Regional District Transit Consultant Richard Drdul presented his regional transit review to the regional district board at the Thursday, Nov. 3 Community Services Committee meeting.
The review focused on four main areas: Area “D” around Skaha Lake, Area “F” between Summerland and Penticton, Areas “G” and “H” along the Highway 3 /3A corridor, including Princeton, Keremeos, Hedley and Olalla, and Okanagan College, where the needs of staff and students were considered.
The review pointed out the most likely people to use transit:
– Low income persons without access to an automobile.
– Seniors, many of whom have disabilities.
– Persons with disabilities.
Drdel also noted that the main reason for people to use transit would be for medical appointments, shopping and entertainment, and work and school.
Currently, Greyhound operates services on Highway 3 and on Highway 97. There are two trips per day, each way between Princeton, Okanagan Falls and Penticton. Minimum fares are $6.50 plus tax between Okanagan Falls and Penticton, and $16.50 plus tax between Princeton and Penticton.
Drudel prepared a number of options for transit service in the areas considered. For Area “D” around Skaha Lake, Drudel proposed a flex route to Okanagan Falls with a demand responsive service to Kaleden. The route would be “interlined” with the current route 10 service to Naramata.
Flex route service is similar to conventionlal bus service, the only difference being the ability of the passenger to call ahead to be picked up right at their door. The flex route allows for slight route deviations for pick up and drop off.
Demand responsive service operates only in response to a request for service. If no service is requested, the bus does not go to that portion of the route.
Estimated costs for the new service are in the range of $60,000 per year for the flex route service to Okanagan Falls. The demand responsive service to Kaleden is estimated at $20,000 per year, but Drudel advised the board not to implement this service until after the province completes its provincial regional transit service review next year.
Drudel’s recommendations for transit service in the Similkameen included continuing the present bus service from Princeton, with the option of demand responsive service to Keremeos, Olalla, and Cawston. He also suggested offering an extension of the present service to Penticton to go on to Kelowna upon request, as the bus is basically in standby mode during the time it is in Penticton with the present service. If the bus route were extended to Kelowna, it would arrive 30 minutes earlier and leave 30 minutes later than the present schedule. Drudel noted that the present service provided good, reliable transportation that was affordable.
The cost for the present service to be extended for an additional weekday would cost $15,000 per year; adding an additional hour of service would tack an additional $5,500 on to the budget.
In summary, Drudel advised the directors to implement the new route 11 service to Okanagan Falls immediately in addition to extending the Princeton – Penticton route to Kelowna. He suggested waiting until the conclusion of the province’s transit study next year before increasing services on Highway 97, or adding other demand responsive services.
“Be careful what you wish for.” Osoyoos Director Stu Wells cautioning the board to make sure that a need existed before embarking on increased public transit programs, to which Drudel replied that “people are imagining a different service than you can provide.”
Keremeos Director Walter Despot told the board that he was receiving more inquiries about the demand service to Kelowna, stating that he would like to see it happen soon.