by Holly Plante, President
Preliminary Report on Proposed Bus Shuttle Service Osoyoos to Kelowna International Airport (YLW) Kelowna -South Okanagan Shuttle Service
It is generally agreed Kelowna is the primary regional transportation hub for products and services within the Okanagan valley. It is definitely the transportation hub for service to the North and South Okanagan valley, whether traveling by automobile or bus and certainly by air. Apart from freight service, people transportation needs are twofold: Tourist Needs and Resident Needs.
1. Tourist Needs: While Kelowna is the primary hub for year round Okanagan tourist activity for both the north and south Okanagan, this report is intended to focus on the South Okanagan which includes all communities along Highway 97 south from Kelowna to Osoyoos and includes the communities of West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Penticton, Kaleden,Okanagan Falls, Oliver and Osoyoos and all associated regional districts.
In the same way Calgary is the destination air hub to access Banff and Jasper for skiing in winter and hiking, sight-seeing, fishing and golf in summer; Kelowna is the primary destination by air for Silver Star, Big White, Apex and Mt. Baldy in winter, the wineries, the lakes, and golf in the summer. On a larger scale, Los Angeles serves Napa Valley in much the same way. It is the primary air hub from which tourists access surrounding attractions.
However, given the same parallel as Calgary and LA, tourism activities and destinations in the south Okanagan are not easily enjoyed or for the most part accessible by foot or bicycle. In South Okanagan communities getting from one resort to another within the town without a car can be a challenge with limited taxis and private shuttle services.
An efficient and seamless shuttle service operating from the Kelowna International Airport to bring a tourist or a tourist family from the airport to a downtown Okanagan Falls, Oliver or Osoyoos destination would not likely facilitate their tourist needs unless each community was served by a local scheduled shuttle service. There of course are exceptions depending upon the intended length of stay, the event or events to be attended and the traveller’s budget.
At this time, the best way to meet the primary needs of a tourist arriving at the Kelowna International Airport or the Penticton Airport destined to visit or stay in the South Okanagan is an efficient, cost-effective car rental service at the airports.
The success of a shuttle catering to tourists travelling from the Airports to the South Okanagan could be further enhanced with a town shuttle service being established. The financial success of shuttle services would require strong resident use and support.
2. Resident Needs: The Kelowna General Hospital and regional health care specialists available in Kelowna to serve the south Okanagan are not easily accessible by residents that do not drive. This is also true for healthcare services that are available in Penticton.
There are also some retail products and services available in Kelowna, West Kelowna and Penticton which south Okanagan residents may wish to access but again are not easily accessed unless by automobile.
A third requirement is for residents who travel on international or domestic business or holiday travel outside the Okanagan valley by air and return to Kelowna or Penticton, and need to complete the last leg of their journey to a south Okanagan destination.Unless someone meets them at the airport, there is no easy transportation connection.
The primary South Okanagan resident users are likely the 55 and older population who do not always drive. A significant part of this market are those who leave from the airports for a winter holiday and do not want to leave a car at the airport or ask a friend to deliver and retrieve them from the airport.
The South Okanagan is strongly marketed to seniors for retirement living and this population needs the connections to the larger centers for healthcare and travel outside the area. While the Penticton airport provides domestic air services, frequency and schedules are often inadequate to meet the above needs.
The best way to meet the needs of the south Okanagan resident is an efficient, cost-effective shuttle service from Osoyoos to the Kelowna International Airport with strategic intermittent stops to include the communities of Oliver, Okanagan Falls, Kaleden, Penticton, Summerland, Peachland and West Kelowna and return scheduled service.
3. Service Area: While it is the interest of the South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce to better serve its membership and respective communities of Osoyoos, Oliver, Okanagan Falls and regional districts, with all due consideration, any service put in place to serve the South Okanagan should also include Kaleden, Penticton, Summerland, Peachland and West Kelowna. There is little question, the addition of such communities would aid in establishing the most efficient, cost-effective and user-friendly shuttle service.
The South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce Board approves proceeding to the next step at the earliest convenience to meet with all interested stakeholders from the communities named to establish the scope and scale of their needs and interests. If deemed required by the majority of current stakeholders and communities named, the Board supports the commissioning of an independent study by qualified professionals to advance this initiative.