A bus at downtown Kelowna’s Queensway Transit Exchange. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)

A bus at downtown Kelowna’s Queensway Transit Exchange. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)

Kelowna transit system poised for recovery: transit manager

2021 numbers already show ridership levels at or higher than the projected recovery

Kelowna’s transit system is in for a quick recovery after COVID-19 struggles, according to the city’s transit manager.

The province recently provided the regional transit system $7.3 million in recovery funds through the Safe Restart Plan — $5.9 million of which will go to Kelowna’s portion of the system. Half of that money will be applied to the 2020/2021 budget, in part offsetting the projected $800,000 revenue loss due to COVID-19.

The rest will be held in reserves, to be applied to future budgets.

A three-year forecast laid out by BC Transit shows ridership recoveries over the next three years of 55, 65 and 85 per cent.

City transit manager Jerry Dombowsky said he sees those numbers as conservative estimates. The last few weeks of 2020 and the first few weeks of 2021 already show ridership levels meeting or higher than the projected recovery, according to Dombowsky.

In total, additional costs over the next three years are estimated at around $5.7 million, but restart and reserve funding available will be about $5.5 million.

To get the funding, the transit system will cap its fare increases to 2.3 percent a year over the next three years and agreed to maintain essential service levels.

Service levels, while currently reduced, could be expanded if ridership increases or post-secondary students resume in-person classes, Dombowsky said.

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