The City of St. John’s and the Federal government have partnered on 4 improvements to public transit in the name of “growing the middle class, and supporting a high standard of living for Canadians and their families for years to come.”

Nick Whalen, Member of Parliament for St. John’s East,  and Dave Lane, St. John’s Councillor at Large, announced the $761,000 project yesterday.

The main win here focuses on accessibility. The funding will see roughly 30 shelters become wheelchair accessible. Some of the funding is also going to a review of the Metrobus system, some towards a computer system that promises to “improve overall system reliability and functionality,” and the rest to the installation of a new tire balancing machine.

The money comes from the Federal Government’s “Transit Infrastructure Improvement Fund,” so it is just that: improvements to infrastructure, not the sorts of operational improvements many folks are longing for.

Naturally, an injection of $761,000 into our public transit system, including improved accessibility, is a good thing. But there’s hesitation among many to call the announcement a great thing, as the plans do not address long-standing frustrations with the Metrobus system, such as how existing bus shelters are often functionally useless in the winter, on account of snow clearing issues.

For example, one of the four projects is “the installation of a new tire balancing machine to allow for in-house servicing.” That does not excite riders quite as much as would have, say,  tweaks to Metrobus’s notoriously inefficient routes in getting from point A to Point B, but those are municipal level issues to address and this is federal funding for infrastructure upgrades.

It remains unclear just how much fixing up of the routes we can do in a non-grid city, in fairness. Surely there’s room for improvement, and commendably, there’s been some acknowledgement of that of late.

But the point remains that all the wheelchair lifts, bike racks, wifi signals, and federal investments in the world can’t really improve a system many won’t ride on account of route inefficiencies, and that sentiment was the reigning counter-balance – hopefully not dismissive reaction – to yesterday’s news.

Besides, there is hope that operational issues will be addressed in the review to be conducted as part of the funding.

Whalen says “this funding will support a modern and accessible public transportation in St. John’s, improving service, and providing a better commuting experience for all transit customers, every day.”

Lane echoes the sentiment of improving the accessibility of our public transportation system. “The comprehensive transportation review, accessible shelters, and technological upgrades will make a positive difference in our community, and in the lives of our residents for many years to come.”

The upgrades come as part of an “Investing in Canada” infrastructure plan, for which the Government of Canada has vowed to invest 28.7 billion in National Public Transit Systems over 12 years. The City and Federal Government will each contribute over $380,000 to these upgrades.