The Okanagan Transit Alliance has four immediate goals. Our goals allow us to work towards our vision statement, and stay aligned with our principles. We believe they are practical, achievable, and will have a significant impact on our shared public transportation system.
Ensure transit in the Okanagan is public by bringing it under local management.
Under the current model, transit in our region is managed by private companies. Their main goal is to keep costs as low as possible, rather than provide the best service per dollar. We don’t know how much of our tax money is being paid to the companies as profit. There is very little transparency. There are other models across BC and Canada for more responsive, democratic, and local transit management - such as Victoria, which is managed directly by BC Transit, and Nelson, where transit is managed by the City of Nelson.
We are asking BC Transit and the Regional Districts of the Okanagan to find one that works for our community before the next contract renewal with TransDev, April 2024.
Expand HandyDart service to 7 days a week, including public holidays.
HandyDart brings people with mobility challenges to doctors appointments, errands, and all kinds of activities - but that service doesn't run on Sundays or public holidays. Instead, passengers are offered a 50% subsidy on taxi fares, which can be significantly more expensive per trip. The same as for any other community member, being able to get around the city is an essential need, and that need doesn’t go away on weekends. Year after year, the number one request from HandyDart users is to expand the public service to 365 days a year.
We’re asking BC Transit to end this discrimination, and fund additional transit service to expand HandyDart to include Sundays and public holidays beginning in 2024.
Maximize our current available service hours by developing frequent service in high density areas, while making concrete plans to expand the number of available buses.
Our urban centres hold the majority of jobs, and are where density is expected to rise. Buses that come only once an hour or a few times a day aren’t reliable enough for people’s daily needs. A smaller network of reliable, frequent routes can encourage riders in core areas to make the switch to transit. Outlying and rural areas also need reliable service, but may be better served by transit on-demand. Increasing public transit ridership can save huge costs in maintaining and expanding our road networks, and short-term increases in ridership can set the scene for future growth. Transit in Kelowna specifically is limited by the number of buses that can be held at the current transit yard.
We are asking BC Transit and the Regional Districts of the Okanagan to prioritize the creation of new frequent transit routes for dense, urban areas of the Okanagan. We are also asking to expand transit-on-demand to rural and outlying areas.
We are also asking BC Transit and the Regional District of the Central Okanagan to commit to a clear timeline for the creation of an expanded transit yard, to increase the number of buses available to the region.
Expand fare-free service from ages 12-and-under to ages 18-and-under.
Allowing youth to access our transit system without barriers can achieve multiple goals all at once: encouraging youth to use transit from an early age as an alternative to car dependence; giving them more freedom to get to work, see friends, and try new activities; and easing the cost of living for families in the Okanagan. Victoria implemented a Youth U-Pass program in 2022, to allow teens to access the service without fares. Research also shows that barrier free access to public transit allows youth, and especially lower-income youth, to access new activities and services, feel a stronger sense of freedom, and to feel included with their peers.
We are asking the Regional Districts of the Okanagan to implement a fare-free transit program to youth 18 and under by the end of 2024, and BC Transit to implement fare-free transit for youth 18 and under province wide, beginning in 2025.