Fredericton Transit's fleet of 31 buses are in line for more than $1.1 million in safety and accessibility upgrades under a joint funding agreement announced Thursday.
The federal and municipal funding, announced by Fredericton MP Jenica Atwin and Mayor Kate Rogers, will see the city acquire a closed-circuit television (CCTV) system and an automated passenger counting system for its 28 fixed route buses and three para-transit buses.
It will also fund changes to bus stops to make them more accessible for passengers with mobility issues, and contribute toward the purchase of a new, low-floor accessible transit bus to replace an existing bus that is no longer usable.
The upgrades and "ongoing efforts to make our transit stops more accessible will ... support our overarching goal of increasing ridership in our capital city," Rogers said at Thursday's announcement.
The upgrades also make the city's transit system safer and "more capable of meeting the needs of Frederictonians, especially those who rely on public transit to get to work or school," Atwin said.
The federal government will contribute more than $452,000 to the upgrades, and the City of Fredericton will contribute more than $679,000.
City hopes to boost flagging ridership
The benefits of investing in public transit are clear, Atwin said.
"They make our communities greener and more inclusive."
Both of those are key goals for the city, which has fallen short of the stated "green goals" listed on its Environmental Dashboard.
According to the latest figures on the dashboard, the percentage of residents commuting by active (cycling or walking) or public transportation decreased from 16.8 per cent in 1996 to 9.6 per cent in 2016.
Improving accessibility and safety will "help tackle our city goals," said Elizabeth Fraser, communications coordinator for the City of Fredericton.
Fredericton Transit typically sees about one million passenger trips a year, Fraser said.
"Ridership was between 65 and 70 per cent of that last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic," she said. "Right now, our goal is to get ridership back up to its typical ridership of one million passenger trips."
Automatic passenger counters will be a significant benefit in this regard, pinpointing how many people rely on certain routes and where passengers get on and off the buses, Fraser said.
"This will help Fredericton Transit determine where to use our resources."
The improvements are set to take place by the end of this year or early 2023.