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Light rail transit looms larger in Kelowna's future with Okanagan Rail Trail

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April 22, 2016 - 9:00 PM


KELOWNA - Now that the deal-making’s done and the basic design of the Okanagan Rail Trail is emerging, some people are looking into its distant future.

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran took the time after a presentation on the trail to publicly comment on just how popular he expects the trail is going to be with hikers and bikers. He then pointed out they shouldn’t take too much ownership of the trail, given its potential for a light rail transit system in the future.

With all the drama around securing the rail corridor in a multi-jurisdictional deal, the focus has really been on just getting the deal done, somewhat obscuring its potential for a future transit corridor with none of the hard costs of land assembly to drive up the price.

“I’d love to see it take place someday, it’s certainly wide enough,” Basran says, enthusing about what he saw on his recent trip to Kasugai, Japan.

“They do transit so well and it makes you think of how we can do it better here. We could certainly do better in Kelowna at getting people out of their cars.”

It’s not a new idea, at least in Kelowna, where the city has already established and protected the 12-kilometre Central Okanagan multi-modal corridor.

Originally assembled as somewhere to put a replacement for Highway 97, the multi-modal corridor is still a prime candidate for any eventual second crossing and highway bypass.

The rail corridor runs alongside the rail trail in many places within Kelowna, but also runs much further, diverting away near UBC Okanagan and cutting right through Kelowna International Airport before it continues on through Lake Country to Coldstream.

As its name implies, the multi-modal corridor is designed to accommodate as many transportation modes as possible, and both heavy and light rail transit are among them.

Not that light rail transit is anything more than a gleam in a transportation planners eye, given the cost and lack of population density — at least for now — in the Okanagan.

No plans for any type of transportation method beyond foot or pedal power are within the long-term plans for the Okanagan Rail Trail, although that doesn’t stop Basran from dreaming.

“It’s an important one and I’d like to see it in my lifetime,” Basran says, but defering to the lack of population density. “I don’t know if I will, but it would be nice."

Find more stories about Okanagan Rail Trail here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email John McDonald or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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