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The Lakeshore crawl isn't an issue anymore: Kelowna city staff

Congestion outside Anne McClymont Elementary School is some of the worst in Kelowna.
Image Credit: Google Maps
August 29, 2020 - 6:00 AM

One of the worst places in Kelowna for traffic congestion is Lakeshore Road as it passes Anne McClymont Elementary School where commuters can be lined up for kilometres behind parents dropping kids off for school. 

But a report to city council earlier this week says the worst of the Lakeshore crawl has been significantly reduced because of changes to the timing of traffic lights and the opening of a new school. 

Mike Thompson has spent hours in that lineup.

“Part of the problem was how the dropping off of the kids was managed,” he told “People stopped on the road to drop their kids off.”

In 2018 he was living in the Upper Mission and saw traffic blocked up as far as Okaview Road — 3.5 kilometres from the school. It would take him 20 to 25 minutes to get past the school then only 15 minutes to drive the rest of the way to work past Orchard Park.

The City’s report credits School District 23 with helping to relieve the congestion by opening Canyon Creek Middle School and shifting the Grade 6 students from Anne McClymont.

The City also adjusted the traffic signals along Lakeshore Drive, particularly at Eldorado Road, to give more time for through traffic.

From May 2017 to spring of 2019, traffic volumes past the school increased by 15 per cent as 100 new homes were built in the Kettle Valley area, leading to the dramatic traffic jams.

Traffic flow improved last fall with the opening of the Canyon Falls Middle School, the staff report said. That dropped enrolment at the elementary school by 20 per cent because Grade 6 students moved to the new middle school.

That, combined with adjusting the timing of traffic lights, dropped congestion to the 2017 levels.

The report explains that it’s only when roads get near their maximum capacity, as Lakeshore Road is, that congestion becomes severe. The 15 per cent increase in traffic volume from 2017 to 2019 caused a 30 per cent increase in driving times.

City staff expect it to take years before the school fills up to its maximum capacity again but there are still 200 to 300 homes that could be built in the Kettle Valley area, so traffic volumes will increase again.

If congestion gets bad enough, people who won’t be dropping children off at the school and are heading to the Orchard Park or northern areas of the city may choose alternative routes in the morning, such as Gordon Drive or the South Perimeter Road, which may or may not help.

The staff report offered no real solutions to future congestion.

Increased school bus use would help but Anne McClymont already has one of the highest usage rates in the district at about 50 per cent of the students.

Regular transit isn’t likely an option because that area of the city is one of the lowest users of transit.

A pedestrian overpass could prevent children who come from the north from crossing at Eldorado Road but wouldn’t impact those dropping off from the south, often on their way to work. It would also cost $2.5 to $5 million.

Staggering school start times probably wouldn’t help since traffic volume is heaviest between 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m.

Further development in The Ponds area of the Upper Mission shouldn’t impact Lakeshore Road since those residents would likely use Gordon Drive and Frost Road (which is yet to be completed).

No other roads are expected to be built in the area.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro 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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