Kelowna to receive 5.9M through BC's Safe Restart Plan

BC Transit

In order to maintain essential transit service levels, the province has designated $7.3 million through BC’s Safe Restart Plan to Kelowna’s Regional Transit System.

The City of Kelowna’s portion is $5.9 million.

Fifty percent of the money will be applied to the 2020/2021 operating budget and some will offset the projected loss of $805,881 in revenues due to COVID-19 impacts on transit services.

The rest will be held in a Local Reserve Fund to be applied to future operating budgets at the city’s discretion, which will come to council at future dates.

Conditions of the restart funding put a cap on annual fair increases at 2.3%.

During council’s meeting on Monday, Transit and Programs Manager Jerry Dombowski laid out what the next three years will look like, according to BC Transit forecasts.

“In comparison with the pre-COVID 2019/2020 year, when we adjust that for application of the reserve funding, the net additional cost over the three year forecast period is estimated at $5.74 million. Combined Restart funding, Share and Local Reserve funding available today for these years is $5.54 million.”

Dombowski believes these forecasts indicate the city has viable options over the next few years to combat any troubles the COVID-19 pandemic may create.

Based on 2020 transit levels the province anticipates a slow recovery.

“The assumptions based on the 2019/2020 actuals are 55% ridership recovery in 2021/2022, 65% ridership recovery in 2022/2023 and 85% ridership recovery in 2023/2024,” said Dombowski.

He believes those estimates are conservative because transit ridership is already performing better than what’s currently projected.

Last July, the city announced it was reducing operation over the Winter due to an anticipated drop in student ridership and the current climate surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dombowski told council, this will essentially allow them to bank hours for when students go back to class and travel is no longer banned.

 “This is essentially giving us a pre-CVODI service level. So, as well as we were able to handle the volumes before, we will be able to handle that. However, we should be slightly more equipped because today we are running at about 50% of our typically expected levels.”

Councillor Luke Stack was more than pleased to hear the report and that the provincial government is fairly distributing restart funds

“It seems like very fair program and it seems to be the right amount of money for what we need to do and sometimes that’s a rare thing, where the resources that are put forward are what we need and I’m just really pleased to see both the federal and provincial governments have actually been very understanding of the challenges that we face and it’s really nice to have their backing and support.”