Vernon Mayor Rob Sawatzky (left) and Coldstream Mayor Jim Garlick check out the new transit operations and maintenance centre on 25th Avenue while riding on a bus Friday.

Vernon Mayor Rob Sawatzky (left) and Coldstream Mayor Jim Garlick check out the new transit operations and maintenance centre on 25th Avenue while riding on a bus Friday.

Transit gets a new home

A new operations and maintenance centre for Vernon and North Okanagan transit officially opened at 43rd Street and 25th Avenue Friday.

The future of transit has a starting point.

A new operations and maintenance centre for Vernon and North Okanagan transit officially opened at 43rd Street and 25th Avenue Friday.

“It marks the beginning of a new era for service,” said Jim Garlick, Coldstream mayor.

“It gives it a home that we can base the service out of.”

The facility has been open since early June and it includes an administration and maintenance building, as well as a wash bay, covered diesel fuelling station, outdoor covered storage area and parking.

“It’s capable of housing many more buses,” said Rob Sawatzky, Vernon mayor.

The facility will be used for about 25 years and it comes at the same time that a new terminus is being constructed in downtown Vernon and a service review.

Sawatzky says the service is on the cusp of providing a viable alternative for commuters and possibly evening routes.

“It’s exciting to see the development of the service for Vernon and the surrounding communities,” he said.

The Regional District of North Okanagan’s recently approved regional growth strategy also focuses on transit as a way of moving people around.

“Residents of all North Okanagan communities should be proud of this first step towards our transit vision,” said director Rick Fairbairn of the operations centre.

There were more than 500,000 bus trips on the Vernon system in 2010.

“Transit continues to grow and the demand for transit grows faster,” said Manuel Achadinha, B.C. Transit president.

Among the largest user groups of transit are seniors and youth, particularly those using the routes to the University of B.C. campus in Kelowna.

Of the $13.3 million price tag for the operations and maintenance centre, $4.7 million came from the provincial government while the federal government contributed $3.3 million. The remaining $5.3 million came from the City of  Vernon and the District of Coldstream.

Participating in Friday’s opening ceremony were Okanagan-Shuswap MP Colin Mayes and Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster.