Kelowna’s old bus maintenance building is getting a major $8.3 million upgrade at the same time BC Transit and the City of Kelowna are working on an brand-new $100-million shop in a new location for the regional transit fleet.

While on first glance it may seem like the grant announced this week is a lot of money to waste on an old building, the reality is the city is getting a bit of a gift that will last long after the buses are gone.

“Most of the improvements are related to day-to-day operations – adding more maintenance bays so we can service more buses that we intend to bring into the system, parts storage area, lighting and ventilation, HVAC improvements, changes to parking so we can fit more buses – all things that can be repurposed,” Mike Kittmer, the city’s transit and programs manager, told

“Longer term, the city’s public works yard is in desperate need of expansion as well so the idea is that they would ultimately expand into that space and most of these improvements are usable in their functions, similar to transit.”

Kelowna’s transit garage on Hardy Avenue was built in 1988 to service up to 70 buses.

The system – which serves the entire Central Okanagan – now has 116 buses and needs to add another 30 or so in the next 10 years, which is the soonest the new facility can be built.

The upgrades are designed to accommodate those new buses.

Back in the fall of 2019, transit expansions were put on hold because there were not enough service bays to accommodate even one more bus.

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The expansion plans were totally shelved when COVID pandemic hit and ridership plummeted but Kittmer outlined new expansion plans to city council last summer. Those call for one new bus and 6,700 more hours of service (3,500 in Mission and 3,200 in Rutland) by the fall of 2025.

It will take until at least next fall and maybe into the following spring before the work on the existing garage is done and more buses can be added, he said.

Some of the improvements to the existing garage will include electric charging stations so electric buses can be added to the Central Okanagan fleet. Those charging stations will be portable so they can be moved to the new site.

The new garage is planned along an extended Hollywood Road near the UBC Okanagan campus. The city is in the process of taking the land out of the Agricultural Land Reserve. That is contingent on getting subdivision and rezoning approval so is pretty well guaranteed.

Another grant for $2.9 million was awarded this week to the city for the next stage of design for the new garage.

Kittmer is pushing to have that work done in time to apply for the next round of transit grants (funded by the federal and provincial governments along with BC Transit) that is expected in 2026-27.

That’s when it’s hoped the funding for the new facility – estimated at $100 million this past February – will be awarded.

READ MORE: Kelowna’s new bus station to cost more than $100 million

The work on the old garage will be amortized by BC Transit over 10 to 15 years so depending on when the move to the new building is made, there may be some offsets the city will have to pay for the improvements.

But the reality is, senior governments are helping to pay for upgrades on what will ultimately become a major City of Kelowna maintenance garage.

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