PENTICTON - The future of transit in the South Okanagan and Similkameen includes more connections to Kelowna and increased ridership.
B.C. Transit staff have been busy meeting with local politicians across the province about the developing Regional Tranist Future Plan and made a stop in Penticton on April 2 to update Okanagan Similkameen Regional District directors.
Directors took part in a workshop to engage them in a vision of what future transit infrastructure would look like as the Future Plan nears completion.
A presentation to the board prior to the workshop brought directors up to date on the status of the study.
Chief Administrative Officer Bill Newell credited the City of Penticton’s transit master plan, completed two years ago, for providing the impetus for the present transit future plan being conducted regionally. He said the new Okanagan Falls route, which began service in January, was a result of discussions surrounding a peripheral master plan for communities close to Penticton.
B.C. Transit's Regional Transit Manager Daniel Pizarro said the transit future plan being developed in the Regional District should “dovetail” into the Central Okanagan Regional District’s plan in order to improve access to Kelowna, something in high demand from potential transit riders.
B.C. Transit Planner Adriana McMullen discussed the transit future plans’ results from two public consultative phases. She said 2,300 people had been engaged in the process through 16 workshop events in the region. More than 1,900 residents attended the transit future bus open houses that took place in regional district communities over the past two years.
McMullen said residents were looking for inter-regional connections, improved local connections and vehicle technology such as Wi-Fi and more comfortable seating. Future changes in personal mobility was also an issue for many, 63 per cent of whom said they would likely need to use transit at least twice weekly in the next 25 years.
She said Phase Two results showed "resounding support for network improvements,” priorities being routes between Osoyoos and Penticton, and Penticton to Kelowna.
Present usership of existing transit facilities continues to be on the low side when compared to all trips taken in the region.
In Penticton, 1 1/2 per cent of all trips taken presently use transit. Future growth over the next 25 years is expected to see that increase to three per cent, from 450,000 rides to 1.2 million. Rural transit routes are even less utilized, under one half per cent. Future projections see that number increasing to two per cent, from 40,000 rides annually to 540,000.
A draft copy of the transit future plan will be sent to the board next week, coming before the board for endorsement on April 16. The plan then goes to the B.C. Transit Board for endorsement in May.
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