Bus

A public transit system incorporating some Uber-like features, such as pick-up and drop-off right at riders' doors, was suggested to Lake Country councillors this week.

Some Central Okanagan residents could get taxpayer-funded Uber-style rides in the future, proponents of a new regional transportation plan say.

Passengers would be picked up right at their door in a BC Transit vehicle then taken to a regional transportation hub.

The so-called on demand model, outlined this week to Lake Country town councillors, is seen as a way of boosting transit usage in areas of the Central Okanagan that currently has relatively low ridership.

"It would be kind of like an Uber service," said Stephen Power, a Calgary-based consultant who was involved with development of the Central Okanagan Regional Transportation study.

As more people are shuttled between their homes and a transportation hub, through the convenience of doorstep pick-up and drop-off, ridership on the transit network would increase, justifying more frequent service, Power said.

Such an Uber-style aspect to local transportation would be most effective in communities such as Lake Country and Peachland, where populations are relatively low and the density is spread out, making traditional transit service a challenge, council heard.

The Kelowna Regional Transit system cost $25 million to operate last year, with 73% of its funding coming from local and provincial taxpayers, and 27% from fares paid by riders.

Authors of the new transportation plan, which include City of Kelowna planners as well as consultants, have been presenting its details to local governments in the Central Okanagan in recent weeks.

For their part, Lake Country councillors bemoaned what they said was inadequate transit service in the town.

"Right now, regional transit is not that effective for us," Coun. Penny Gambell said.

Other councillors suggested the system be fully taken over by the government, rather than rely on a private contractor for its operation, and said current transit service wasn't even reliable enough for Lake Country students to reach the nearby UBC Okanagan campus in a timely manner.

The Rapid Bus route, which now extends along Highway 97 from downtown Westbank to the UBCO campus, might be extended to Peachland and Lake Country "once population and employment densities are high enough to make that feasible", said Mariah Van Zerr, a Kelowna municipal planner.