After the Okanagan Transit Alliance challenged elected officials to rely on transit for the week in hopes of getting them to notice issues with local transit systems, spoke with transit users to hear what they think of the system.

The transit system in Kelowna is often the only option for people who wish to get from here to there but don't have cars.

"I use the bus every day and it's my only mode of transportation really, but if I have to go to somewhere that isn't central, it gets harder and sometimes I still have to ask people around me for rides," says Richard Nikodym, a regular transit user. "If you're not going to the university, the mall or downtown, you might not have a bus that will take you to where you need to be."

Transit takers seem to agree that more bus routes need to be added to less central places of the city and even outside the city.

"It can get hard to travel solely by bus, especially in the wintertime. You can't necessarily get everywhere only by bus, especially from Peachland to Kelowna, that is the worst," says Lea Nelson who also takes the bus daily and would love to see a way to get to Kelowna from Peachland.

"The bus system is enough for me because I don't use it much, I only need it to get downtown and sometimes to the mall," says Sarah Gardner who has been taking the bus twice a week for the past month. "I don't think there are many buses outside of the Mission, towards there which is ridiculous."

Kelowna Regional Transit System map
Kelowna Regional Transit System map
Image Credit: BC Transit

Another issue seems to be the lack of coordination between different bus routes. Riders wish the buses were more coordinated so that wait times between transfers didn't have to be so long.

"The problem I have with it, and I know other people do too, is that, for example, if I am going into the Mission which is the number one bus, but the buses don't coordinate. One bus might get in at 11:30, but the number one might leave at 11:25 so then we got all these people hanging around for half an hour and that's a big problem if you're going to work or are a student," Gardner says.

"Sometimes it gets a bit stressful when you have to get a transfer because I know that if I miss my transfer I have to wait at least fifteen minutes for the next one and if I have someplace to be it makes me really late, then again, even if I don't it's just annoying," Nikodym says. "When it comes to going to school, I make sure I leave up to an hour early if I have a really important class or exam because I don't want to run the risk of being late; I'd rather be waiting around in the library until my class starts than waiting around for a bus knowing I'm going to be late."

Being punctual is a necessity for mastering the transit system according to Nikodym, but no matter how punctual one might be, it will always take more time to get around in transit than it is to use a car.

"From where I live, it takes me 30 to 45 minutes to get to school depending on the bus I take and the time I leave, but if I had a car, it would be a 15-minute drive," he says. "That means I'm losing between 30 to 60 minutes a day just because I have to rely on transit which is a decent chunk of time, but when you start dealing with late buses, and missed transfers, it gets to be too much."

On punctuality, Gardner noticed something else that, if fixed, could slightly improve the transit system in the City.

"The clock at the station downtown is always slow, I have my phone so I can check the real-time, but because it's slow, the buses always leave a few minutes late which if you're going to transfer can be quite annoying."

When it comes to the cost of transit one thing is clear: it's cheaper than having a car, but to some it might not necessarily be cheap enough.

"My (student) monthly pass is $55 a month, which is probably under what I would be paying in gas if I had a car, so that's good," Nikodym says. "I just think it could be a lot cheaper for normal monthly passes, because that $70 is only profitable if you use your pass more than 29 times in a month, so for someone who only uses it during weekdays, once a day, they're losing money. I'm obviously not, but I still feel like it could be cheaper for others, and maybe that would be a way people could be encouraged to use transit more; if it were cheaper."

Other users like Harpreet Kaur say they're completely satisfied with the service they get.

"I don't take the bus much, but when I have to, I am always able to get where I need to get on time, and I think it's cheap, it's for sure cheaper than if I were taking a taxi," she says. "The buses are always clean and the drivers are nice and helpful if I have a question, so I have no complaints."

While some are completely satisfied, others maintain that there are notable improvements that could be made to the transit system especially when it comes to making more routes for underserved areas and coordinating buses so that wait times during transfers aren't too long. One thing no one can disagree on is that many people in Kelowna still rely on the transit system daily.

The Kelowna Regional Transit System is made up of 100 buses and 31 routes from Penticton to Vernon. A ticket is usually $2.50 and day passes are available for $6.50, but reduced fares are available for children, students and seniors. For people with permanent or temporary disabilities, the transit system also offers has HandyDARTs allowing adapted transit services.

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