Nfld. & Labrador

Metrobus returning to near-normal in fall but holding off on expansions

Metrobus users will have a fairly normal service starting in September, but plans for improvements on main routes through St. John's are being put on hold.

Plans to improve 4 main routes won't go ahead as planned

A metrobus pulls into Memorial University. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Metrobus users will have a fairly normal service starting in September, but plans for improvements on main routes through St. John's are being put on hold.

St. John's city Coun. Ian Froude says the transportation service will begin to walk back reductions to service brought in due to COVID-19 and start returning to its regular schedules.

An exception will be express routes to Memorial University and College of the North Atlantic, due to an expected reduction in demand since most classes are taking place online.

"We'll be monitoring as we go and we have the ability to adjust up and down based on ridership. But what we want to do is provide a reliable service," Froude told The St. John's Morning Show.

While returning to normal has been a careful process, going beyond normal is not in the cards right now.

Coun. Ian Froude, chair of Metrobus Transit, says he hopes to see ridership grow again. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

The city had plans to improve the four main routes throughout the city — lines 1, 2, 3 and 10 — so that they arrived every 15 or 30 minutes.

"We decided to delay that for now, and the rationale behind that was we want to do it at a time where we know ridership will grow into that. We also have difficulty predicting what ridership will look like in the fall," he said.

Froude said Metrobus ridership had been growing at about nine per cent year over year, and he looks forward to seeing numbers increase again.

One major change coming is the province's grant of free bus passes to about 10,000 people in the metro region who are on income support. The initiative started with Froude and the city, and the councillor lauded the province for getting it done.

The city is projecting a $18-million deficit this year, much of it due to the pandemic. It's put a damper on other initiatives, such as the improved main routes.

"We have to balance the need for, the desire for increased frequency with the necessity of managing the budget closely. Because so many things are in flux right now, we feel that's the right move," Froude said.

The fall schedule for Metrobus comes into effect in early September.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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