Nova Scotia

Is Halifax ready for commuter rail? Man behind city's transportation plan on board

Rod MacPhail says the municipality needs bus-only lanes and commuter rail in order to reduce congestion.

Rod MacPhail says the municipality needs bus-only lanes and commuter rail to reduce congestion

Rod MacPhail says people will not use transit if the buses are stuck in traffic. (CBC)

The man in charge of creating a new transportation plan for Halifax says the municipality needs bus-only lanes and commuter rail in order to reduce congestion.

Rod MacPhail, a former transportation manager for Toronto, said Halifax's regional plan wants to see 10 per cent fewer drivers on the road over the next 15 years.

"The public has been clear: they would love to not have to drive if they had an alternative," he said.

Reducing congestion

MacPhail said people will not use transit if the buses are stuck in traffic. His team has suggested a slight widening of Bayers Road between Windsor Street and Connaught Avenue so that a pair of bus-only lanes could be created — one in each direction.

Halifax has been buying up properties along Bayers Road because of long-term plans to widen the route to six lanes, but MacPhail does not believe that will do anything to reduce congestion in the province's largest city.

Removing on-street parking

"Highway 102 is a freeway that dumps the traffic onto local roads," said MacPhail. "That math will never work." 

Other streets could also get bus-only lanes, or have on-street parking removed to speed up commuter trips.

The municipality's Integrated Mobility Plan sees commuter rail as the only answer for traffic congestion along the Bedford Highway since there's ongoing development and no room to widen the road.

Commuter rail

Planners believe the municipality may be able to take advantage of federal funding to get a commuter rail system up and running.

MacPhail said he believes Halifax is ready for it.

"I'm really, really hoping we can make commuter rail work."

The latest round of public feedback sessions will continue until Dec 8. 

There will be more meetings in early spring.  A final report with recommendations will be presented to regional council by the end of June 2017.


Pam Berman


Pam Berman is CBC Nova Scotia's municipal affairs reporter. She's been a journalist for almost 35 years and has covered Halifax regional council since 1997. That includes four municipal elections, 19 budgets and countless meetings. Story ideas can be sent to