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West Kelowna conditionally supports decrease in Glenrosa transit service

Currently, buses on Route 21 service the Glenrosa area every 15 minutes during peak hours and every 30 minutes during off-peak hours. On Tuesday, council conditionally supported plans to reduce that service to buses every 30 minutes during peak hours and every 60 minutes during off-peak hours. - Douglas Farrow / Contributor
Currently, buses on Route 21 service the Glenrosa area every 15 minutes during peak hours and every 30 minutes during off-peak hours. On Tuesday, council conditionally supported plans to reduce that service to buses every 30 minutes during peak hours and every 60 minutes during off-peak hours.
— image credit: Douglas Farrow / Contributor

If the District of West Kelowna council stay on their current course, there could be less buses rolling through the Glenrosa area as of Sept. 1.

Council focused the majority of Tuesday’s meeting on various transit issues. They started off discussions by looking at ways to achieve cost savings while improving the efficiency of the transit system and eliminating unproductive service.

Michelle Orfield, senior transportation planner with B.C. Transit, was on hand to explain service change options to council members.

She outlined potential changes to service area, service span, route realignments and frequency.

In order to accommodate Bus Rapid Transit without having a tax impact on Westside residents, the district was required to reduce the number of annual service hours by 1,500; however, council indicated they were interested in making reductions beyond that number.

Orfield recommended three service changes to help them achieve that goal.

The first was to end night service—on most routes—at 7 p.m., with late service continuing on Highway 97. Orfield also suggested eliminating the special night routing, which she said is currently an inconvenient loop for riders.

The second was to maintain the current service on Route 97, but stop the buses at 11 p.m.

The third was to change the current Route 21 by creating a Glenrosa route and a Highway 97 Express route.

The Highway 97 Express would run from Westbank to UBCO, with service every 15 minutes during peak hours and every 30 minutes during off-peak hours, ending at 11 p.m.

The Glenrosa route (Route 21) would receive service every 30 minutes during peak hours and 60 minutes during off-peak hours. This would be a decrease from the current system of service every 15 minutes during peak hours and 30 minutes during off-peak hours.

Coun. Rick de Jong disagreed with cutting down the service in Glenrosa, noting that he believes buses servicing the Glenrosa area are consistently full. He wanted to see specific numbers regarding Glenrosa ridership before he agreed to decrease service to the area.

“I’m dead set against changing anything about Route 21 in Glenrosa. I live on that route; it is a heavily used route,” said de Jong.

“Previous council made a statement at one point at a past meeting: Get out and use the buses or lose them. I believe Glenrosa residents are getting out and using the buses. I don’t think it’s fair to decrease their service at this point in time until we have those numbers.”

Coun. Duane Ophus noted that the principle behind B.C. Transit’s recommendations was to attempt to make service more equal throughout all of West Kelowna.

“I think that we’re absolutely on the right track here. We’ve got 4,900 hours of projected savings, which is the direction that council has given for years now,” said Ophus.

Ophus made a motion that council conditionally support the recommended service changes. He also requested that B.C. Transit return to council with Glenrosa ridership numbers, with the cost impact of extending late night service on routes 20, 21 and 24 to 10 p.m. and with the cost of extending the new Route 97 service from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as the cost impact of extending the service by two hours all week long.

Findlater said Ophus’s motion was moving council in “the right direction.”

Despite showing a level of unease with the cut to Glenrosa service, de Jong voted in favour of the motion, but indicated that he may make an alternate motion in the future when ridership numbers come back to council.

Coun. David Knowles was the only member of council to vote against the motion.

B.C. Transit will return to council in the coming months and council will try to finalize its decision by late April in order to have the service changes implemented by Sept. 1, 2012.

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com

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