West Kelowna is not opting out of regional transportation planning after all.
The city’s council voted 4-2 earlier this week to remain in the Sustainable Transportation Partnership of Central Okanagan, a body made up of Kelowna, West Kelowna, Lake Country, Peachland, the Regional District of the Central Okanagan and the Westbank First Nation. The STPCO looks at a range of transportation planning and management issues in the region, including transit.
Earlier this year, West Kelowna indicated it wanted out of partnership and gave its notice to leave next year. The other partners gave the city until Dec. 22 to reconsider the move because the result of a review of the STPCO was not available to West Kelowna in time for it to meet the deadline required to give exit notice for 2018.
Following a presentation by STPCO officials to council at its meeting on Tuesday, councillors voted to rescind the notice to leave.
The STPCO had come under fire recently by some members of West Kelowna council, who questioned how much value the city is getting for the thousands of dollars it is required, as a member, to put into the partnership each year.
Coun. Duane Ophus, who has been the most vocal critic of the the city remaining in the STPCO, said his concerns arise from what he feels is a lack of accountability and transparency with the planning group and lack of control over West Kelowna taxpayer dollars going into it.
While its board is made up of the mayors of the municipalities, the chairwoman of the regional district and the chief of the WFN, he said it sis essentially run by City of Kelowna municipal staff.
Ophus said the money West Kelowna contributes would be better spent directly on transportation issues by the city in West Kelowna.
For 2018, West Kelowna is being asked to contribute $65,366, 15 per cent of the partnership’s $431,316 total budget. The request includes a one-time increase to pay for what is being described as an extremely complex transportation trip diary study in partnership with Vernon and Coldstream in the North Okanagan. The study will allow for evidence-based regional planning.
While encouraged by promises the partnership will become more transparent in future, with officials making regular reports to the member councils, Ophus said he still has concerns.
Rather than meeting its goal of looking at regional transportation issues so the Central Okanagan can speak with one voice about them, especially when seeking funding from the provincial and federal governments, the STPCO has started to manage transportation issues, he said.
“We don’t need that. West Kelowna already has its our own transit agreement (with B.C Transit)” said Ophus.
Transit is a large part of the overall transportation picture in the region. But it’s not all the STPCO looks at according to the presentation to West Kelowna council Tuesday.
In making the case for the city to stay in the partnership, the presentation did point to transit as a regional benefit of the STPCO.
Calling it a shared responsibility, the presentation said many actions and decision points in relation to transit require collaboration between B.C.Transit and local governments.
It added there are many system-wide and regional responsibilities associated with transit that do not fall to individual local governments, hence the need for a regional form of governance.
The presentation listed the UPASS system for students, transit fare pricing, customer feedback, GIS bus stop inventory, stop signs and schedules, future transit planning, service standards, advertising and marketing and security.
“Transportation planning at the regional level is critical to our community’s future,” said the presentation. Regional transportation planning crates a vision and blueprint for success.”
It added leaving regional planning to the province is “not an acceptable option.”
In terms of overall regional transportation issues, the STPCO also deals with items such as the existing Rapid Bus project, a regional active transportation plan, a household travel survey, regional wayfinding standards, the Westside Regional Trail Plan, regional land use scenarios, a regional transportation model created with the Ministry of Transportation, the regional Strategic Transportation Plan and the Transportation Demand Management Plan.
“Membership in the STPCO connects each partner to something bigger and offers capacity to its members that they would not have in isolation,” said the presentation.
Despite criticism of the STPCO from other members of West Kelowna council, only Ophus and Coun. Bryden Winsby voted to leave the partnership.
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