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RDOS updated on proposed BC Transit Penticton/Kelowna route

The board was given an update on the route and the current transit services in the region

BC Transit provided an update to the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen board on Dec. 20, outlining the next steps for the proposed route 70 Penticton/Kelowna and breaking down the current transit services in the area.

The area has seen a drop in transit services available with the closure of Greyhound in this area of the province. BC Transit recently held multiple open houses and conducted an online survey to gain feedback on a proposed, fixed-schedule route from Penticton to Kelowna that would begin in fall 2019.

“When we’re talking about service between Penticton and Kelowna, that was identified as a priority item in the Okanagan-Similkameen transit future plan, so that’s the playbook we’re working off of when we introduce a service like that,” said Chris Fudge, senior manager for government relations with BC Transit.

He noted that the Okanagan-Similkameen region’s transit provides 18,000 passenger trips per year and operations are currently under Berry and Smith as Penticton Transit with three light-duty buses. This includes #10 Penticton – Naramata, #20 Penticton – Okanagan Falls and #21 Okanagan Falls (local).

“This service is funded under the traditional ratio, so the RDOS is paying the traditional 53 per cent because this is essentially fixed-route scheduled service,” said Fudge, who had noted the pay structure varies depending on the type of transit service.

Fudge said that the area previously had five separate transit systems with their own rider’s guide, which was amalgamated into one system in July 2017. He explained this unified transit system is more effective and beneficial for the customer as it has one fair structure and rider’s guide.

The South Okanagan Transit system also operates as Penticton Transit under Berry and Smith, providing 9,000 passenger trips per year. This includes #40 Osoyoos – Penticton, #41 Osoyoos (local) and #61 Osoyoos – Kelowna and utilizes 2 light duty buses.

“Funding, in this case, is a bit of a hybrid because you do have flexible or on-demand service. So there’s a higher provincial share as a part of this service, so the RDOS pays a lower portion, which is 43 per cent,” said Fudge.

For both the Okanagan-Similkameen and South Okanagan Transit regions, there was a slight decrease in ridership from 2016-17 to 2017-18. Fudge noted that the number of people still utilizing the service was still significantly more than in 2015-16.

“We’re in the relatively early stages of working on this new route. The objective of the service is for those who travel to Kelowna for work, study or non-emergency medical purposes,” said Fudge. “So the challenge we’re faced with is you have to ask yourself, ‘How do you design a service that’s going to meet everyone’s needs?’ and I’m not sure that you can. What we want to do is design a service that meets as many needs for as many people as possible, that’s always our objective.”

Fudge said this new proposed route 70 calls for two roundtrips per day on weekdays, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Elector assent was given through the AAP process to allow the adoption of the Regional Transit Service Establishment Bylaw, which kickstarted the process to include this route as part of the service plan submission to the province.

The next step for BC Transit is summarizing the engagement findings for the proposed route into a summary report which will help develop a service change plan. This plan will be presented for approval to local governments before it is carried out and the route is activated.

“We have a 25-year vision for transit, but we’re always focused on what the 3-year expansion outlook will look like. So that’s a plan we revise annually and some of the options will depend on how this Penticton-Kelowna service ends up looking like,” said Fudge. “But there are other items that have been identified in the short-term. For example, Monday service on Route 40, eventually additional trips on the Penticton-Kelowna service and perhaps some local service in Oliver connecting to Osoyoos. So that’s what we’re looking at within the three-year horizon.”

Fudge also noted BC Transit will be undergoing fleet right-sizing, “an exercise they go through on a regular basis to ensure they have the right bus type providing service.” This can identify where a smaller or larger bus is necessary, and Fudge noted BC Transit has noticed capacity issues for buses between Osoyoos and Penticton through data analysis of ridership and anecdotal information.

Summerland Mayor Toni Boot had Fudge clarify the proposed route would be fixed-schedule so therefore, RDOS would pay approximately 53 per cent for the service. She also wanted to confirm when BC Transit planned to add more trips to the Penticton-Kelowna route within the 3-year plan.

“We essentially look for a firm commitment from local governments for the first of those three years for the coming year. This is because lots of times this means bus orders need to be confirmed, so that’s where we’d need a firm commitment,” said Fudge. “Year two and three are there for future planning purposes and ideally this would keep moving forward each year. Since we are talking about an annual appropriation of funds from the province, we have to revise that plan each year. So we may have targeted those additional trips for 2020-21 but again, we’d have to reconfirm that commitment on an annual basis… But that’s the intention right now.”

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
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