Summerland residents will have free transit for a year as council has approved a free fare pilot project for Route 30.
The project will begin on Earth Day, April 22, and will run until April 22, 2024.
Council made the decision at the April 3 council meeting, but had been discussing a transit pilot program since early January. Details of the program have not been finalized.
Odessa Cohen, sustainability coordinator for the municipality, said the financial implication of the project would be around $20,000 in lost revenue.
Members of council had mixed responses to the transit initiative.
Coun. Doug Patan questioned the cost of the pilot program, since the Summerland to Penticton bus route has an average of 26 daily boardings, according to BC Transit figures.
“Is this a benefit for the majority of Summerlanders or is this a benefit for a select few?” he asked. “That’s where I’m having a problem.”
Coun. Marty Van Alphen said the program will have an effect on Summerland businesses. The program offers free bus travel to Penticton for Summerland residents, but does not give Penticton residents a free bus ride to Summerland.
Coun. Janet Peake also expressed concern about the potential effects on Summerland’s retail businesses.
Coun Richard Barkwill said he would like to see the free service put in place for a full year, in order to see its effects.
Coun. Erin Trainer said the purpose of the project is to encourage people to use the transit service.
“The goal is to get more people riding the bus,” she said. “It’s not just about. The money. It’s about the environment.”
Coun. Adrienne Betts said she would rather see money spent on promoting the existing bus service.
“I would prefer to see some money invested in better communication to actually advertise our bus services,” she said. “As a resident, I barely knew that we had a bus.”
Mayor Doug Holmes said the free service could encourage people to use the transit service between Summerland and Penticton.
“If we want to get people out of their cars and into transit, maybe this is the way to do it,” he said.
Summerland has had a transit service to Penticton since 2013.
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