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Limited bus service to Kelowna, B.C. student neighbourhood a safety issue: petition

Click to play video: 'UBCO petition calls for more bus service to student neighbourhood'
UBCO petition calls for more bus service to student neighbourhood
WATCH: A petition is calling for expanded hours for the bus between UBC Okanagan and Quail Ridge. – Nov 23, 2022

The last bus to Quail Ridge leaves UBC Okanagan campus at 5:40 each weeknight.

The Kelowna, B.C. neighbourhood, near the university, is home to many students and the lack of evening bus service leaves them to walk home along an isolated forested trail in the dark.

Postdoctoral student Javad Sadeghi said he doesn’t think anyone would feel safe walking the trail at night as there are no lights and it takes almost 20 minutes.

Sadeghi said he tries to leave campus early to avoid walking home by the light of his cellphone but sometimes can’t avoid staying late if he’s running an experiment.

For Sadeghi, an evening bus that came hourly “would be amazing.”

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He is not alone. In the last five days, more than 250 people have signed an online petition calling for increased service hours for the Quail Ridge bus.

Peyton Twardochleb, one of the student organizers of the petition, says not having a bus to the neighbourhood on evenings and weekends not only poses a safety issue but also means students have less access to campus.

“We’ve heard lots of feedback from people who live in the area and also people who have previously lived in the area. It sounds like this has been an issue for a long time and not one that has been resolved by the city,” Twardochleb said.

The students’ union is supporting the petition and says that overall there is a need for more bus service to campus as over 2,600 students use buses as their main mode of transportation.

“What we would like to see is actual transit to those areas where students are living,” said Cade Desjarlais, the VP External for UBC Okanagan students’ union.

“So they can access our school and access our services as well as it is a safety issue. I don’t think anyone would be comfortable walking when it is pitch black out at night after classes alone. So this is really a big concern for us.”

Desjarlais argues students are already dealing with financial pressures including rising inflation and increasing housing prices and shouldn’t have to worry about transit being available to access the community.

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City of Kelowna Transit Service Coordinator Mike Kittmer said the city is considering proposals to increase evening and weekend service in the system generally, which could lead to extended hours on the Quail Ridge bus.

“Those proposals do require final city budgetary approval later this year as well as provincial budgetary approval before they could be implemented,” explained Kittmer.

That means the earliest a night bus to Quail Ridge might be possible would be next school year.

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Kittmer said that right now the city’s focus is on expanding off-peak services, like evening and weekend services, because those won’t require additional buses.

The city currently can’t accommodate an influx of extra buses due to a lack of additional space for bus storage and maintenance but Kittmer said work is underway to address those issues.

“We understand the importance of transit to the student body,” Kittmer said.

“We certainly remain committed to working with everybody to improve those services and getting through this period where we do have some constraints that we are addressing.”

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