New service between Penticton and Kelowna was the top request from people surveyed by B.C. Transit.

New service between Penticton and Kelowna was the top request from people surveyed by B.C. Transit.

Transit users want Penticton-Kelowna connection

Better inter-regional service cited as top wish of people surveyed by B.C. Transit

A new link between Penticton and Kelowna was the top priority for people surveyed by B.C. Transit during creation of its new long-term plan for the region.

“The idea with the inter-regional system would be to deliver people to West Kelowna, where they would transfer to the rapid bus that is currently being developed for Kelowna,” planner Adriana McMullen last week told the board of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.

“We already have a very robust system in Kelowna. We prefer not to duplicate services, so it makes sense to have a comfortable, easy transfer… at that West Kelowna transfer point.”

Creating that new service was the most common wish cited by a quarter of the approximately 1,100 people with whom B.C. Transit connected during public consultations over the past year.

Other priorities identified included better connections between Penticton and outlying communities, improved accessibility for people with mobility challenges, increased local service and more onboard technology like WiFi.

A draft version of the long-term plan contains 58 recommendations that include “quick wins” like beginning planned service between Okanagan Falls and Penticton, and introducing more local routes in Summerland in five to 15 years.

“I’m a bit devastated,” said Summerland Mayor Janice Perrino, who’s also an RDOS director.

“I don’t want to wait five to 15 years, so that sort of threw me.”

McMullen cautioned, however, that the plan “is still a draft, and depending on what we hear from members of the communities, that will help refine this.”

More public engagement is planned this summer, before a finalized plan is presented to the RDOS and other local governments, which partially fund service, for final approval.

Judy Sentes, a Penticton city councillor and RDOS director, suggested B.C. Transit also look at improving the configuration of its buses.

“There’s not enough space for those that are coming on with strollers, with walkers, wheelchairs, what have you,” she said, adding riders have suggested removing more conventional seats and increasing the area available for those with mobility aids.

West Bench Director Michael Brydon said the RDOS should also look at other transit options, like car share services that are becoming more popular in larger centres.

“I kind of wonder if we’re planning the optimal layout for a Blockbuster video store here, in the sense that things are going to change,” he said.

The board also heard the new five-times-daily service along Eastside Road between Okanagan Falls and Penticton is scheduled to commence in January 2015, provided area taxpayers OK funding through the alternate approval process.

According to B.C. Transit, 67 per cent of trips made in the region are via automobiles, 18 per cent by walking, 10 per cent using transit, and the balance by bike.