Kelowna city council agrees that riding the bus will remain the most efficient form of city transit for the next 20 years.
Coun. Tracy Gray said the costs for the three forms of mass transit—streetcars, bus rapid transit and light rail transit—are staggering.
“We are always being approached about why are we thinking about light rail or other forms of transit, and when you see these numbers you realize the costs involved. It’s quite shocking to see,” Gray said.
The city transportation planning department pegged those costs at “ballpark estimates” to create a connection from the downtown core to the airport along Highway 97 for streetcars at $500-700 million; bus rapid transit, $40 to $200 million; and light rail, more than $1 billion, figures compiled by the U.S. Transit Association based on projects completed in North America over the past decade.
The other aspect Kelowna is missing is the current lack of population densification in urban core areas of the city to make mass transit options financially and ridership feasible.
Gray called mass transit a long-term investment that the city may face, acknowledging the population of Kelowna is expected to grow by 50,000 over the next 20 years.
City planners recommend efforts be made to upgrade the bus riding experience, to allow buses to not be caught up in regular traffic flow with added bus lanes or traffic signal priority.
Mayor Colin Basran cited the importance to deliver on improving the bus riding experience to make current transit more effective.
“It needs to be fast, reliable and less expensive than driving,” Basran said. “The experience needs to be enjoyable and comfortable to be effective. The idea of having to ride a bus and cringing at the prospect of getting on a smelly bus needs to change.”
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