Okanagan Transit Alliance calls for municipal takeover of Kelowna Regional Transit operations during Transit Challenge Week

Call for transit change

Two mayors and several councillors from communities across the Okanagan will be taking part in the Transit Week Challenge, from Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2024.

This year, the challenge also highlights a key decision looming over the future of Kelowna Regional Transit. The current contract between BC Transit and operator TransDev is set to expire in April.

The Okanagan Transit Alliance wants to see the Regional District of Central Okanagan, or a wider Okanagan regional transit team, take over management of the system. The alliance claims that under France-based company’s management, Kelowna’s transit workers are underpaid compared with public systems, understaffing has led to service cuts, and there is very little transparency or accountability.

“Despite reporting millions of dollars in profits in 2022, TransDev continues to underpay workers. Our training retention rate is approximately 50%. It costs around $20,000 each to train a driver, just for them to leave for other transit systems with better pay and benefits," says Eric Solland, an executive for the ATU Local 1722, which represents transit workers in Kelowna.

“This year alone the company has wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money training drivers who can’t afford to stay” adds Solland.

The OTA has requested information about the costs, performance and contract requirements for TransDev twice in the past year, but says BC Transit has refused to share the information.

“It is alarming that a public service, funded with public dollars, is shrouded in secrecy,” says Kirstin, a member of the OTA’s steering committee.

Among the local politicians who will be riding the bus as part of the Transit Week Challenge are Kelowna city councillors Gord Lovegrove, Luke Stack and Rick Webber. The challenge is designed to help municipal politicians learn about what’s working in their local transit systems and what’s not working.

Elected officials from several other Okanagan communities have also been invited to take part. The two mayors who will be taking transit for a week are Summerland Mayor Doug Holmes and Salmon Arm Mayor Alan Harrison. The president of the KLO Neighbourhood Association and the chair of the Shuswap Climate Action Society will be hopping aboard as well.

The Okanagan Transit Alliance is a local group pushing for better transit in the Okanagan. It is endorsed by the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, ATU Local 1722, Student Union Okanagan of UBC, the Okanagan Climate Hub, and the KLO Neighbourhood Association.

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