Kelowna’s traffic congestion is affecting local transit schedules and efficiency say city officials. -Image: Dave Ogilivie

Kelowna city councillor to drivers who use HOV lane illegally – ‘get out’

Coun. Gail Given has blunt message for drivers of single-occupancy vehicles

Kelowna city Coun. Gail Given has a blunt message for drivers who use the city’s high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane on Highway 97, but shouldn’t. Get out.

Speaking at council’s Monday afternoon meeting about giving more city buses the ability to influence traffic signals on Highway 97 to improve transit efficiency, Given lashed out at lone drivers who use the HOV lane to avoid snarled traffic in other lanes.

“If you aren’t supposed to be in the HOV lane, get out of it,” said Given.

The lane is supposed to be reserved for vehicles with two or more occupants, buses and motorcycles.

She later joked she could already see the hate-mail starting to flood from irate drivers upset by her comment.

RELATED: Shocking statistics show just how car-centric Kelowna has become

Given said the HOV lane through Kelowna is not meant to be a high-speed traffic lane, but rather a bus lane to aid the region’s Rapid Bus service avoid traffic congestion. She said that is why it is located in the curb lane and not the fast lane, as it is in other cities in B.C.

The issue came up when her colleague, Coun. Ryan Donn asked city staff if traffic congestion on the highway is affecting local bus schedules. The answer was “yes.”

Council approved a plan by city staff to use $181,125 in provincial gas tax rebate funds to pay for 32 more transponders, controlled by bus drivers, to influence traffic signals as their bus approach a traffic light.

The additional transponders would bring the number on local buses to 55 or 70 per cent of the fleet.

City staff say traffic congestion is impacting schedules and efficiency for buses in the Central Okanagan and that is not only having an impact on timing, but also costing the system money.

The transponders would be used primarily on buses that head to, and travel from, the transit hub at Orchard Park Shopping Centre.

An estimated 2/3 of all passengers who use the transit system ride buses that use routes to and from Orchard Park.

Information from the transponders will be used as part of the new information system that recently went into effect to give passengers real-time information about when buses are due to arrive and depart from given stops.

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