March 18, 2013 - 4:50 PM
By Charlotte Helston
The B.C. Transit future bus has welcomed over 800 people aboard over the past few days, and within it, discussions on the next 25 years of public transit have been driving toward results.
Within the 20-year-old converted bus are educational posters, pamphlets, B.C. Transit staff and a new draft transportation plan. The bus has opened its doors in Armstrong, Vernon, Lumby, and today in Coldstream.
John Hicks, a senior planner with B.C. Transit, says staff did their best to incorporate public input given earlier this year into the plan. He says they've returned a second time to show the public what they've come up with.
"We're asking them if this is what they wanted before we finalize the plan," Hicks says. "So far, it's been a mostly positive response."
The plan involves new core routes within Vernon and Coldstream which will use Polson Mall, Village Green Centre and the Downtown Exchange as transportation hubs.
New routes and more frequent buses are the most common requests from residents. Daniel Lutsenko lives in Coldstream, and would like to see better public transit into town and onward to UBCO.
"Public transit is awesome for students who don't have cars or can't afford the gas to UBCO," Lutsenko says. "It saves them a lot of money."
He says the area still has a ways to go before the community can start to rely on buses to get them where they need to go, when they need to get there.
"I think more people would use transit if there was better service," he says.
For others, transit isn't a choice so much as a necessity. For Wendy Dawson, it's her only mode of independent transportation.
"I lost my ability to drive," Dawson says. "I use the bus at least twice a week now, but sometimes, I still have to walk two kilometers to get where I'm going."
She says her only other option is using handyDART, a B.C. Transit service for people with disabilities. "But that means I have to make my plans four days in advance so I can book the ride," Dawson says.
There are many different transportation needs in the community, from students to seniors to those commuting to work downtown. The system won't become perfect overnight, and that's something Hicks is realistic about.
"That's why it's a 25 year plan, because we can't do it all now," he says. "We need to find ways to get the money for extra buses and increased service."
One thing he hopes will come in the near future is park and rides throughout the area. "We're looking at properties where people could leave their car while they take the bus," Hicks says. Parking would be free, and Hicks says the lots could come from nearby community centers that have the room.
"For people going to UBCO, where do you leave your car?" he says, noting the lack of free available parking.
The plan will ultimately have to be endorsed by local government before changes are made. Click here for more information on North Okanagan transit.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (250)309-5230.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013