Council wants HOV lane rules limited to certain times

Kelowna council would like to see changes made to the existing High Occupancy Vehicle lanes on Highway 97.

Kelowna council would like to see changes made to the existing High Occupancy Vehicle lanes on Highway 97.

At its meeting Monday, council voted to support a move to limit HOV rules in the lanes to certain times of the day.

The lanes, which have been in use in Kelowna for the last two years, were originally installed to aid the new bus rapid transit route which currently runs from downtown to UBCO along the highway with limited stops.

Mayor Sharon Shepherd said because of that, she would like to see the word transit used as well as HOV on the signs that designate the right-hand lanes of the highway through the city.

But while council voted to support an hour-of-day use change for the lanes, not all councillors are fans of the lanes.

Both Couns. Graeme James and Andre Blanleil said they don’t like the lanes and believe a majority of Kelowna residents agree with them.

Both men said while  the lanes reportedly aid three per cent of the driving public, they hinder 97 per cent.

“I don’t think that the HOV lanes are doing their jobs,” said James.

He said with better planning and the expansion of the Central Okanagan Bypass route, a lot of traffic could be taken off Highway 97.

Blanleil agreed, saying three lanes of moving traffic on the highway would help all drivers who use the highway, including those who drive buses.

But a majority of councillors said providing a lane for buses that allows them a free flow not only helps relieve traffic in the other two lanes but also provides for a better transit system.

“It’s success is based on getting people from one point to another quickly,” said Coun. Angela Reid-Nagy.

Murray Tekano, with  the transportation ministry, told council the aim of the HOV lane is to move people, not provide a fast lane for traffic.

He said currently 23 per cent of traffic on the highway uses the HOV lanes and just over half of that are vehicles with the required two or more occupants.

But he added right-turners are included in those numbers and it should not be considered a large number of people break the rules.

But while he said the ministry believes the HOV lanes are working here, he conceded the ministry is talking to the city and B.C. Transit about moving to an hour-of-day use.

That would allow all traffic to use the lanes during non-peak traffic hours, such as at night and very early in the morning.

Asked about RCMP enforcement of the lane rules—only vehicles with two or more occupants are allowed to use the lanes unless the vehicle in question is turning right—Tekano said he has not asked the RCMP for any information about how many tickets have been handed out for HOV lane abuse.

In addition to supporting hour-of-day use, council also wants to hear from local emergency services about the benefits of the lanes and from B.C. Transit, whose drivers also have the ability to manipulate traffic signals on the highway as they approach intersections.

Any decision about a change to HOV lanes will have to be made by the transportation ministry, as it controls the highway through Kelowna.



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