Mayor Walter Gray’s dream of a Kelowna, where houses no longer require a double garage may get a bit closer to reality if BC Transit takes the suggestions offered in an independent review released this week.
“People in Victoria (at BC Transit) are only in the bus business, but we’re in the planning business and transportation is a key element in the overall strategy of operating an efficient city,” said Gray on the heels of the report where it was suggested that local elected officials get seats on the BC Transit board and have more say on changes that affect their local service area.
Kelowna’s population in a number of neighbourhoods, Gray said, has reached a critical mass and transit services and bike lanes in those areas should already be lessening the demand for single occupancy vehicle infrastructure.
But, the community at large could become even less car dependent if transit planning better dovetailed with community planning.
It’s a possibility that’s less likely with BC Transit’s board being so far removed from city planners. Already they’ve made several poor decisions, he explained, pointing specially to the fact that the very popular H20 Centre and Capital News Centre were without a route for years, for no apparent reason—just that BC Transit didn’t know what was being missed.
The idea that BC Transit will be made more open to community input was also well received by West Kelowna mayor Doug Findlater.
“We’re pleased with the general direction of it…Kelowna regional transit is the second largest system in B.C. after Victoria, disregarding Translink and all of that. So we’re the second largest system and we’re not much smaller than Victoria. So collectively we have a lot of expertise in this area where we think we could take a greater management role and not rely on BC Transit the way we do now. Whether we get there, we’ll have to wait and see.”
Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom appointed a review team in March after complaints that the provincially appointed BC Transit board was making costly changes without consulting the communities whose fares and property taxes cover more than half the cost of transit service.
The B.C. government pays 47 per cent of costs for BC Transit service in partnership with 58 local governments in B.C.