How You Can Help Kelowna’s RapidBus Stay on Schedule

How a single bus can replace multiple vehicles to reduce congestion

Whether you drive or use the RapidBus service in Kelowna, we have some important news for you.

Based on monitoring and public feedback, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure turned the city’s Highway 97 High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, which operate fulltime now, into hourly HOV lanes.

As of January 19 (2015), the lanes are in effect weekdays between 7am to 7pm, excluding holidays, to better align with when traffic and transit use is heaviest.

Why the change?

The curbside HOV lanes, which run northbound and southbound along Harvey Avenue from Water Street to Highway 33, were established in 2009 as fulltime HOV lanes to improve the efficiency of the RapidBus service and get more people travelling in fewer vehicles. The HOV lanes were installed when the road was widened to six lanes, and the curbside lane was chosen to allow for buses to make their stops. Freeway HOV lanes, located on the median side, don’t allow buses to efficiently make stops along an urban corridor like Kelowna’s.

The ministry monitored traffic and HOV lane use over the following years, while working with the City of Kelowna, and determined hours of operation would improve traffic flow and HOV lane compliance. Outside of those busy hours, the HOV lanes are simply not needed.

Without the HOV lanes, however, the RapidBus service falls behind schedule during peak travel times due to congestion. We see this happen when single-occupant vehicles use the HOV lanes for more than just turning right. For example, we found that 40 per cent of HOV lane traffic was made up of single-occupant vehicles using the lanes improperly. No wonder buses were falling behind schedule.

Read this page for more on how curbside HOV lanes work, and when single-occupant vehicles can and cannot use them.

If, for whatever reason, you cannot take advantage of carpooling or the RapidBus service, we really hope you will respect the HOV lanes during the newly designated times.

Signs are posted along the corridor to alert travellers of HOV times and locations.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us at the Okanagan Shuswap District Office, 250-712-3660, or leave a comment below.

Please help keep Kelowna’s public transit system running smoothly.

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Page 1 of 7 comments on “How You Can Help Kelowna’s RapidBus Stay on Schedule”

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  1. Every city has areas of high traffic congestion. Kelowna is no different although it is much more seasonal concentrated. For those of us who live here it is easy to notice that the traffic concentrates along Harvey and then spills out into the nearby arteries. The good new is that the weather is beautiful and a pedal bike can go a long way for much of the year…. so long as you don’t have to cross the Harvey monster in July and August.

    I also agree with James regarding the general use of the HOV lanes, but it does seem to assist the Buses as their size already reduces their dexterity.

  2. Using HOV in an attempt to aid traffic flow in Kelowna is counter productive. The highway setup going through Kelowna isn’t set up for it. Unlike the coast where the majority of direction changes are accomplished with exits and overpasses, in Kelowna it’s all signal controlled intersections. Essentially what happens is the left lane is used for those wishing to cross over the highway (with plenty of turn off lanes that back up into the traffic flow), the right lane is used for those getting off the highway and HOV, which leaves a single lane that’s unimpeded by those wanting to change direction. What results is essentially single lane traffic in each direction, add a heavy haul vehicle in each standard lane and traffic slows to a crawl with very little volume. Remove the HOV restrictions and at least free up the existing infrastructure to move the most traffic possible, HOV just hinders flow efficiency rather than aiding it.

    • Hello James,

      Thank you for your observations regarding the HOV Lanes in Kelowna.

      Highway 97 through Kelowna is used by over 60,000 vehicles per day and our studies show that HOV lanes are providing enhanced highway capacity by moving more occupants per vehicle than non-HOV traffic along this corridor. The right-sided HOV lanes positively impacts transit operators by enabling buses to share the lane and access stops more efficiently without holding up other traffic. The lanes also benefit Kelowna’s rapid transit service by allowing buses to achieve greater mobility than the general purpose lanes. The ministry has also implemented the restricted use of the HOV lanes to 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM Monday – Friday to allow access to these lanes by all road users during off peak hours and weekends. We are confident that HOV use will grow with time, and both the average number of vehicle occupants and the number of HOVs will rise as the travel advantage of HOV lanes becomes increasingly apparent. Thanks again for connecting with us here, we hope this helps with your concern.

  3. I moved here in 2010, thought the HOV lanes were a progressive idea. Then I began to notice a lot of the people using the HOV lanes were single occupant vehicles, and to a large degree, local commercial vehicles with driver only. I also noticed that if I didn’t get into the HOV lane two intersections ahead, there was no way I was going to get to make my right turn when I needed to. Finally, I’ve seen zero enforcement of HOV lane use.
    The switch to hourly use will make no difference to effectiveness, and traffic in general will be less impeded if all lanes are available for use. Keeping the right lane for HOV will not even benefit HOV’s, it’s a waste of signage and effort. Unless it is enforced.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Dave. We’ll pass them on to the area manager. As part of the changes, we’re working with the RCMP and City of Kelowna to increase enforcement as well.