West Kelowna council remains dumbfounded on how to apply transit changes
District of West Kelowna councillors may be behind the wheel of their own bus services, but they still can’t seem to figure out which way to turn.
Faced with either bigger bills for greater service or scaling back to keep budgets in line, councillors opted for neither in lieu of more information.
After an open house two weeks ago to hear from transit riders, along with written comments and an earful from local high school students, councillors are looking for a way around three levels of service proposed by B.C. Transit.
That would include leaving it like it is, cutting service to Smith Creek, Bear Creek and Horizon neighborhoods and a more severe cut that would see just the most popular Glenrosa route kept along with the new Bus Rapid Transit addition.
Bus Rapid Transit would connect Westbank to UBC Okanagan along Highway 97 through Kelowna with limited stops and frequent service.
Instead, councillors challenged B.C. Transit to try again and use new roads they perhaps were unaware of, such as Asquith Road which connects Shannon Lake to Smith Creek.
“It seems obvious to me that the reason we can’t come to a decision is we don’t like anything in front of us,” said Coun. Duane Ophus.
“Can we make Smith Creek more viable by extending through Asquith Road…to come up with what I would call option four.”
It’s unclear exactly what council’s no-decision decision will have on the rapid transit plan. Transit officials said they needed a decision by early August but district staff said that was probably not enough time to come up with a fourth option.
B.C. Transit’s recommendation would cut the total cost of transit in West Kelowna by about $900,000 per year.
Of the total $3.6 million cost of transit here, the municipality currently pays about $1.4 million.
That figure is likely to drop to about $1.2 million after recent negotiations between the municipality and B.C. Transit.
The two organizations left it hoping to get together sometime soon.
“This council and this staff is new to transit,” said Mayor Doug Findlater.
“And we are developing more understanding and literacy on transit issues. It impacts on peoples’ lives. We have to find the money somewhere…chopping the routes doesn’t strike me as the best way to do that.”