New transit service could hit bump in the road this week
B.C. Transit has agreed to help create a new route between Okanagan Falls and Penticton, but the area’s local government representative said he won’t support the plan as written.
The new service, which could begin as early as next year, would swing through the downtown area of Okanagan Falls, then run along the east side of Skaha Lake to Penticton.
That plan is laid out in a B.C. Transit memorandum of understanding that will be presented for approval Thursday to a committee of the board of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.
However, Tom Siddon, the RDOS director for the area, said while the idea of connecting Okanagan Falls and Penticton is a good one, he can’t support a new service that excludes residents on the west side of Skaha Lake.
“It’s only a half-baked solution to a challenge to get more people using transit,” he said.
Siddon suggested a better idea would be a new loop all the way around Skaha Lake to also provide easier access to transit service for residents of Kaleden, St. Andrews and Twin Lakes.
Mark Woods, community services manager for the RDOS, said the proposed new route is based on a recommendation from a consultant who studied regional transit options in 2011.
The consultant’s report pointed out that residents on the west side of Skaha Lake do have access to limited service provided by Osoyoos Transit, Woods said, and also identified a “stronger need” for transit on the east side.
He added that B.C. Transit has the ultimate say.
“The key thing here you’ve got to remember is within the provincial system, if you want to have a B.C. Transit-funded (route), they need to endorse that,” Woods said. “So what they chose to endorse was the Eastside Road course, and that’s what we’re presenting” to the committee on Thursday.
Siddon said he’ll ask committee members to either refer the matter back to staff for further study or put off a decision until a more comprehensive regional transit plan is finished. That work, approved by the RDOS board in December, is expected to be completed by late 2013.
B.C. Transit did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
According to an RDOS staff report attached to the B.C. Transit service offer, the process to implement the new Okanagan Falls-Penticton route would take eight to 10 months to complete.
B.C. Transit estimates the service would cost the RDOS $67,500 annually, before revenue is deducted, and would operate with a single, small bus like the one used on the Naramata-Penticton route.