Vicinity buses not the right match for Penticton

Penticton decides not to purchase smaller transit buses, at least not yet.

Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton chats with disabilty advocate James Ludvigson during a trial run of the smaller Vicinity Transit bus. The lack of multiple spaces and mobility aids was a key factor in council's decision not to adopt the new style bus.

Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton chats with disabilty advocate James Ludvigson during a trial run of the smaller Vicinity Transit bus. The lack of multiple spaces and mobility aids was a key factor in council's decision not to adopt the new style bus.

Don’t expect to see one of B.C. Transit’s new Vicinity buses on the streets of Penticton any time soon.

Despite an indication that purchasing two of the 39-passenger buses would save the city about $34,000 yearly, council decided the city  should wait until the bus has been proven in other communities before adopting it for Penticton.

Mitch Moroziuk, the city’s director of operations, said results from a survey of passengers and drivers indicated the small bus were not popular during a two-month trial earlier this year. The main concerns for both drivers and passengers, he said, revolved around the accessibility of the bus, which has only a single door for loading and unloading passengers as well as provisions for mobility aids like wheelchairs, scooters and walkers. Those factors, he said, came up as the top concerns during their surveys.

“Customers were not always able to be picked up. If you had one wheelchair in there and there was another customer at the stop, you had to leave them there,” Moroziuk said, adding that drivers were also concerned about being able to keep to schedule, with the single door slowing down passenger entrance and exit.

Steve Harvard, a B.C. Transit representative, said that the single entrance was considered a problem in all of the communities that tried the bus, though the lack of space for mobility aids was not always a major concern, depending on the demographics of the community.

The biggest issue for Penticton riders, according to Moroziuk, was the lack of space for mobility aids.

“If you leave someone at a stop, they are there for an hour. That’s a long time,” said Moroziuk. “If that could have been addressed … I would have been putting forward a different recommendation.”

The current plan is to delay consideration of adopting the Vicinity model for two years, until production models have been in use in other communities, and the number of wheelchair locations has been increased.

Council also received the results of the transit study for Penticton, which resulted in a laundry list of recommendations, including a slight reduction in evening service, expanding Sunday service with longer hours and a second route as well as bringing on an additional handyDart vehicle and more contingency transit hours for special events.

Council has referred discussion of changes to the transit system until the 2013 budget discussions later this year.