SUDBURY -- A joint effort between Greater Sudbury, the province and the federal government is bringing nearly $100 million to make improvements to GOVA transit across the city.

Included in the funding is money for 53 new transit buses, a boost to the city's aging fleet that is costly to maintain, causing transit to frequently exceed its budget.

"This is another historic announcement for the City of Greater Sudbury," said Sudbury MP Paul Lefebvre at a news conference Thursday. "Basically a $39.7 million investment in Sudbury transit, so this will allow them to continue to modernize certainly the infrastructure and certainly to purchase 53 new buses over the next eight years."

In addition to federal money, Ontario is providing more than $33.1 million to the projects, while the City of Greater Sudbury is contributing more than $26.4 million. The money will go to five different projects in an effort to improve public transit and encourage more people to use the city system.

Electronic fare payments

"There's going to be new electronic fare payment," said Michelle Ferrigan, director of transit. "On demand service that will improve how people are moving and the frequency. Traffic signal priority will be given to transit

"The two major projects will be a design in our transit hubs. So the three hubs that we have that are the backbone of where all the buses come in and out."

The project with the largest price tag is the replacement of the 53 buses, which will consume $13.7 million in federal funding, $11.47 million in provincial funding and another $9.18 million in city and other funding.

Ferrigan said the new city buses will be the same as current models, making them user friendly for everyone.

"We will continue to buy low floor buses with wheelchair accessibility," she said.

The projects were approved following an application from city council, which outlined priorities and a plan for developing transit in the next several years.

"It's a great initiative that the city had, great leadership on their part," said Lefebvre. "That's why they were successful and that's why we're looking forward to seeing these investments, the fruits of those investments here in Greater Sudbury."

Historic announcement

Mayor Brian Bigger was at the announcement Thursday morning and says it is a great thing for the city.

"This is, I believe, the second largest commitment financially to the City of Greater Sudbury in its history," Bigger said. "This is a very significant investment in our community and investment in our infrastructure."

The possibility of more jobs in the future due to these improvements was also brought up.

"The increase in jobs would be related to increase in ridership," said Bigger. "So all of this is based on the idea that we increase ridership, that we improve our system to have more people riding on our community's transit system, less people driving in cars - this is good for our environment. It aligns with our community energy and emission plan and our commitment to zero carbon by 2050."

Over the last several months with the COVID-19 pandemic, ridership on GOVA transit in the city has been hard hit. Ferrigan said it has been operating at about half its normal ridership.

However, this is something officials expect to change shortly.

"We currently have something planned for September where we anticipate that ridership will increase," Ferrigan said. "Right now it's summer, so ridership is low, it's difficult. So the frequency will be increased for September and we can also just judge dynamically and add busses and frequency as it's needed."