The City of Kelowna has made a concerted effort to establish bus transit as a strong, viable source of transportation for the Central Okanagan and it seems recent ridership numbers are backing that up.
When the province launched its transit plan in 2008, the goal was to double ridership in high growth urban centres such as Kelowna. Now, six years later, it appears to have worked.
According to BC Transit, ridership on the Kelowna Regional Transit system continues to grow. Since construction began on the RapidBus initiative in 2009/10, the number of people taking the bus has grown by 9.6 per cent. That accounted for 4.8 million annual trips by 2010/11 and it has remained steady ever since.
“With RapidBus extending through to Westbank Town Centre, serving new facilities and with a future investment in service frequency, we expect to see ridership growth going forward,” said Meribeth Burton, corporate spokesperson with BC Transit in an email to Castanet.
Phase 2 of the project to Westbank Town Centre will be completed at the end of August and will see the city add 11,500 annual service hours to the current schedule. Those new hours will include the introduction of a new route on Gordon Drive. Phase three of the project will also be completed this year and includes the new Queensway transit exchange.
As a comparison, Kamloops saw 3.4 million annual passenger trips in 2013/14. Since 2009/10, ridership has grown by eight per cent over that four-year period.
In Penticton, ridership has remained steady at 430,000 annual passenger trips per year during the same time period.
The Kelowna Regional Transit system will also be the first in BC to experience real-time passenger information. This technology will be introduced in September.
City staff will also present a more detailed look at ridership during a council meeting on June 23.