• Friday , 27 January 2023

Do you really need to drive a vehicle?

I have an on again off again relationship with vehicles.

Like most people, I got my learner’s license at 15 and a regular driver’s license at 16. And like a lot of people, I got my first car when I was 16. It was a 1978 Ford Granada. I turned 16 in 1990, so it wasn’t the coolest car in the high school parking lot, but it got me around.

I’ve had a string of other vehicles since then, mostly because my job required I have one, or because I was living in Saskatchewan and didn’t want to wait in -40C weather for a bus that may or may not turn up.

But there were a few times when I didn’t have a car and got around fine. When I lived in downtown Calgary the C-Train conveniently went just about anywhere I wanted to go. The transit service in Regina isn’t great, but there was a time when I lived and worked downtown and could make my commute on foot in less than ten minutes. I also lived in central Dublin for a while, which had a decent network of trams and trains and was also very walkable.

Of course, here in the Okanagan we don’t have a big enough population to support the kind of transit infrastructure you find in bigger centres. That’s why when I moved back here recently, I didn’t consider public transportation as an option.

Before I left here four and a half years ago to go to a sister newspaper in Edmonton, Peachland didn’t have a taxi service and I was commuting here from Kelowna. Once when my car was in the shop, I had to take the bus from Glenmore to Peachland and it took at least two hours. I have to say, it wasn’t great.

But fast forward to this year and things are a bit different.

About a month ago I was driving to work when the timing belt went and that was the end of my car. I’d just spent close to $1,500 on repairs to get my car inspection-ready so the timing couldn’t have been worse.

I decided to give public transit a chance and a month on, I have to say I couldn’t be happier.

The bus from West Kelowna drops me off just before I need to be at work and picks me up a little while after I finish. The 97 route gets me efficiently into Kelowna when I want to go shopping, and there is a new link to Penticton that just started this month (although Peachland residents wanting to use it will have to get on in West Kelowna).

Sure, the serious lack of sidewalks around here is a problem and public transit isn’t an option for everyone (hello Trepanier and Ponderosa residents), but for some people it can work.

By Joanne Layh

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