Halifax Transit drops transfer-heavy plans

Halifax Transit has dropped plans to overhaul the bus and ferry system and make it rely on transfers, after a staff report found that would be unworkable in the city.

Passengers' group 'confused' and 'disappointed' by about-face

Halifax Transit will release its new plans next year. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Halifax Transit has dropped plans to overhaul the bus and ferry system to make it rely on transfers, after a staff report found that would be unworkable.

In January, Eddie Robar, director of Metro Transit (as it was then known) said passengers would be better served by a system that relied on people taking routes from the outskirts closer to town, and then transferring to get into the city.

At the time, he called it bold, and the right way forward.

But now that plan has been shelved. Dave Reage, a planning manager with Halifax Transit, said a closer look revealed it wouldn't work. 

"A city the size of Halifax doesn't have the population to sustain that type of service. The other big issue is our geography, in that we don't have a grid road network," he said Thursday. 

A staff report found the transfer-based system “is not the ideal transit service for Halifax.” Factors against it are:

  • The size of the municipality
  • The “funnel-like” nature of the road network
  • The inability to reach a high enough frequency to make travel times appealing

Halifax Transit will now build on the existing system and require the minimum amount of transfers to complete a trip.

Sean Gillis belongs to It’s More Than Buses, a transit advocacy group. 

“We’re definitely disappointed, but also a little bit confused,” he said. “There’s really not a lot of information about the decision.”

He understood the reservations, but took issue with the lack of consultation. “Backtracking on principles, that was very surprising, because those principles were developed through significant public engagement.”

The new decision included no public consultation.

It's More Than Buses is releasing its ideas Sept. 18 at the Bus Stop Theatre. It backs the transfer-heavy system. “In the report that came out, they really talked about the negatives of a transfer-based network, and they didn’t talk about the positives,” Gillis said.

The positives would include greater frequency of service, he said. 

Halifax Transit plans to release an updated draft of its plans In January, and then put it into practice in 2016. The city will hold more public sessions to discuss the plans in 2015.  

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