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City Council plan to ease Kelowna congestion

By: Mackenzie Edwards

Whether you drive, bus, bike, or walk, traffic and congestion are a problem we all face. According to Statistics Canada, Kelowna continues to be the fastest growing city in British Columbia moving into 2019. As such, infrastructure to facilitate these changes is a top priority for the city council.

While still in its early stages, in 2018 the Transportation Master Plan began to take shape when the council engaged with residents through the use of an online survey and two open houses. The survey consisted of multiple questions, the most important of which was to see the level support of the council’s draft vision statement:

“Kelowna is a city with vibrant urban centers where people and places are conveniently connected by diverse transportation options that help us shift away from our car-centric culture.”[1]

 It is no surprise that cars are the most popular form of transport. As such, while over two-thirds of those surveyed responded positively to the statement, some found issue with the idea of moving away from a “car-centric culture.” Many responses indicated that a removal or reframing of this section would be more beneficial moving into the future, while other suggestions focused on a need for transit improvements for the vision to be achievable.

These beliefs were backed up by 74% of respondents believing that improving safety was important, while 68% believe that increasing travel options is another goal that should be worked towards. On the other hand, the lowest ranked goal was to reduce capital and operating costs with only 29% of people seeing it as very important.

In order to fulfill this vision, the council is looking into multiple options. The most obvious would be to either open new roads or expand on current ones, but this may not be a viable solution. According to the council, the cost to expand a core rode within the city comes to around $26 million per kilometer,[2] a number that without large tax increases is unsustainable. As such, other options consistent with the draft vision statement are being considered such as increasing the number of bus routes, along with the creation of a light rail system similar to that seen in Vancouver.

[1] https://kelownapublishing.escribemeetings.com/filestream.ashx?DocumentId=17004

[2] https://www.kelowna.ca/sites/files/1/docs/related/facts_in_focus_-_congestion_paradox_20180708_.pdf

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