people transit is an affordable option,” he says.
Counc. Colin Basran also says YLW is the "tenth busiest airport in Canada."
Mayor Walter Gray says for now the city can plan, but ultimately expanding the transit system will come down to money.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (250)718-0428.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013