Summerland’s new bus service to Penticton is far exceeding expectations after its first year of operation, according to the president of B.C. Transit.
Manuel Achadinha said the service, which makes four daily round-trips Monday to Friday, is moving an average of 5.2 passengers per hour, a rate he described as “really impressive for a startup.”
According to B.C. Transit-supplied statistics for the eight months ending August 2014, passengers had taken a total of 6,925 trips on the service, a volume Achadinha didn’t expect to see until the fifth year.
“We’re on a very good pace to look at the opportunity of going to council and saying, ‘Hey, look, there might be potential opportunities to increase the service or expand the service or introduce new routes,” he said.
The cost of providing the service in the first year was pegged at approximately $100,000, with the District of Summerland and B.C. Transit splitting the bill.
Coun. Peter Waterman, who represented the district on a special anniversary trip Friday, was unable to provide figures, but said the $2 one-way fares are nearly covering Summerland taxpayers’ share now.
“It’s essentially costing very little at this point,” he said.
Waterman said ridership has exceeded council’s expectations also.
“I put it down to the fact that we desperately needed the service, and I’m looking forward to increasing the schedule,” he said, adding that he’d like to see new evening and Saturday service.
“Summerland really needs this. Employers need it. Employees need it, for sure, and students and seniors will make tremendous use of it.”
Among the riders on the bus Friday with local dignitaries was a man who only wanted to be identified as Ron, he said he had no complaints after five trips to visit a friend in Penticton.
“My car broke down, so I’ve been using the bus,” he said.
“It’s quite convenient.”
Achadinha is convinced the Summerland experience is proof that transit can work nearly anywhere.
“We’re seeing that when you provide the right type of service, people will take it,” he said.
The service begins at the Summerland library, makes two other stops in town and another in Trout Creek, then hits Okanagan College and Penticton Regional Hospital, before terminating at Cherry Lane Shopping Centre, from which it leaves again on the same route in reverse.
Each trip takes about 40 minutes and buses leave Summerland at 8:05 a.m., 11;15 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. to Penticton.