Clark: Better public transit for Kelowna

British Columbia is making major investments now—not merely to keep pace, but to be prepared for continued growth.

Christy ClarkIt’s never been a better time to be British Columbian.

It’s not just the weather, or the lifestyle. We’re leading the country like never before. Our economy is growing at double the national average, and for the first time on record, our unemployment rate is the lowest in the country. People across Canada have taken notice, which helps explain why 50,000 people chose to move to B.C. last year.

With a growing economy and an influx of people come increased demands on our services and infrastructure. So we’re making major investments now—not merely to keep pace, but to be prepared for continued growth.

One of the things we’ve focused on is transportation, for a simple reason: transit means freedom.

If a car isn’t a good option for you, transit gets you where you need—and want—to go. That’s why we have the highest per-capita spending on transit of any province in the country, and we’re doing even more. Last month, we signed an agreement with the federal government to pool our resources to invest $921 million for BC Transit improvements and expansions across B.C.

These improvements will help meet rising demand, ease congestion, lower our carbon footprint, get goods to market more quickly, and get commuters home to their families faster.

In Kelowna, that means new buses, new technology for safety and efficiency, and a transit hub expansion to relieve wait times.

The new and upgraded buses will have technology enhancements, like CCTV to enhance safety for passengers and drivers, and automatic passenger counters so staff knows which routes are busy and can respond accordingly.

For bus users who may not otherwise have noticed technological upgrades, the biggest difference will come from the expanded and upgraded transit exchange at UBCO.

One of the busiest stops in the city, the UBCO exchange often has long lines, especially at peak times. More than anything else, a major upgrade will mean less time waiting for a bus.

This is all on top of the expanded handyDART service coming in September—more than 2,000 additional hours means more accessibility and better quality of life for people with disabilities.

Aside from the day-to-day improvements commuters will see, these improvements aren’t breaking the bank. In the past, municipalities had to pay over half the cost of transportation investments. Now, thanks to the federal-provincial funding agreement, municipalities only need to contribute 17 per cent. This helps cities like Kelowna plan for future growth without over-stretching limited tax dollars today.

And it’s worth mentioning the provincial government is making these and other investments without going into deficit, still on track to eliminate our operating debt for the first time in 40 years.

We’re not done, either. BC Transit and local governments will continue to work together to identify priority projects for Phase Two funding. And we’re going to keep working every day to keep growing B.C.’s economy, leading Canada, and investing in our future.