The union representing Kelowna Regional Transit bus drivers is proposing a Kelowna-based bus operate a route between the city, Penticton and Vernon. —Image: Capital News files

The union representing Kelowna Regional Transit bus drivers is proposing a Kelowna-based bus operate a route between the city, Penticton and Vernon. —Image: Capital News files

Transportation Ministry encourage private operators to fill Greyhound gap in Okanagan

No direct response to proposal by Kelowna transit union to use existing transit buses to serve valley

The B.C. Ministry of Transportation says it is encouraging private sector service providers to consider opportunities to fill the routes being left by Greyhound, including in the Okanagan.

And it says it is looking at all the ways it can integrate services or build on existing models to effectively address impacted communities across the province.

The ministry was responding to news that the union representing bus drivers in the Central Okanagan plans to suggest a Kelowna Regional Transit bus be used to create a route between Penticton, Kelowna and Vernon to replace the Greyhound service that will stop at the end of October.

Amalgamated Transit Union local 1722 president Scott Lovell said earlier this week the union is working on proposal it hopes to present to First Transit—the company that operates the Kelowna Regional system—and B.C. Transit within the next few weeks.

Inquiries asking for reaction to the proposal from B.C. Transit were responded to by the Ministry of Transportation because it is handling any replacement of Greyhound service in the province.

In an email to the Capital News, the ministry said it is encouraging interested service providers to submit applications to the Passenger Transportation Board, which is making new applications for intercity bus service a priority.

“If the board receives an application regarding a transportation option connecting these Okanagan communities, it will be seriously considered,” said the email. The ministry is dealing with possible replacements of the Greyhound Service.

Related: Kelowna transit union to propose B.C. Transit bus for Okanagan

Earlier this summer, Greyhound announced it was cutting all but one route in Western Canada. The surviving route is between Seattle and Vancouver and is operated by Greyhound in Washington State.

The ministry said the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen is also working with BC Transit to institute a regional transit service that would connect Penticton to Kelowna.

There is already a transit bus route connecting Vernon to the UBC Okanagan campus at the northern end of Kelowna and city bus connections from there take passengers to the downtown core and West Kelowna.

“There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ (solution) to this problem and it won’t be an easy fix,” said the ministry about t replacing Greyhound service in B.C. “We are all committed to working together to find an innovative, sustainable solution to providing reliable, safe and affordable long-haul transportation for the people who need it.”

The ministry said it is looks forward to continuing discussions and working with its local and national partners, as well as stakeholders, to find a long-term solution to fill the gap left by Greyhound.

In its email, it did not directly address the possibility of a route that could see an existing transit system bus originating in Kelowna, travelling south to Penticton and then north through Kelowna to Vernon before returning to Kelowna, a proposed by the union. The bus would make stops at smaller communities along the way.

The union would also like to a less frequent run farther south from Penticton to service passenger in Oliver and Osoyoos.

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