Fredericton Transit makes tech upgrades, but Sunday service remains parked
Fredericton Transit is getting some upgrades.
The city invested in some much-needed technology including an automated bus announcement system, an app for tracking the buses, and an electronic fare collection system.
“We know the transit is and will be a vital service now and into the future,” said Fredericton city councillor Bruce Grandy.
“Today is a day to showcase the new technology on our city buses and reveal how this will improve ridership and the future of public transit.”
New closed circuit cameras have been installed, but are not monitored 24-7. Passenger counters have been installed at both doors to the bus. The city added computer aided dispatch and mobile display terminals and new scheduling software.
Much of the new technology will help inform efficiencies within the transit system, including adding Sunday bus service.
Charlene Sharpe, Fredericton Transit’s manager, said the city has 679 bus stops.
“So, we’re looking for efficiencies to have less frequent stops so that we can improve the speed of our buses and be able to find time to expand our services,” she said speaking to reporters on Wednesday.
The announcement stopped short of adding bus service on Sundays, something many transit users including students have been wanting for a while.
Grandy said the city is now seriously looking at how to move forward, but that plan is unlikely to be finalized before late 2024.
“We really didn’t have good information to say we can put Sunday service in and that mayor is right, it is a large expenditure to do it. It’s not that we don’t want to do it, we want to do it but in order to that expenditure you have to have a plan,” he said.
The city funds the public transit system alone, without much support from other levels of government, meaning any large increase to the transit system would fall solely on the shoulders of taxpayers in Fredericton, according to Mayor Kate Rogers.
“We’re on a path to Sunday service,” Grandy said, adding he is unwilling to deviate from that plan.
A presentation made by Sharpe to the city’s mobility committee back on October 2022 said changes to the transit network structure could begin in the third quarter of 2024.
“These are large financial decisions, and as you know, our budgets are very tight, we have a lot of expenditures … so we want to make sure councillors (are) informed before we make that final call,” Grandy said.
The non-committal language doesn’t sit too well with transit advocate Chris LeBlanc.
He worked for another major transit operator in New Brunswick and during the COVID-19 pandemic learned first-hand what it means to take people’s transit away or limit it.
“We only allowed nine people on the bus (during COVID-19 early restrictions), so when you see the elderly lady with the walker and you have to pull up and say, ‘Sorry, this bus is full … hopefully in the next hour or 15 minutes someone can get to you,’ and you see them cry.”
LeBlanc said transit is vital to all demographics and not providing service on Sunday is hindering people’s ability to access services and even get to work.
“It’s not acceptable. The citizens I’m hearing from, they want Sunday. They need it to live. Transit is your lifeline in the community,” he said.
Sharpe said the city, while also look at the financial cost of transit, is examining whether more buses and drivers might be needed to implement Sunday service.
by Global News