Premier Christy Clark, speaks during the announcement of RapidBus expansion to West Kelowna.
Just how fast will depend on traffic, but the RapidBus buses are equipped with technology that extends green lights - helping them to get through intersections faster, commonly referred to as traffic-signal priority.
There are limited stops for more passengers, and stations are designed for quick boarding through raised platforms at the bus stops. Once in Kelowna, buses will be able to use the HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lane and avoid the other busy lanes between Water Street and Highway 33.
On Wednesday, local, provincial and federal politicians announced the start of construction for a 15-kilometre expansion of RapidBus to the Westside. The total investment in RapidBus on the Westside and in Kelowna is up to $46 million.
The Westside, or phase-two, expansion includes four new transit stations - in Westbank town centre, at Butt Road, Mount Boucherie and Westside Road -and two new exchanges in Westbank and Mount Boucherie where riders can switch buses.
Since implementing phase one in Kelowna in 2010, there has been a 10 per cent increase in bus use in Kelowna overall and a nine per cent increase or nearly 500,000 more riders on the current 15-kilometre RapidBus route, noted Premier Christy Clark, MLA for Westside-Kelowna.
"Kelownians have voted with their feet, This has proven to be a very successful service for students, families and communities in Kelowna. It reduces travel time and encourages more people to take the bus," said Clark.
"The people of West Kelowna also need quick access to downtown (Kelowna) and to the great university at UBCO. As communities grow, services must grow with them."
The province will contribute $23.9 million and the project will create more than 240 jobs spurring economic development in the Central Okanagan, she noted.
"Connecting the RapidBus from UBCO through the City of Kelowna to the Westside and through WFN lands will be a great benefit to our communities, members and residents," commented Westbank First Nation Chief Robert Louie.
"I know I speak on behalf of all West Kelowna residents, transit users in particular, who are looking forward to seeing this expansion proceed," said West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater.
The federal government is contributing up to $10.9 million from the Building Canada Fund and another $6 million from the Gas Tax Fund, noted Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Dan Albas. The City of Kelowna is adding $5.2 million and West Kelowna is contributing land.
The expansion is being done in Kelowna and West Kelowna in several different parts, first with the addition of new pullouts and platforms.
Construction has started at Highway 97 and Gordon Drive on the northbound side of the highway and will proceed south to Richter Street and then Butt Road. The work will then move to the southbound side of the highway.
Construction will continue to late November. During the construction period, there will be night-time lane closures.
In Kelowna, this next phase will result in four improved exchanges, five new RapidBus stations, branded shelters and real-time passenger information displays.
Construction work on transit improvements that are part of the City of Kelowna's revitalization program for Rutland is now complete and the new exchange will go into service this month.
Construction on the new Okanagan College exchange is scheduled to begin later this year. Exchanges at Queensway and Pandosy Village will also be upgraded over the next two years. Construction of new stations at Gordon Drive and Richter Street will begin this month.
Clark and her cabinet also met in West Kelowna today. See page A5 for photos from that morning event.