St. John’s city council is working to address rising costs on its para-transit services.
An announcement on Thursday outlined the ongoing review of GoBus services to address rising costs and issues with the system.
The City of St. John’s spends $3.9 million annually on GoBus operating costs.
In 2018, the net cost per ride (operating cost minus passenger fare revenue) to the city for GoBus transit was $24.30, or a 90 per cent subsidy.
“The cost here is close to average of other jurisdictions across the country,’’ Coun. Ian Froude, who sits on the transit committee, said Thursday afternoon while making the announcement of interim solutions aimed at improving GoBus services.
“The challenge for us right now is if we see the ridership grow.’’
One of the biggest changes will be in the “no show” policy. People have to book their rides 24 hours in advance and under the current definition, “no show” cancellations will be changed from 90 minutes to 45 minutes and the city will discontinue paying for no shows at 90 minutes.
In addition, GoBus users will be faced with an unfortunate impact of this recommendation, as each user will have to be reassessed to confirm their eligibility.
The city’s inclusion advisory committee is working with Metrobus staff and advocacy groups to make this process as easy possible and will ensure that supports are in place for all users who wish to seek continued eligibility on GoBus.
“Coming out of the City of St. John’s consultation, whomever needs it gets the service,” Debbie Ryan, a member of the City of St. John’s inclusion advisory committee, said Thursday.
“It is a standing practice. There is a growing population here and this increases the demand, not to mention we have an aging population (that uses and requires the services),’’ she added.
Council understands the importance of creating opportunities for inclusion within the conventional Metrobus service that foster independence and a greater connection to the community for persons with disabilities.
The city’s expenditures include wheelchair accessible buses as part of the ongoing improvements to public transportation.
All buses within the Metrobus fleet have the ability to “kneel to the curb” and bus ramps can currently be deployed at over 80 per cent of stops along six wheelchair-accessible routes.
These changes would not be immediate, and users can continue to book rides as they have done previously. These recommendations will be discussed at council’s committee of the whole on March 20 and will be voted on at a future council meeting.
“We are currently communicating with all registered GoBus users and will continue to share information and timelines as they become available,” Froude said.
“Feedback is also welcomed from the community either through advocacy groups, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by contacting Metrobus directly,’’ he added.
The city says it is working with the disability community to explore options to expand accessibility.
The transit review is focused on improvements to the frequency of service, route design, operating hours and passenger amenities that are the most beneficial and cost effective for the residents of St. John’s. Recommendations from the review will guide how transit is planned, implemented and funded over the next five to 10 years, and are expected to be released this spring.