Ground broken on Rutland transit exchange

Construction on the $4.5 million Rutland transit exchange is officially underway.

Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray speaks to a crowd at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Rutland transit exchange. (From left) Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick

Construction on the $4.5 million Rutland transit exchange is officially underway.

Local dignitaries spoke at a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the exchange near Shepherd Road Saturday.

“This to Rutland will be what Queensway is to downtown Kelowna,” said Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray.

“It means more frequency of service, it means more destinations direct from here. Eventually we (will) have a transit culture where more people see transit as their principal form of transportation.”

The Rutland core will join the Frequent Transit Network, with links to RapidBus service, by the end of 2013. This will mean service every 15 minutes for riders with less of a wait during peak hours.

The exchange is being funded through $2 million from the provincial government, $1.4 million from the federal gas tax fund and $1.1 million from the City of Kelowna.

Gray said the new transit infrastructure will increase development north of Highway 33 toward Shepherd Road, as well as the densification of residential housing.

“If we come back to this same spot five, 10 or 15 years from now, we’re going to say: Wow, that was the right thing to do.

“The only regret I have is this should have been done many years ago.”

Construction of the Rutland exchange is also a part of the city’s revitalization program for the area. In addition to the Rutland exchange, upgrades will take place at Queensway, Okanagan College and Pandosy Village over the next two years.

Overall, the second and third phases of the RapidBus project will result in four improved exchanges, five new RapidBus stations, branded shelters and real-time passenger information displays. The entire Kelowna RapidBus project will receive up to $46 million in funding from federal, provincial and local governments.

Ridership in the Kelowna area is up nine per cent from last year, according to Mike Davis, BC Transit vice president and chief operating officer.

He added the Kelowna RapidBus project is the biggest transit infrastructure project underway in the province, outside the Lower Mainland.