BC Transit plans expansion of service for Penticton area

Proposed Penticton-Kelowna route was highlighted as a key focus

The next three years will see an increase in service from BC Transit within the City of Penticton.

During the committee of the whole on Feb. 5, the organization highlighted Penticton’s transit system performance in 2018 and other areas it will be focusing on expanding to in the near future.

“In terms of system performance, in 2017-18 total ridership increased over the previous year. Passengers per hour went up about two per cent, which compares favourably to the peer average,” said Chris Fudge, senior manager of government relations with BC Transit. “Operating cost is up three per cent but still compares favourably to the peer average. And cost recovery is just below average but is an improvement from previous year.”

Related: RDOS updated on proposed BC Transit

Fudge said the proposed Penticton-Kelowna route was highlighted as a key focus for the Transit Future Plan with BC Transit through the various open houses and surveys conducted over the last few months. Now that public consultation has ended, the organization is into the planning stages of this route.

“We are just at the stage now of presenting the draft service design concept to our working group, and that includes representation from the City of Penticton, so we’ll be seeing that service when it is rolled out in September of this year.”

Coun. Julius Bloomfield had Fudge clarify that the City of Kelowna and the Central Okanagan Regional District have not been asked to contribute yet for this route, and that is the mandate of the Regional District of the South Okanagan-Similkameen to have those conversations.

Related: No plans yet for free WiFi on BC Transit buses

“That will also involve conversations about where the bus will be stopping or terminating and that sort of thing,” said Fudge. “That’s certainly at the discretion of the RDOS to have those conversations and look to those local governments as funding partners.”

“I just want to put it across to the public, that this service is for RDOS helping people going back and forth from Kelowna, especially now that the Greyhound is no longer with us,” said Mayor John Vassilaki. “So that’s just another mode of transportation.”

Aside from this route, service to Upper Wiltse and Sendero Canyon, increased frequency on Route 5 Main Street, extended night service on Friday and Saturday and service to Penticton Indian Band were all noted as three-year expansion priorities for BC Transit.

“These are items that have come up in the past, and we’ll again look at the appropriate time to slot those into our three-year expansion plans,” said Fudge. “Service to Penticton Indian Band is on our radar as well. Also potentially providing earlier service in the morning to connect with the new Penticton-Kelowna service. We’ll have to see what that schedule looks like and how well the local system does or does not connect to that service.”

Fudge also noted the updating of technology that BC Transit uses in the region, which will soon be available for transit users in Penticton.

“Lots of advancements on our end in terms of technology enhancements, particularly as a result of our automatic vehicle location (AVL) technology,” said Fudge. “This provides customers with real-time data on the location of their bus and what time it is predicted to stop at any given stop. So that should be coming to this system hopefully in the next year.”

Fudge said “the Minister of Transit requested (BC Transit) to work with all of its local government partners to identify opportunities to enhance the availability and effectiveness of custom transit service.”

“One of the key things we’ve been asked to look at is equitable services, so the opportunity to align both the span of hours and service boundaries between your conventional and your custom transit system,” said Fudge. “So what we’re going to be doing to support that decision-making process is providing staff with a detailed custom transit report, which outlines what the current system looks like, and what those opportunities and recommendations may be. And then discussing what the strategy will be over the coming years to integrate them.”

Coun. Judy Sentes noted she has received numerous complaints from users of the Penticton transit service who cannot understand BC Transit’s guide of the system.

“Yesterday there was a workshop that considered services to the community and how the user observed those and if, in fact, they were using them. Transportation was one of those topics, and I was intrigued to hear repeatedly the confusion around your guide,” said Sentes. “Difficult to read, the map that has the colours for all the routes was not clear, and then when you opened it up and the number system of who is going where and what, people couldn’t follow it.”

Fudge noted that BC Transit’s guide is continuously being altered for clarity as it contains a large amount of data. He said they have a working group that is constantly looking at ways to enhance the guide.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
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