St. John's adding hybrid, accessible buses to Metrobus fleet
The City of St. John's is adding eight hybrid buses to the Metrobus fleet, which it says will also bring added accessibility to the public transit system.
In an announcement on Friday at the Metrobus depot in St. John's, officials outlined a partnership deal between all three levels of government to support 18 transportation projects for St. John's and the surrounding area. The federal government is contributing $15.8 million, while the government of Newfoundland and Labrador is adding nearly $12 million and the city $8 million.
"Funding will support the purchase of eight accessible hybrid transit buses to make sure conventional transit options in the city more accessible to wheelchair users," St. John's East MP Joanne Thompson told reporters Friday.
"This investment is also making it easier for residents to stay healthy and active by constructing new shared-use pathways."
Thompson said the buses will help the city cut down on emissions and help people travel around the region easier. She said that will help build a more dynamic capital city.
St. John's Mayor Danny Breen said 49 per cent of the city's greenhouse gas emissions come from public transit.
Breen said the buses and other projects are in the works, including smaller buses that could operate specific routes, adding more bus shelters and constructing the new shared-use pathways for pedestrians.
"One of our city's strategic directions is to be a city that moves, with a goal to expand and maintain a safe and accessible transportation network," Breen said.
"Investing in accessible hybrid buses and building new infrastructure … will allow more people of all ages and abilities to move around our city and get where they need to go."
In March, the city launched a study focused on adding electric buses to its fleet.
At the time, Metrobus general manager Judy Powell said it will take years for that to happen. The study is expected to be completed by June.
GoBus issues under review
Breen said the introduction of the buses will allow for people with mobility issues to have more transit options available to them.
His comments come as multiple users of GoBus Accessible Transit shared concerns with CBC News this week over issues with the system and the implementation of a waitlist due to high demand and a lack of available drivers.
"There's been some issues there that have been identified. Coun. Ellsworth, who's on the St. John's Transportation Commission, has been leading a review of this along with their staff at Metrobus," Breen said.
"So they're looking through those issues now and addressing them. … Hopefully very shortly they'll have some solutions."
Breen said there are currently accessible buses on six routes around the city, and says Friday's announcement will increase that number.