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Shuttle service hits bump

A private transit service between Osoyoos and Kelowna has run into challenges collecting public dollars to entice a business to run it. - Submitted Photo
A private transit service between Osoyoos and Kelowna has run into challenges collecting public dollars to entice a business to run it.
— image credit: Submitted Photo

An effort to collect public dollars to help map out a private transit service between Osoyoos and Kelowna has hit another speed bump in Penticton.

The South Okanagan Ground Transportation Advisory Committee has asked communities throughout the region to contribute to a $50,000 fund to entice a private business to offer the service.

Committee spokesman Robert Lintell told the board of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen on Thursday the money would help market the new service and offset other startup costs.

“There’s an optics issue here, so that if you people are interested in seeing a service provided by private enterprise and serving the area for the betterment, then it’s appropriate, perhaps, that it be financially supported,” said Lintell.

He noted three companies have submitted expressions of interest to operate the route, with bids to be opened later this month. The service is expected to offer four round trips daily between the communities, with a one-way fare of $30 to $40.

Price wasn’t an issue for most RDOS directors, who were more concerned about subsidizing a private operator and losing business to the north.

“If I was spending public money, I’d far rather put it in getting WestJet to operate services out of Penticton than to put it into subsidizing what’s supposed to be a privately funded busing initiative,” said Okanagan Falls-Kaleden Director Tom Siddon.

Penticton Director Wes Hopkin said the shuttle could hurt the city’s airport just as it tries to establish that new  WestJet flight to Calgary beginning in October.

“I have to ask myself: Is the Penticton airport in a sufficiently strong, competitive position to be able to handle any significant downturn as a result of this service?” said Hopkin, who suggested it could encourage more people to fly out of Kelowna.

Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes said his council found the proposal “really intriguing,” but is worried most shoppers’ dollars will flow north.

“If this were to fly, I would think the city of Penticton would have the most to gain having this type of service,” Hovanes said, noting his council has expressed support for the buses but has not yet made a financial commitment.

Cawston Director George Bush was the lone RDOS board member to speak in full support of the shuttle.

Board chairman Mark Pendergraft said directors will consider the funding request, but likely require more information before making a decision. The transportation committee, which is backed by the South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce and the Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association, also got a rough ride when it presented in March to Penticton city council, which it asked for a $15,000 commitment.

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