Transit route improvements planned as Kamloops receives funding for expansions this year

Transit improvements ahead

The City of Kamloops' transportation planner says improvements are ahead for the city's core transit routes and handyDART services, with BC Transit confirming Kamloops has received the provincial share of funding for expansion this fiscal year.

Jacob Burnley told council during Tuesday’s meeting the provincial funding confirmation was “extremely exciting,” especially as expansion has been deferred in two past budget cycles to support existing services and COVID-19 recovery.

“We're in a place now where we can proceed with service planning and scheduling,” Burnley said.

“Like I said, staffing at the depot is really strong as well, and [BC] Transit believes that we can fulfill these expansions this fiscal year.”

Burnley said the city is planning for on-time performance adjustments for Route 1 (Tranquille), Route 7 (Aberdeen), and Route 9 (Gleneagles). According to BC Transit statistics, these routes have seen significant growth, reaching past pre-pandemic levels.

“This is really important, just in the sense that if we don't look at amending the on-time performance issues that we're seeing, and we don't look at extending the budgeted time for these trips, the other expansion items that we’re seeing here might not able to be fulfilled to their full potential,” he said.

Council heard on-time performance was at 57.8 per cent during the 2023 calendar year — less than the 62 per cent average logged in other similar transit systems across the province.

“We want to make sure that we're adhering to the schedules, the rider information and the operator information is accurate, so this is crucially important for us to deliver this year," Burnley said.

Routing and service improvements are planned for Route 4 (Pacific Way), as well as increasing frequency on Route 3 (Westsyde), which is seeing a boost in ridership.

Burnley said there are also plans to introduce evening and weekend service to Route 18 (Mount Paul). Changes would be made to allow transit service to run until about 10 p.m. on weekdays, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends, “with plans potentially to expand further.”

He said there is also expansion planned for custom transit including handyDART, which provides transportation for people with disabilities.

This includes increasing handyDART services to account for post-pandemic demand, extending weekend hours to align with those offered by conventional transit, and introducing base level service for Tk’emlups te Secwepemc.

“There’s definitely a demand there to help fulfil, at least at the beginning, a base level service for handyDART,” Burnley said, adding while there isn’t a specific launch date set at this time, it could be in January 2025.

Looking beyond this fiscal year, projected expansion items in 2025 to 2027 include increasing the frequency and span of transit service on Routes 16 (Juniper Ridge) and 17 (Dallas), and introducing more express-style transit services.

Airport transit service review a possibility

Burnley said while it’s a longer-range item, the city is looking at asking BC Transit to proceed with a preliminary service review for possible transit service to Ord Road and Kamloops Airport.

He said there has been several community requests for service in this area, from residents and local businesses alike.

“Airport service was suspended in 2017, Ord Road, the records go back to about 2009 — and those areas both have very different makeups now than they did then,” he said.

Burnley said staff will be heading back to council in August for approval on these future expansion items, and the request that BC Transit move ahead with the service review.

Coun. Bill Sarai said with the recent Kamloops Airport rezoning project, there will be about 40 acres of light industrial land up for development — and future workers will need transit.

"In the next five years it’s going to be a completely different corridor than we see now,” Sarai said.

He said it was great to see this transit service request move higher on the list of priorities, but asked Burnley how residents can make their voices heard to ensure the project doesn't stall.

Burnley said residents could get in contact with the city’s transportation division, which can raise concerns or questions with BC Transit at their frequent meetings. He said transit riders can also use the contact portal on the BC Transit website.

He noted the city and BC Transit are aware of a petition calling for Ord Road service launched by Jodhbir Kang, School District 73 board of education trustee.

“Coupled together with all those community requests that we’ve received, there seems to be a base there that’s positive. I think the city would have …the basis to go forth with a study,” Burnley said.

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