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Summerland first in B.C. to offer free transit for riders of all ages

Council votes to continue free fare program after one-year trial
A free bus service for Summerland residents, introduced as a pilot project in April, 2023, has become permanent. (Summerland Review file photo)

A free transit fare program for Summerland residents has become permanent, following a one-year pilot project.

The municipality will continue to provide free bus fare on Route 30 for all Summerland residents, following the completion of the one-year project from April 22, 2023, to April 22, 2024.

Summerland council approved continuing the program during a meeting on March 19.

While other B.C. communities have offered low-cost fares or select free ridership on certain days or for specific age groups, Summerland is the first community in the province to offer ongoing free fares for residents of all ages.

“The decision by the district of Summerland to provide free transit service to Summerland residents will encourage people to use a more sustainable, green method of traveling throughout their community,” said Bart Walman, government relations manager for BC Transit. “Our organization will continue to work with the district to ensure we’re continuing to provide safe and reliable public transit for everyone in the region that chooses to take the bus.”

The decision to provide free fares for Summerland residents was supported, with data and information collected from a public survey launched on Feb. 2, 2024.

“Free bus fare keeps money in people’s pockets and ensures essential services remain accessible,” said Summerland Mayor Doug Holmes. “It reinforces the principle that mobility is a right and that transit is a public good, like schools and libraries – services that some people use more than others but which benefits the community as a whole.”

The survey results showed users experienced significant cost savings, increased accessibility to services and amenities and data showing a shift in ridership with increased frequency of ridership on Route 30.

Summerland residents can access the free fare by loading a Summerland Free Fare pass onto their new Umo card or the Umo App at any one of the BC Transit vendors in Summerland, with the provision of proof of residency (either government ID, utility bill or student ID).

Umo cards, transit passes and tickets are available at municipal hall, 13221 Henry Ave and at the Summerland Aquatic and Fitness Centre, 13205 Kelly Ave.

Umo is the new BC Transit electronic fare system launched in the South Okanagan-Similkameen in March and transitions away from paper and hard copy passes and tickets to an online digital ticket system. Tickets will continue to be accepted on all bus routes in the region, with cash continuing to be a permanent payment option.

There are currently five round trips between Summerland and Penticton on Route 30, from Monday to Saturday with the first bus leaving Summerland at 7:15 a.m. on weekdays. In Penticton, the bus stops at the Penticton Community Centre, Okanagan College, Penticton Regional Hospital, and Cherry Lane Mall.

John Arendt

About the Author: John Arendt

John Arendt has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years. He has a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism degree from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
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