Transit driver Grant Stone operates a bus between Summerland and Penticton. Summerland council is considering offering a free service between the two South Okanagan communities. (Summerland Review file photo)

Transit driver Grant Stone operates a bus between Summerland and Penticton. Summerland council is considering offering a free service between the two South Okanagan communities. (Summerland Review file photo)

Summerland council considers free bus service to Penticton

Annual fares from riders come to $27,000

Summerland council is considering a free transit service to and from Penticton.

At the municipal council meeting on April 25, Coun. Doug Holmes proposed the idea of providing free service on Route 30, which provides service between the two communities six days a week.The fares collected on this route total $27,383.

READ ALSO: Feedback sought to expand transit service between Penticton and Summerland

READ ALSO: Ridership down but recovering for South Okanagan bus routes: BC Transit report

“It’s not a lot of money,” Holmes said. “Providing free transit would be the greatest publicity we could do.”

The overall cost of transit for the coming year is budgeted at $189,146, an increase of $45,515 over the previous year.

David Svetlichny, Summerland’s director of finance, said the increase comes because of the additional 900 hours Summerland approved to expand service along the bus route.

In addition to Holmes, other members of council supported the concept of free transit to and from Penticton.

“A lot of people have to go to Penticton now for health services,” said Coun. Erin Trainer.

Mayor Toni Boot said providing free transportation addresses concerns about affordability within the community.

Coun. Richard Barkwill said a free transit service on a trial basis would indicate how much the fares affect passenger numbers.

“I see it as an experiment almost, to see how much ridership goes up if we make it free,” he said.

Svetlichny said a free transit service would have some challenges involved. For instance, since the bus also makes several stops in Penticton, it could provide residents of that city with free transit service, even though Summerland would be absorbing the cost of the fares.

The transit operating budget for the 2022 to 2023 year was approved, and Summerland municipal staff will examine offering a free service on a trail basis, in cooperation with B.C. Transit.

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