Summerland pushes for transit link

Summerland’s mayor is hoping to jump the queue on a long-term transit study and get a bus service in her community by this fall.

Janice Perrino said town staff has discussed with B.C. Transit the possibility of establishing a new link between Summerland and Penticton by the time students return to school in September.

“That may be a bit too optimistic, but that’s the goal, that’s what we’re trying to do,” said Perrino, who’s hoping a regional transit study will confirm the need for the service.

She and other directors of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen last week agreed to take part in the new B.C. Transit study that will try to predict the area’s transit needs 25 years into the future and lay out a plan to meet the demand.

Although the final report isn’t due to be completed until next winter, Perrino is hoping preliminary work on the study will verify the case for a Summerland-Penticton service sooner.

“Funding is the key piece,” Perrino added, “because we’ll have to provide our share, so we’ll need to know our cost, and then we’ll have to explain that to the community (and ask) is that something they want to do.”

Steve Harvard, a regional manager for B.C. Transit, told the RDOS board there are no magic numbers to determine when an area is ready for bus service.

“I wouldn’t say there’s necessarily a firm number, but we analyze all the requests for service and say, ‘Does this service make sense?” he explained.

Harvard cautioned that planners are careful about saying yes to new routes.

“You don’t want to jump in and just put a service in for the sake of putting a service in and set it up to fail. You want to make sure that you’re very careful of what the costs are to set it up and what the continual operating costs are as well moving forward,” he said.

RDOS chief administrative officer Bill Newell told Harvard he was troubled by the lack of a defined threshold for new service.

“My concern then would be we ask citizens whether they would like to see public transit in their area and the numbers seem subjective, and (if the numbers) don’t warrant a service, then we have a whole bunch of disenfranchised citizens,” Newell said.

Tom Siddon, the director for Kaleden-Okanagan Falls, suggested B.C. Transit adopt a proactive approach to setting up new service.

“I think advocacy, like a build-it-and-they-will-use-it kind of philosophy, is really the missing ingredient here,” Siddon said.



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