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Kelowna  

Walking traffic downtown has slowed, but pathways have jumped

Downtown a ghost town

If you think downtown Kelowna is resembling a ghost town in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the numbers would back you up.

But, at the same time, traffic along some recreational corridors such as the Okanagan Rail Trail and around the City Park underpass has jumped.

Kelowna's active transportation co-ordinator, Matt Worona is in charge of a number of pedestrian counters set up in some areas of the city.

"There are some interesting patterns emerging as we try and understand what is going on in the downtown core," says Worona.

"The first three weeks of March is typically when pedestrian traffic begins to increase dramatically as the weather gets warmer."

This year, Worona says about 20,000 people walked past the counter on the south side of Bernard Avenue across from Mill Street.

That number dropped by 61 per cent, to just under 8,000 last week as numerous businesses, specifically bars and restaurants in the downtown core were ordered to close.

The pedestrian numbers are backed up by parking figures which show on-street parking has fallen off 30 to 40 per cent.

The city hopes to increase those numbers after deciding Monday to waive on-street parking fees until the end of May.

While downtown traffic is dropping, it's the opposite on the rail trail and around City Park.

Worona says Okanagan Rail Trail traffic is up about 20 per cent, while traffic around City Park is also up.

"We're also seeing a lot more cyclists and less pedestrians," said Worona.

He also noted the typical use pattern in those areas has collapsed with fewer people using those trails during a morning or afternoon commute, but a lot more come out later in the day and evening.

The use of John Hindle Drive near UBC Okanagan has also dropped off sharply. That area is down about 70 per cent as the university has gone to online teaching during the coronavirus.



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