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Bus route expansion offered

B.C. Transit is proposing a bus service expansion in the South Okanagan and Similkameen, which would provide more frequent routes to Kelowna.

The expansion would connect commuters in the region to the Central Okanagan’s transit system with a daily trip on weekdays, heading to Kelowna in the morning and returning in the afternoon.

Exact route schedules have not been laid out, but the proposed service expansion would be for all rural areas in the region — including Coalmont, Osoyoos, and locations in between. 

Currently, BC Transit runs a route from Princeton to Penticton once daily from Monday to Friday. They also have a service from Osoyoos to Kelowna which runs only on Mondays. 

“This new connection would provide services for all residents throughout the region who are working, studying, travelling, or going to Kelowna for non-emergency medical purposes,” senior regional transit manager Rob Williams said.

The proposal will be brought to Regional District Okanagan Similkameen board members this week, who will discuss the “costs and risks associated” with the plan.

The route expansion is currently expected to cost just under $259,000. At present, the RDOS would pay close to $160,000, with the cost per household ranging from $1.33 to $4.11. The province would fund just over $87,000.

While not included in the cost layout, the RDOS said it has engaged with partners to try and secure partial funding from municipalities in the Central Okanagan — namely Peachland and West Kelowna, since they would directly benefit from the expansion.

It’s expected a decision would be made by board members to pursue the expansion at the Apr. 5 board meeting. 

If the expansion gains approval from residents and all else goes to plan, the new routes would likely commence in September 2019. 

The proposal comes on the heels of Greyhound’s announcement last month to cut routes through B.C. beginning on May 31, which includes eliminating all bus service in the Similkameen.

Currently, there aren’t plans tabled for any bus route to operate from the Similkameen to the Lower Mainland once Greyhound axes its service.

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