Better transit is seen as a key response to booming populations instead of building more or bigger roads to make room for more polluting cars but that comes with huge price tags including more than $100 million for a new bus garage.

It's going to take $285,000 just to apply for the money to build it.

The Central Okanagan transit system is currently based out of the City of Kelowna’s public works yard on Hardy Avenue, not far from Orchard Park mall. It was built by B.C. Transit in 1998 to accommodate up to 70 buses. The fleet now has 109 buses with 69 being heavy duty, five medium duty and 53 light duty.

The fleet is expected to grow by 20 vehicles in the next seven years, adding 50,000 hours of service to the 208,000 annual hours currently offered.

Another 100 buses are expected to join the fleet in the 25 years after that.

READ MORE: Don’t hold your breath waiting for transit to ease gridlock on the highway through Kelowna

That’s according to a report going to city council today outlining the need to spend $4 million to “refurbish” the Hardy Road facility.

“That site is required for another five to eight years, depending on how long it takes to build the new garage,” Mac Logan, the city’s infrastructure general manager told

That means adding on to the existing building to make more room for maintenance and storage facilities and setting up charging stations as the fleet switches over the electric buses starting later this year.

That $4 million won’t be wasted.

“The facilities on this site would revert to the city works yard along with any of the elements that we can reuse, like the maintenance garages,” Logan said. “The bus wash wouldn’t be of any use to us. B.C. Transit will remove any of the elements the city doesn’t need and they will leave the ones that we do.”

At the same meeting, council will be asked to support a grant application for the new garage, near UBCO and Highway 97.

It’s expected to cost another $4 million for the “design, cost estimates, functional plans, engagement and preliminary scheduling” of the new facility. There is no cost estimate yet but, Logan says it will be more than $100 million.

This is a rendering of the new bus garage planned for Kelowna.
This is a rendering of the new bus garage planned for Kelowna.
Image Credit: Submitted/City of Kelowna

Factored into all of this costing is $285,000 just to write the 'Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program' grant application to get the federal and provincial governments to kick in 80% of the cost.

“That $285,000 is specific to the preparation of a business case and subsequent federal funding application,” Logan said. “It’s an internal government of British Columbia financial analysis requirement to support the funding request. That’s the lion’s share of the work. Then, that is a background document that is required for both the provincial approval and then to support the application for funding to the federal government.”

Outside consultants will likely be hired for at least some of that job.

The federal and provincial governments contribute 40% each to such projects and local governments 20%. Of the local government share, Kelowna picks up 75.7% of the cost. The rest is covered by West Kelowna, Peachland, Lake Country, Westbank First Nation and the regional district.

The reports says the transit system is now back to pre-pandemic ridership levels. In 2019 it carried six million passengers.

Council is also being asked to approve changes that will allow for an electronic pay system to be installed in buses this fall.

That will allow riders to pay through a mobile app, reloadable smart cards, credit and debit cards or cash.

READ MORE: Transit, not a second crossing, is the solution for Central Okanagan's bridge, highways: planners

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