Lake Country residents will have increased bus service beginning September 6 as BC Transit looks to increase ridership on the area’s newest bus line.
Route 32, which had previously linked the Lake’s subdivision with Bottom Wood Lake Road, will begin to service several areas around downtown Lake Country beginning next week including Swalwell Park, the seniors centre, the curling rink and the new Lake Country Food Bank.
“I think this will be a big advantage for the citizens of Lake Country,” said Coun. Bill Scarrow, also a bus driver in Lake Country. “The ridership on the new 32 route hasn’t been really good and we’re hoping by changing the route we might improve it.”
Since it began last September, the route that connects the Lakes with main street has had a lower than expected uptake in ridership. But Scarrow says adding the new stops will allow people better access to the services around Main street, instead of just going up and down between the Lakes and the Bottom Wood Lake Road.
“Ridership has been spotty since it began but we feel we can serve some of the curlers and hockey and sports activities that occur around that area. We can get some of those people from the trailer parks up the hill that we weren’t servicing before.”
With the new Lake Country Food Bank building expected to open by the end of the year, Scarrow says it’s a perfect fit for people that will need to access the food bank and get a ride there and back.
“We need to get ridership up or we could lose the route,” said Scarrow. “I believe the biggest component of this is the food bank and the rec. centre. People can access the food bank and then a half hour later the bus will come back and pick them up.”
The new route will run every half-hour from 7 to 9:30 a.m. and then again in the afternoon from 2 to 6:30 p.m. Scarrow says if ridership increases and they can show demand, the hours of operation could increase in the future.
Another area of transit that Scarrow says needs to improve in Lake Country is the handyDART service, a door-to-door shared transit service for people with permanent or temporary disabilities that prevent them from using fixed-route transit without assistance from another person.
Users must register to use the handyDART and in Lake Country there are 196 registered users with just one bus and one driver to service them.
Scarrow says that limits the time that users are able to access the bus.
“The people that need the handyDART service aren’t getting to where they need to go on time,” he said. “There is a big need in Lake Country because one bus only has the capacity of eight to 16 people.”
Currently the bus and driver are operational for only eight hours and it makes three daily trips into Kelowna where many of the users must access health services.
“If we had an extra bus and a driver we could cover hours from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.,” said Scarrow. “Council is looking to expand handyDART from one bus and eight hours to two busses and 16 hours.”
Despite the need, Scarrow says it’s not a sure thing the handyDART will be increased in the future.
“We have to show the need, then we have to apply to BC Transit and they take all of the applications from around the province and decide which ones are approved.”