How you can help get better regional bus service in Okanagan, Kamloops | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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How you can help get better regional bus service in Okanagan, Kamloops

A Kelowna transit bus is seen in this undated in this file photo.
Image Credit: FILE PHOTO

Frustrated with the lack of regional bus service in the Thompson and Okanagan regions? Now would be a could time to join a provincewide group lobbying local MLAs on the issue.

B.C. Ride is a volunteer group that is about to send a survey to all B.C. MLA’s to gauge their support for a coordinated transit system between towns and cities in the province.

“There are number of small operators that are providing service in B.C.” Maryann Apps, an organizer with B.C. Ride, told “There’s kind of a patchwork where some communities have relatively good service, like the Kamloops to Vancouver run, some communities have medium service and some communities have no service at all.”

E-Bus, for example, runs twice a day from Kamloops to Kelowna and back but does not provide service into the Kootenays, along the Hope-Princeton Highway or through Merritt. It started in 2018 after Greyhound cut all its routes in B.C. but it doesn't cover the whole province.

READ MORE: As Greyhound gets set to exit Interior B.C., Ebus gets approval to move in

Abby lives in Victoria but travels regularly to 100 Mile House to help her parents on their ranch and for things like medical appointments in Kamloops.

“There’s a medical bus once a week,” Abbs said. “Your specialist appointments have to be between 11 and 3 on a Monday in order to make them.”

Schedules between the various small companies are not necessarily coordinated so people may have to stay over for more than a day in one town waiting to connect to a bus to a different town.

The group, which was formed about a year-and-a-half ago, had a petition tabled in the federal parliament on March 28 and is waiting for a response.

Next up is the poll of MLAs, which Abbs hopes will garner replies within a month.

The fight for a provincewide system promises to be an uphill battle since there's a lack of coordination between B.C. Transit systems as well as the small inter-community operators.

As an example, in 2020 the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen funded a bus to connect Penticton to Peachland, which is served by the Central Okanagan transit system.

READ MORE: Peachland stop added to Penticton to Kelowna transit route

Both are partially funded by B.C. Transit, local governments and riders but can only connect to other regions by having each jurisdiction agree.

A Nanaimo to Duncan service was recently launched but that required agreement and coordination between two regional districts.

To complicate matters even more, different contractors are hired by different jurisdictions to operate their transit systems.

First Transit operates the Central Okanagan and Kamloops bus systems but Penticton, Vernon and even Princeton have different operators.

One area of B.C. that does have a regional system is the north where B.C. Bus North launched in 2018 as a result of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

It runs from Prince Rupert through Prince George to Fort St. John and down to Valemount, serving 39 communities. The federal and provincial governments subsidized the program at a cost of $1.6 million for the 2021-22 fiscal year. It’s seen as a temporary service.

Abbs is fully aware that a provincewide system will need to be subsidized, just as municipal systems are currently subsidized.

“This is kind of an equity issue in terms of rural and urban communities with urban communities getting a lot more subsidies for transit than rural communities,” she said.

Not only would such a service aid people in smaller communities to get to medical appointments and visit family, it can also be a tourist draw since all visitors don’t have cars.

Just what such a system looks like remains to be seen.

“We’re not here to design the system,” Abbs said. “We’re here to draw attention to the fact that there needs to be one.”

Anyone who wants to join the campaign can learn more on the B.C. Ride website, here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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