Bigger transit buses to service South Okanagan, but residents say it’s not enough

BC Transit is providing larger buses in the South Okanagan. Courtesy: BC Transit/ Global News

Editors Note: BC Transit has added comment and corrected information about the bus that will now service routes 40 & 41 in the South Okanagan, telling Global News it will be the ’35’ Vicinity’, not the ’30’ Vicinity’ bus identified in the Town of Osoyoos press release photo. 

Small steps toward better service for the community.

That’s what Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff says about bigger transit buses to service her South Okanagan town and the greater region.

“We’re happy to see it,” McKortoff told Global News.

The Town of Osoyoos announced that medium-duty buses have been acquired from BC Transit to replace smaller transit vehicles that have been servicing route 40 (Osoyoos-Penticton) and route 41 (Osoyoos local).

“Sometimes there was no room on the bus,” McKortoff says she’s heard from South Okanagan transit riders when it came to the small, light-duty transit vehicle that has been servicing the route between Osoyoos and Penticton and around town.

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According to McKortoff, the Town of Osoyoos and the Regional District of South Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS) have been working to increase passenger-load capacity to accommodate current physical distancing requirements on the bus.

“We’ve been dealing with this for quite some time,” she said.

South Okanagan transit is funded by both the RDOS and local municipalities.

The route 40 and 41 bus routes only run five days a week, with limited hours that have been impacted by the pandemic.

While ridership has been down during the pandemic, demand for transit in the South Okanagan is expected to increase as vaccines are rolled out and area residents resume regular routines like attending appointments in person, according to McKortoff.

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The BC Transit website states the 10.7 metre (35 foot) Vicinity’ buses that will now operate on routes 40 and 41 have capacities for up to 54 passengers seated and standing. That’s nearly double the 30-passenger capacity of the light-duty buses.

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McKortoff says their next step is to expand service times, but there is no timeline for those possible changes — something residents are keen on.

Lou Reimer, an Osoyoos resident, says larger buses are a start, but would like to see the Osoyoos to Penticton transit bus head all the way to Kelowna “for hospital appointments and able to return the same day. That would be awesome!”

Resident Lori Cailin Brahdsheagh says she’s still not impressed with South Okanagan transit service.

“It would be nice to be able to commute using transit for work in Penticton,” Brahdsheagh told Global News. “I avoid applying to positions in Penticton because I do not want to make the drive in the winter.”

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The Osoyoos to Penticton bus leaves Main Street at 7:15 a.m., Monday to Friday, and returns at 2 p.m.

Terry Hartmann, also of Osoyoos, says “it seems better than the (previous) bus.”

Tyler Da Costa calls the new bus a step in the right direction, but says the Osoyoos to Penticton route needs improvement.

“It helps people like me who don’t have a driver’s license commute and people like my disabled father who lost his license due to his disability commute,” said Da Costa. “I’ve rode that bus and have seen how many elderly people that it helps to get to their appointments.”

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The buses have been brought in from other jurisdictions, according to BC Transit.

“As this bus delivery wasn’t the result of new vehicle purchases, they could only be provided to the South Okanagan-Similkameen Transit System when the required medium-duty buses were made available from another transit system,” said BC Transit spokes person Jamie Weiss. “Replacing the previous light-duty buses with these larger vehicles will help improve reliability and efficiency for the routes 40 and 41.”

Face coverings are mandatory on BC Transit buses and at bus shelters.

South Okanagan transit routes 40 and 41 now have a larger bus to service the region. Courtesy: BC Transit
South Okanagan transit routes 40 and 41 now have a larger bus to service the region.

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