The union that represents Kelowna Regional Transit drivers is preparing to lobby for a valley-wide public bus service connecting Penticton to Vernon, based out of Kelowna.
Scott Lovell, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1722, said Wednesday members of his local are now talking about making a the proposal in light of Greyhound Canada’s decision to pull out of Western Canada, halting all routes with the exception of one between Seattle and Vancouver operated by Greyhound in Washington State.
He said the proposal could be made within the next few weeks.
“We have to do something for the smaller towns (between Penticton, Kelowna and Vernon),” said Lovell.
The route the union will suggest would see a Kelowna Regional Transit bus run from Kelowna to Penticton and then double back passing through Kelowna, head to Vernon and then back to Kelowna. It would stop in smaller communities along the way.
“The service should be seamless,” he said.
In addition, Lovell said there should be one or two runs per week south of Penticton to serve Oliver and Osoyoos.
Kelowna should be the hub given its central location, the fact it has a larger transit systems with extra buses available and the expertise to operate such a route, he added.
But while the union can make the suggestion for such a route using the public transit system, as well as lobby for it, the final decision will be a political one. It would, however, take the agreement of B.C. Transit, the companies currently operating the transit systems in the North, South and Central Okanagan and the municipalities served by those systems.
So far, no private companies have stepped forward with a proposal to replace Greyhound’s service in the Okanagan when it stops at the end of October.
But recently, a private company called Silver City Stagelines proposed running a bus between Nelson and Kelowna, stopping in Castlegar, Trail, Grand Forks, Greenwood, Midway and Rock Creek.
Currently transit service in the Vernon.Kelowna and Penticton is operated by two different companies—First Transit in Kelowna and Vernon and Berry and Smith in Penticton. But the First Transit operations in Kelowna and Vernon are separate and run out of different offices.
There is B.C. Transit service now between Vernon and the UBC Okanagan campus north of town.
The only bus service between Penticton and Peachland—the southern end of the Kelowna Regional Transit system—is provided by Greyhound and that is one of the routes that will be cut later this year.