While it’s not the start of a move towards a regional transit authority for the Central Okanagan, area municipalities appear ready to join forces when it comes to planning for transit and transportation.
Kelowna city council has approved a plan to develop what it is calling a sustainable transportation partnership with Lake Country, West Kelowna, the Westbank First Nation, Peachland and the regional district.
According to Ron Westlake, the city’s director of regional programs, the partnership would put together a regional strategic transportation plan, have an inter-municipal advisory board, discuss issues, priorities and processes, as well as roll out regional programs and partner with the province.
Westlake said it will start with the mayors, the WFN chief and their respective chief administrative officers working together.
Kelowna Coun. Robert Hobson, who is also the chair of the Central Okanagan regional district’s board, said the move is aimed at giving the region more autonomy when it comes to transportation issues, including transit, and will help with planning a transportation system that serves the entire area, not just individual municipalities.
He said while the initial budget for the project will be small—less than $200,000—there will be a three-year commitment from the partners.
At first, the partners will use money they get from transportation demand management.
Kelowna council was the first to have the plan formally presented to it.
The other three councils and the WFN band council, as well as the regional board, will also have to ratify the plan.
The City of Kelowna, through Westlake, already handles much of the regional planning for transit, but Hobson said following a decision by West Kelowna a few years ago to “go it alone,” each jurisdiction either has, or is about to get, it’s own transit contract.
Westlake said the desire with the new partnership is to coordinate the regional delivery of sustainable transportation programs and projects in support of common regional policy, plans and interests.
A combined approach will also help the area when it talks to the province about funding future projects, said Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray.
“It will be a united front,” he said.
Twelve years ago, the regional district looked at a regional transit commission for here similar to the one that exists in Victoria.
But the plan was rejected because of concerns about the cost to the municipalities, the ability for it to raise money and the fact that all modes of transportation needed to be addressed, not just transit.