BC Transit will be hosting five open houses throughout the South Okanagan to gain input on a proposed interregional transit service between Penticton and Kelowna.
On Dec. 4, the Osoyoos Town Hall will be the first location of the “Shape Your Neighbourhood’s Transit Future” open house from 8 to 9:30 a.m., followed by another at the Okangan Regional Library in Princeton from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The final open house meeting that day will be held in the Peachland Community Centre from 4 to 6 p.m.
On Dec. 5, the Penticton Campus of the Okanagan College will host the open house from 9 to 11 a.m., followed by another at the Summerland Municipal Hall from 1 to 3 p.m.
Those that are unable to make any of these open houses are invited to share their feedback online at bctransit.com.
This proposed transit expansion was first proposed in March and would see a twice-daily route from Penticton to Kelowna starting as early as Fall 2019. The bus would travel between Penticton and Kelowna during peak times with one in the morning and one in the evening.
On Nov. 16, the federal government announced $136 million in joint funding will be coming to BC Transit for five projects across the province. The projects will involve adding 118 new buses to the BC transit fleet, refurbishing existing buses, introducing on-board cashless fare and GPS tracking technologies to 790 buses, building 100 new transit shelters and purchasing generators for transit facilities in Whistler, Kamloops and Nanaimo so service can continue during power failures.
The region is currently facing a lack of public transit between Kelowna and Penticton due to the closure of Greyhound’s operations in the majority of the province. Penticton’s Greyhound service ran its last route between Penticton and West Kelowna on Oct. 31.
In advance of the halt to operations, the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1722, was lobbying for a valley-wide public bus service connecting Pention to Vernon, based out of Kelowna.
“We have to do something for the smaller towns (between Penticton, Kelowna and Vernon),” said Local 1722 president Scott Lovell during an interview in August.
The route the union suggested would see a Kelowna Regional Transit bus run from Kelowna to Penticton and then double back passing through Kelowna, head to Vernon and then back to Kelowna. It would stop in smaller communities along the way.
In the meantime, companies such as Ebus have been trying to pick up the slack in terms of service in the area. John Stepovy, director of business development with Ebus said in an interview that the service is seeing low passenger numbers but this may take time to improve.
“It takes a little while for people to know what service is out there and if it will be around (lon-term),” said Stepovy. “It’s a matter of building trust.”
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