The trial run of two bus routes in Kelowna proved to be so popular in the fall and winter that the city has opted to make them permanent.
Kelowna council on Monday approved a staff request to continue the route linking the Quail Ridge neighbourhood with the UBC Okanagan campus, as well as the late night Highway 97 Express.
“Since its inception, the Quail Ridge route has been performing well with an impressive 33 per cent cost recovery and an average of 25 rides per service hour,” regional programs manager Jerry Dombowsky told council.
The late night 97 Express has also been a success. That service operates Friday and Saturday evenings, extending ridership past 2 a.m.
Both routes are used heavily by UBCO students and were part of an agreement the city made with students as part of its plan to raise the cost of the UPASS last year.
The UPASS is a specially priced student bus pass for university and college students.
Dombosky said for the last four months of 2012, overall the bus routes in the city exceeded the minimum thresholds that the city set of 12 rides per service hour, with an average of 31.5 rides per hour over all routes.
The 15 per cent cost recovery threshold the city set was exceeded by all but one route, the number 9 Shopper Shuttle, a downtown route that was saved last year after many of the seniors who use it led a vocal protest against city plans to axe it.
While describing the route as being “on the cusp,” Dombowsky said sometimes there are routes that are kept despite their performance levels because they serve a “social” purpose. The 9 Shopper Shuttle was one of them.
While the city is happy with the overall use of its bus routes, and noted transit in Kelowna is used more than in Lake Country or West Kelowna, Dombowsky said city staff and B.C. Transit planners continue to look at where the system can be tweaked to make it as efficient as possible.
Some of the tweaks planned for this year include:
• A number of regular service reductions in the summer months on routes that normally carry mainly school students who will not be at school during that time. Services will return in September on routes like the 4 Pandosy/UNCO Express, the 6 Glenmore/UBCO and the aforementioned 13 Quail Ridge route.
• Also in September, a number of routes will be changed, such as the 14 Black Mountain service which will terminate at the new Rutland transit exchange, a facility that is currently under construction. The under-utilized Begley/Lund upper loop will be truncated, said Dombowsky. “This will improve overall route efficiency while still allowing residents in this area reasonable access via stops on Black Mountain Drive or Large Avenue,” he added.
• In the Upper Mission, the 17 Southridge route will be altered in September to improve service to the Ponds development and its new town centre. The route will operate via Gordon Drive to Frost Road, Southridge Road and Arborview Drive, continuing via Gordon Drive to the Mission Recreation Centre. The change will remove service from the west end of Frost Road, Kildeer Road, Lefevre Avenue and Seon Crescent.
Kelowna city council also approved providing 20 bus passes to be used as promotional materials to encourage more people to ride local bus transit.