BC Transit in partnership with the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) held the first of five engagement sessions over two days on the new Penticton to Kelowna bus route.
A few residents trickled into Osoyoos council chambers on Tuesday morning to learn about the twice-daily route gearing up to launch next September.
One of those residents was Osoyoos mother Sherani Theophilus. She said poorly timed and infrequent transit connections means she cannot rely on the bus to get her son to specialist appointments in Kelowna.
“It’s problematic, the timing, we don’t connect to anything properly,” she said.
BC Transit solicited feedback on scheduling times to connect with bus routes already operating between Okanagan communities.
“We have two different options we’re looking at. One is more meeting the commuter market, and the other option is looking at more of a midday option that meets regional connections a little better,” said a transit authority spokesperson.
Bus riders are on board with increased service.
“We’ve got an aging community and a lot of people do lose their licenses, and they still have to get up to the hospital in Penticton and Kelowna,” said user Kim King.
While the loss of Greyhound has posed a challenge to smaller communities where there is no replacement service, BC Transit said increased regional service has been a priority since 2014.
“This isn’t something that has come up overnight. We know that this regional and inter-regional connection is something that’s been really crucial for this community for quite some time,” the spokesperson said.
The RDOS cleared a speed bump in September when public assent was obtained through the alternative approval process (AAP).
The $300,000 project will cost taxpayers $5-10 annually based on assessed home value.
“I’m happy this is going ahead, and I’m hoping that it will,” Osoyoos mayor Sue McKortoff said.
Meanwhile, Scott Lovell, the president of the local transit union, said the Penticton-Kelowna route is a good step forward but doesn’t go far enough to address transit needs in the region.
“The concern I have is BC transit does a lot of piecemeal work… expanding to the areas suggested is important but will never happen if this doesn’t execute well,” he said.
Lovell said a bus should operate five to seven times per day in each direction from Penticton to Vernon and pick up passengers along Highway 97.
“We know it is very important to connect communities in the Okanagan with an affordable, practical and reliable transportation system,” he said.
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BC Transit will make its final pitch on route schedules to the RDOS next spring before it gets the green light.
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