Bus service to Kelowna remains top transit priority for region

Transit service between Penticton and Kelowna remains an important element in a proposed regional transit plan.

Transit service between Penticton and Kelowna remains an important element in a proposed regional transit plan that was rolled out last week for local politicians.

“That (route) was the highest priority we had,” said B.C. Transit planner Adriana McMullen, who presented the 25-year plan to Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen directors.

“It’s people from all over the region who want that.”

She and others from B.C. Transit spent the summer collecting public input on the regional transit system and came up with a list of short- and longer-term priorities for the area.

Other high priorities include more frequent service between Osoyoos and Penticton and twice-weekly service in Keremeos.

Under the plan, Penticton would serve as a hub with connections reaching to Osoyoos, Princeton and Kelowna.

“One of the biggest improvements I see is the effort to make a coherent system to tie all the branches together,” said Angelique Wood, the RDOS director for Hedley-Rural Keremeos.

Others, however, don’t think the plan is ambitious enough.

Helena Konanz, a Penticton city councillor and RDOS director, said she was discouraged that the goal in 25 years’ time is only to double to three per cent the number of trips in Penticton taken on transit rather than via some other form of transportation.

Tom Siddon, the director for Okanagan Falls-Kaleden, said he was disappointed not to see a park-and-ride in Kaleden included in the plan.

“There are enough people — particularly seniors and elders — who would want service,” he said.

“You at least have to stop at Kaleden junction.”

McMullen said a transit exchange is tentatively planned for the truck scale on Highway 97 south of the community, but Siddon said that’s too far away and suggested something closer to the community’s gas station.

“I’ll help you find a property,” he offered.

Other communities on the south and east side of Skaha Lake, like Heritage Hills and Okanagan Falls, are slated to get transit service in January.

B.C. Transit is still presenting its draft plan to local governments in the region, and, if fully approved in principle, will then move to strike a committee next summer to prioritize and put service improvements in place.

A similar planning approach was used in the West Kootenays, which now has regional transit in place that connects Trail, Castlegar, Nelson, Nakusp and outlying areas.