Lack of interest evident in bus service changes

West Kelowna  residents (left to right) Greg Corbet

West Kelowna residents (left to right) Greg Corbet

Many people grumble about the transit system in West Kelowna, but only a few, it appears, are willing to find out about proposed changes and express an opinion.

Only 25 people—at least 10 whom represented either the district or B.C. Transit—showed up to hear about the changes currently being contemplated by West Kelowna council and B.C. Transit for local bus service.

The open house, which was delayed a week so as not to be held on the night of the first Vancouver Canucks-Boston Bruins Stanley Cup playoff game, sought public input into transit as it now stands and to the three options for change being considered.

All three options would reduce existing level of service for several areas.

The routes affected would be those serving the Bear Creek, Horizon, Rose Valley and Smith Creek areas and possiblbly the East Boundary route.

Transit planners say combined, the routes affected account for only five per cent of local ridership. The East Boundary route would be kept in two of the three options.

B.C. Transit is proposing the routes be cut to “rationalize” service and help pay for expansion of the new Bus Rapid Transit line into West Kelowna from Kelowna along Highway 97. The BRT route would end in Westbank.

Under all three options, the popular Glenrosa route, as well as those serving Shannon Lake and Lakeview would be kept.

While none of the options have been selected by council, Michelle Orfield, the senior B.C. Transit planner working on the project, said depending on which option is chosen, anywhere from 15 to 45 per cent of the current cost of transit to West Kelowna taxpayers could be reduced.

Despite the cuts, she said, with the addition of Bus Rapid Transit, ridership would rise 4.7 per cent to 22 per cent.

It would also add more o the fare box, one of the three sources of funding for transit here. The other two are B.C. Transit and the district.

Transit in West Kelowna currently costs  $3.4 million per year with B.C. Transit paying about 45 per cent.

The three options proposed call for a mixture of increased service on the routes to be kept, buses running from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.—other than the BRT line which would run until 1 a.m.—and reductions in cost.

The BRT will run later because it has to tie in with the service in Kelowna which runs later.

But some of the residents who attended the meeting were concerned about the loss of service to neighbourhoods.

One woman said it was not “socially or morally” correct to remove transit from an area that currently has it.

Another woman said if an area has transit, it will be used but if it doesn’t people will likely drive where they want to go rather than drive to a bus stop.

As a future part of the transit plans, B.C. Transit would like to develop park and ride areas for people to use the Bus Rapid Transit line. One could be at the Westbank terminus and the other in the Boucherie Centre area.

BRT is an express bus will travel Highway 97 from Westbank to UBCO via Kelowna and make limited stops along the way.

The service is already operational in Kelowna and West Kelowna council has agreed to extend it to the west side of the lake.

Following the meeting, some of those in attendance said the current system needs to be changed.

Carol Marquardt, who lives in the Ross Road area and who works at the Kelowna airport, said she has to take three buses to get to work each morning and two buses to get home in the evening.

While the rapid transit system will help, currently it cannot get her to work early enough in the morning.

A common complaint transit planners hear is that bus schedules are not currently set up for one bus to meet a connecting bus.

Orfield said as individual routes move to 15-minute schedules—something many people want—it is harder to mesh schedules to meet connections without a wait in between.

“But,” she conceded, “we can do a better job.”

As for cutting service, West Kelowna resident Mardelle Corbett, who takes the bus to Kelowna City Hall from her home every day, said she would like to see more consultation with those directly effected, such as the Smith Creek residents.

“It’s always useful to get (more) people’s opinions,” she said, noting the small turnout at the transit open house Tuesday in Westbank.



Kelowna Capital News