The City of Kelowna is looking to make it easier for people to walk, bike and take transit to get around the city.
Kelowna city council voted on Monday to move the draft 2040 Transportation Master Plan to the next stage, allowing staff to engage the public and stakeholders in the process.
The plan aims to reduce traffic congestion and emissions while doubling transit ridership, quadrupling the number of trips made by bicycle and reducing the average distance driven per person by 20 per cent. Currently, the draft is on the last step of the multi-year, five-phase process, and the public will have the opportunity to provide their thoughts about the plan before staff present the final master plan.
Many councillors commended the transportation plan and the work city staff put into the master plan. Others raised concerns about accessibility. Coun. Charlie Hodge asked about more accessible transportation options, especially for disabled people. He noted that those using accessibility vehicles have a hard time navigating the city.
“We do have a fair amount of (disabled people) that face barriers with accessibility in the city, such as the lack of accessible parking. I think we need to be concerned about their needs today, rather than tomorrow,” said Hodge.
Mayor Colin Basran raised concerns about funding for the plan, especially since the local transit system is funded through transit revenue. He said he is working with the provincial transportation minister to provide more funding for Kelowna’s transit system, especially since ridership is not at pre-pandemic levels.
“To put this further on the backs of local property taxpayers is not an acceptable way forward,” he said. “This is important moving forward, but there are serious conversations that need to be done here.”
Council also voted to endorse the Community Electric Vehicle (EV) and E-Bike Strategy, which aims to provide alternative modes of transportation for residents and reduce carbon emissions in the city. According to a presentation by city staff, electric vehicle ownership in Kelowna nearly tripled between 2018 and 2020. City staff said the strategy is needed to encourage non-EV owners to switch to a more sustainable option while providing predictable charging experiences for EV owners.
The endorsement would allow city staff to include electric vehicle charging infrastructure requirements for new developments within the city. It would also allow city staff to engage stakeholders for their thoughts on electric vehicle charging requirements in the city.
“This was such an exciting report to read and very progressive. I’m excited to endorse this project and see this go through the bylaw stage,” said Coun. Loyal Wooldridge.
Wooldridge also asked about storage options for e-bikes, noting that many people are hesitant to buy e-bikes because they are scared they will get stolen. City manager Doug Gilchrist said that strata would be required to provide storage for residents and workers if a bylaw is passed.
“By putting in a bylaw we can ensure those facilities are in place,” said Gilchrist.