Safety concerns have prompted an online petition calling for expanded transit service in Kelowna’s Quail Ridge neighbourhood.
“People who reside in Quail Ridge have shared that they face safety issues in their transportation (especially to and from the University of British Columbia campus), as their area is limited to city transportation from 7:15-5:00 during the weekdays only,” the Change.org petition started by SOCI 480 UBCO reads.
Many UBCO students live in the Quail Ridge area due to its proximity to the university.
The petition claims that without a bus (outside normal operating hours) many students are forced to walk four kilometres along a high-traffic road, or through an unmaintained trail, in the dark during winter months.
Kelowna Transit Service Coordinator Mike Kittmer said solutions are being looked at, but there are other priorities the city has to consider.
“Right now we’re looking at what expansions there might be if we have budget,” he said. “When a petition like this comes along we would consider it in the context of other priorities.”
Kittmer pointed out the expansions require city budget approval at the end of a year for the coming year, as well as approval from the province for its 50 per cent share.
“They’ll know in March if they have expansion dollars or not,” added Kittmer.
It would be then that the city would know if it could potentially provide service expansion for Quail Ridge riders, which would be deliverable in September 2023.
“We are concerned there may not be provincial budget for expansion…that hasn’t been confirmed,” explained Kittmer.
Another concern is that the city’s transit centre is currently operating at capacity.
“At this point were are unable to do any peak period expansion that results in us needing new buses,” said Kittmer.
The city is currently retrofitting the operations centre to accommodate more buses, and once completed the focus can be turned back to peak period expansion. Kittmer said another option, under the city’s transportation master plan, is a project to pave and light the trail.
“That solution might be a good or better solution than more transit, or it might be that more transit is a good interim solution until we have a formalized pathway.”
However, the proposed timeline for the project is 2031 to 2035.
“Another thing we’ll grapple with is, do we try to pursue that project sooner, and if so how do we fund it,” said Kittmer.
He added the city continues to make improvements to transit service.
“The student body is an important ridership group for us. We’re committed to continually making those improvements but working around the constraints we have.”