All aboard!

Riders hop on the 3:36 p.m. bus Wednesday to Kelowna from Cherry Lane Shopping Centre in Penticton.

Approximately 1,500 people caught a ride on the new transit service between Penticton and Kelowna during its first two months in operation, and officials see lots of room for increased ridership.

The service, which launched Sept. 3, features four round-trips on Mondays and two round-trips Tuesdays through Fridays. On average, there were six people on each trip, according to B.C. Transit’s data.

“It’s slightly higher than a couple of comparable routes in the Lower Mainland,” said Penticton city Coun. Julius Bloomfield, a champion for the service.

“It’s rising. I’m encouraged and I think it’ll be a better-used service in the future.”

Bloomfield added he hopes to see better marketing around the route, having found that many people are unaware of the bus or of the park-and-ride option at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

“I can see a fairly big future for it if they keep the rates down,” he said.

The current fare, which was proposed by Bloomfield, is $5 each way.

Karla Kozakevich, the chair of the Regional District of the Okanagan-Similkameen, which oversees regional transit, said she believes new route to be a huge success so early into service.

“It can take two or three years before we see an excellent impact to the service, and that it is something to keep in place and to potentially increase the number of trips provided,” she said. “We’re really fresh out of the gate on this, and to have 1,500 people in the first two months is really great.”

Kozakevich said she’s heard positive reviews while attending community events, and is pleased the service is able to help South Okanagan residents attend appointments in Kelowna or get to school.

“We started the process before the loss of Greyhound,” she explained. “So it’s such an important service now that we don’t have Greyhound.”

All the more so for Elaine Taylor, an Osoyoos resident who doesn’t drive and frequently rides the bus to Kelowna. She described the service as “great.”

On Wednesday, she climbed aboard to attend a concert in Kelowna.

Her only qualm is with the northern terminus.

 “It’s on Queensway, and that’s not very safe there,” she said. “It used to be (at Orchard Park mall), and we loved it.”