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Regional airport shuttle getting traction

This summer, you may be able to hop a shuttle bus and travel anywhere from Osoyoos to Kelowna, if the South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce’s plans work out.

Inspired by shuttle services in Mexico and elsewhere that connect airports with hotels and tourist destinations, the SOCC has issued a request for proposals looking for a company to take on operating a similar service.

“I work in Penticton and live in Osoyoos. I have flown a couple of times in the last month and I have had to go up and pay some pretty big dollars to park at the (Kelowna) airport,” said Myers Bennett, president of the SOCC.

A shuttle bus, he continued, would solve that problem and be more convenient for travellers flying out of Penticton or Kelowna airports.

“Or vice versa, bringing some tourists in that want to go do wine tours. They fly into Kelowna and there is no way to get into the South Okanagan,” said Bennett.

Robert Linttell, the former transportation chair with the SOCC, said the project grew out of a long-standing concern in the South Okanagan that other than personal vehicles, there was no convenient way to get to Kelowna.

B.C. Transit and Greyhound services, he explained are too infrequent for people wanting to access services: health care, grocery shopping, tourism interests, or getting to airports.

“Over a long period of time, it has simply become an issue that was felt had to be addressed,” said Linttell.

Penticton Mayor Garry Litke supports the concept of a regional transit plan, but isn’t convinced the SOCC shuttle is the best way to tackle it. “My concern is that the destination seems to be Osoyoos, and Penticton is just in the middle somewhere,” said Litke.

“I am worried it will encourage people from the South Okanagan, like Osoyoos, to even more travel out of the Kelowna airport.”

Bringing people in is good, said Andre Martin, president of the Penticton & Wine Country Chamber of Commerce, though he is also concerned the traffic may be between the two endpoints.

“Certainly, we don’t want to shortchange the Penticton Airport in this whole deal. All visitors coming to the valley is good, we are all for that,” said Martin.

Linttell said there is no desire to rob Penticton of traffic, but there are many people wanting to access Kelowna.

“It has a broader number of services, including the international airport access,” said Linttell.  “At the same time, there is a tourism interest in that the Kelowna airport has been successful in getting direct flights in to Los Angeles and there is an initiative being created to draw people from that area in terms of tourism to come to the South Okanagan.”

Litke said there may be benefits, but he wants to hear more and invited the group to make a presentation to city council March 17.

“I am just not convinced the benefits will outweigh the negatives,” said Litke.

“They are also looking for some funding and the way it sounds right now, council would be reluctant to fund this unless we could see some clear benefits.”

The SOCC request for proposals closes on April 15, with an announcement of the proponent expected on April 30.

 

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