BC Transit says contracting strategy ‘most appropriate model’ for Kelowna system

'Most appropriate' transit

Despite calls for change from the Okanagan Transit Alliance, BC Transit says its regional contracting strategy continues to be the “most appropriate model” for the Kelowna system.

The alliance wants Kelowna Regional Transit to be publicly run, similar to the model in the provincial capital. Victoria transit operations, services and routes are the responsibility of BC Transit, which works with the city to install bus shelters and improve transit stops.

Management of Kelowna Regional Transit is currently contracted out to France-based TransDev but that contract expires later this year. OTA is pushing for either the Regional District of Central Okanagan or BC Transit to take over operations.

“It’s public transit, not for-profit transit is what they’re after. Get rid of the for-profit transit,” said Al Peressini with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1722, which backs the OTA’s efforts.

He says TransDev has no vested interest in the bus service, except to make money. “Public transit should not be run to make money. It should be run to provide a service to the citizens.”

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

In a statement issued to Castanet, BC Transit said, "our local government partners take all feedback and inquiries about our public transit service seriously, and representatives from both organizations have met with the Okanagan Transit Alliance on multiple occasions to discuss our operating model and performance."

"Information regarding our funding model, costs in the Kelowna Regional Transit System and our operating contract with Transdev Canada has been shared with the Okanagan Transit Alliance through our local government partners with the City of Kelowna," BC Transit continued.

"However, there are some commercially sensitive contracting details that we are unable to share publicly due to our ongoing procurement process for operating contracts throughout the province.”

BC Transit went on to say that the Kelowna Regional Transit System was once of the first systems under a regional contracting strategy, and that continues to be the most appropriate model for its regional transit systems.

Routes in the Kelowna area are planned by BC Transit and approved by local governments, but the daily operations of the service are contracted out to TransDev.

“This strategy has since been applied successfully in other regions around the province, and we continue to improve the model. Service levels and budgets are approved each year by local government, who also set fares and local property taxes to pay their contribution of transit costs," the transit authority said.

"BC Transit will continue to work with our local government partners to provide the most safe and reliable public transit service to all our customers in the Kelowna Regional Transit System.”

The Okanagan Transit Alliance will be putting pressure on local officials next week, when several councillors and mayors from the Okanagan will be riding the bus as part of the Transit Week Challenge, from January 29 to February 4. The challenge is designed to help city councilors learn about what’s working in their local transit system - and what’s not.

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