New bus route passes speed bump

Fewer than one per cent of eligible voters registered their opposition to a new Eastside Road transit service.

Fewer than one per cent of eligible voters registered their opposition to a new Eastside Road transit service, clearing the way for buses to begin rolling in January.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen this summer sought public assent for the new service through the alternate approval process.

Had 10 per cent of eligible voters on the route, which will cover Okanagan Falls and communities along Eastside Road, signed official forms stating their opposition, it would have triggered a full referendum.

However, just 13 of 3,553 voters — equal to 0.37 per cent — actually did so, according to a report sent to the RDOS board at its meeting last week.

RDOS community services supervisor Mark Woods said the service, which will be cost-shared with B.C. Transit, is expected to cost local taxpayers about $70,000 a year.

That would see the average homeowner in the service area pay $30 to $35 a year, Woods said, but he cautioned the final numbers won’t be set until the RDOS budget is completed early next year.

In the meantime, Woods explained, staff is going ahead with planning work for the transit service, which is expected to run four or five times a day between Okanagan Falls and Penticton.

“We’re going to get down to the details now, so we’ll actually go out and drive the route and figure out how long we need to be at a stop point,” he said.

Tom Siddon, the RDOS director for the area, is optimistic the service is just an “intermediate step,” like the establishment of routes in Naramata and Summerland, on the way to building a proper regional transit system.

“Hopefully within the next four years we’ll see a significant increase in the network,” Siddon said, adding an interchange on the west side of Skaha Lake is next on his transit wish list.