New Fredericton transit manager to give council direction on road to Sunday bus service

·4 min read
Charlene Sharpe, Fredericton's new manager of transit and parking services, is set to provide councillors with direction on the best way to possibly introduce Sunday bus service. (Elizabeth Fraser/CBC News - image credit)
Charlene Sharpe, Fredericton's new manager of transit and parking services, is set to provide councillors with direction on the best way to possibly introduce Sunday bus service. (Elizabeth Fraser/CBC News - image credit)

City councillors are set to get a roadmap for how Fredericton Transit could best offer bus service for the first time on Sundays.

Charlene Sharpe, manager of transit and parking services with the City of Fredericton, is set to offer direction on how to do that during a presentation to the city's mobility committee on May 12, said Coun. Bruce Grandy, who's also chair of that committee.

Charlene Sharpe, formerly of the Toronto Transit Commission, has just been hired in Fredericton and has "a lot of good experience," Grandy said.

"So we're going to rely on her to give us a bunch of data and a bunch of direction on which is the best way to achieve Sunday service, as well as things like on-demand [bus] service," he said, adding the city recognizes there's a "need" for it.

Ed Hunter/CBC
Ed Hunter/CBC

Sharpe was not available for an interview Wednesday.

Grandy said the meeting will give Sharpe the chance to lay out her "vision of transit in Fredericton," as well as build on recommendations that were laid out in the city's Transit Strategic Plan, which was released in January 2019.

The plan, prepared by engineering firm Stantec, was developed to improve service quality and grow transit ridership while identifying new ways of providing transit more efficiently and effectively.

The lack of Sunday services is one of the gaps the plan identifies, and 12 pages are dedicated to analyzing the costs and benefits of providing it under various options.

The plan's authors recommended piloting Sunday service in the fall and winter and using an option for service that would be limited to the two most popular bus routes — 10N / 11S and 12N / 13S — operating under a shortened schedule.

City of Fredericton
City of Fredericton

The plan says that option would have the advantage of focusing on productive, highly used routes, but providing service hours reflective of Sunday business operating hours.

"The final decision of Sunday service of course rests with the community — there is no doubt that Sunday service will add costs to the city, likely with modest ridership," the plan says.

"But if the community values mobility and accepts the additional costs, then Fredericton Transit should consider moving forward with Sunday service."

Asked why the city hasn't implemented Sunday service, Grandy said it's a costly move to make.

The option recommended by Stantec — one of the cheapest options laid out — would have cost the city $167,024, or four per cent of the $4.3 million the city spent overall on transit in 2016.

Grandy said the COVID-19 pandemic has also pushed back any plans, with the large hit suffered in revenue.

"With low ridership, we're subsidizing [transit] heavily," he said. There's no revenues coming back in there.

"So COVID has really delayed a lot of things as it has in a number of areas and a number of industries and transit is the same."

City of Fredericton spokesperson Elizabeth Fraser said the addition of Sunday transit service is considered a medium-term recommendation of three to five years.

"As a result, the city does not have any plans to launch Sunday transit service this year, but it is something we look forward to exploring in the future," Fraser said in an email.

She said that as part of supporting Sunday service in the future, the city is also exploring on-demand transit, as well as the acquisition of passenger counters.

Users voice desire for Sunday service

Last week, Fredericton Transit used its Facebook page to announce some updates, including the resumption of its twice-hourly service between 3:30 and 7 p.m., as well as the roll-out of a brand new bus, equipped with air conditioning and LED lights.

"Wonderful! Now for Sunday Service, please," commented Catherine Hands, on the post about the new bus.

"Cool, but I'd rather have Sunday service," commented Emily Watts, under the post about the resumption of regular afternoon service.

Watts said she thinks the transit service should have been updated when retail stores were first allowed to operate on Sundays.

"The fact that Fredericton doesn't have a Sunday transit service is terrible," she said, in an online message to CBC News.

With no other way to get to work on Sundays, Watts said she has to spend more than $30 to get to work and back home in a taxi.

"Having to pay 15 plus dollars each way to work on Sundays make it very difficult for people living paycheque to paycheque."

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