Merry makers, revelers and everyone else celebrating New Year’s Eve in Kelowna should not expect a free ride home tonight courtesy of B.C. Transit, as the local transit service is not offering any special holiday incentives.
It will be business as usual with buses running their regular weekday service today and their Sunday service schedule on Tuesday.
“Essentially with B.C. Transit, municipalities get to decide what special holidays they want to observe and if there’s going to be any free schedules,” explains Meribeth Burton, corporate spokesperson for B.C. transit.
“Many of our communities do have some sort of incentives that encourage people to use transit on the holidays.”
Of the 130 municipalities that offer some kind of transit service on a regular basis, between 15 and 20 of those places offer some sort of extra service and or free rides, but Kelowna is not one of them.
“It’s definitely a municipal decision and in the case of Kelowna it would also be with the district of West Kelowna and Lake Country and everyone would have to come together and agree on what kind of service,” says Burton.
“It’s at the discretion of municipalities but I know it’s a big hit here in places like Victoria, where it’s free tonight.”
The reason that the final decision rests with the individual municipality and not B.C. Transit has to do with the funding model.
“Because the province covers just between 40-50 per cent of B.C. Transit, municipalities – either through fares collected through B.C. Transit or through property taxes – determine the rest of the contribution to B.C. Transit,” she says.
“So they have a large stake and are holding the purse strings essentially, so it’s up to them to decide how best to spend those transit dollars.”
Even smaller municipalities like Osoyoos is offering free rides tonight and other towns in the Kootenays will be offering service until 3 a.m.
Burton acknowledged that both Kelowna and Kamloops are two of the larger municipalities in British Columbia that will not offer free bus rides on New Year’s Eve.
A call put into a local supervisor at the Kelowna Regional Transit System says they run the hours that are given to them by the city.
City Hall is closed today and was unable to respond.