Lake Country council input fuels changes to bus service

Lake Country council gave feedback Tuesday night on a presentation from BC Transit highlighting potential changes to the community's bus service.

Bus service in Lake Country will see some improvements over the next several years according to the most recent draft of a transit plan that BC Transit is working on. Council received a presentation this week from Michelle Orfield, senior transportation planner with BC Transit, that outlines the possible changes.

Orfield says that in reviewing information gathered from public consultations two common themes emerged from the data. The first priority of most respondents is to increase connections to Kelowna. To a lesser extent the data suggests that increased local service should also be a priority.

In regards to increasing connections to Kelowna, the draft future transit plan would see route 23 (the Lake Country bus) operate on 15 minute service intervals during peak hours and 30 minute intervals during off-peak times.

Councilor Penny Gambell says that even with the increased service, route 23 is still flawed. Under the existing schedule riders traveling to Kelowna on route 23 must transfer at UBC-Okanagan which is proving problematic.

“Our goal has to be to get to Orchard Park. People want to get right into Kelowna without having to transfer at the university. Those buses that leave UBC-O are overcrowded and there are difficulties transferring there,” said Gambell.

The problem with moving route 23’s transfer point comes down to funding. Stephen Banmen, chief financial officer for the District, says that Lake Country pays 100 per cent of the costs for route 23 despite the fact that a significant portion of it runs through Kelowna. Moving the transfer point further away from Lake Country increases the costs associated with the route which in turn reduces the frequency of service that is available under the municipality’s transit spending.

Councilor Bill Scarrow works as a bus driver with BC Transit. He agrees with Gambell’s assessment of the situation and says there are ways to work around the financial implications of routing the 23 to Orchard Park.

“A number of years ago the 23 used to turn into the 8 (which travels between UBC-O and OUC via Orchard Park) when it got to the university. People might have had to wait five minutes when it got to the university but they got to stay on the bus and didn’t have to worry about transferring,” says Scarrow.

To address the demand for improved local bus service, the future transit plan proposes a route between Winfield and Oyama via Oyama Road. The route would operate 12 round trips daily during peak hours.

Gambell expressed concern as to whether or not the route between Winfield and Oyama is needed. She says the money the District has to spend on transit is limited and she argues that it makes the most sense to hold off expanding local service until the core demand for service between Winfield and the heart of Kelowna has been satisfactorily established.

Scarrow says it may take time to build up ridership on an Oyama to Winfield route but given time he sees potential in it.

“At first we might see just a few fruit pickers using the bus to get to the orchards along Oyama Road. Eventually though I think students will start using it and after them I see working people getting on board too,” says Scarrow.

The Lakes would also gain the benefit of a 12 trip daily bus service.

The route 90 bus between Kelowna and Vernon would have four trips added to its daily schedule bringing its total to 12.

Now Orfield will take council’s feedback and prepare a final draft of the Transit Future Plan before returning to council later this year to ask for municipal endorsement.

 

Orfield says the transit changes described above would be implemented as part of BC Transit’s short-term strategy. The plan also outlines medium and long-term transit plans.

 

Medium-term strategies:

30 minute base service all-day and everyday

Expanded handyDART service

Service to Lakestone

 

Long-term strategies:

15 minute base service all-day and everyday

Service to Okanagan Centre and Carr’s Landing

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