Nova Scotia

Halifax regional council endorses 2 rapid transit projects

The two projects, which include new rapid bus routes, electric buses and three more ferry terminals, could cost more than $786 million over eight years. If the projects are approved at other levels of government, Halifax's share would be less than a third.

$786M project includes electric buses, new rapid bus routes and three more ferry terminals

Three new ferry terminals in Shannon Park, Larry Uteck and Mill Cove are part of the plan. (Robert Short/CBC)

Halifax regional council unanimously endorsed two rapid transit projects, including electric buses and more ferries, for shared funding with the province and federal government on Tuesday.

The first of the rapid transit projects involves four Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) routes designed so that 120,000 people and 100,000 jobs are within 800 metres of the BRT stations.

A staff report states that "BRT lines have less frequent stops than conventional bus routes; stations are generally spaced between 500m and 1km apart at major intersections and destinations."

The BRT network also calls for three new ferry terminals at Mill Cove, Larry Uteck and Shannon Park. Ferries from those terminals would provide a direct route to the downtown core.

"The proposed ferry routes would provide fast, reliable service with travel times to downtown Halifax likely to be faster than travel by private vehicle or bus," said Dave Reage, director of Halifax Transit.

"The routes are anticipated to use multi-hull catamaran vessels with a capacity around 150 people which are capable of operating at higher speeds than our current fleet."

Reage said the service would run at a high frequency throughout the day, seven days a week. He said the plan allows buses to avoid traffic congestion.

He said public engagement, conducted in February and March before the COVID-19 pandemic began shutting things down in the municipality, "generally showed strong support" for the plan.

One project approved unanimously by regional council involves converting Halifax Transit buses to electric buses. (Robert Short/CBC)

The second project involves converting the bus fleet from diesel to a low-carbon or zero-emission fleet. The proposal is to make half of the Halifax Transit's buses electric.

"Complete electrification of the transportation system is a crucial action identified in the municipality's proposed climate action plan and will support the achievement of provincial and federal climate targets," Reage said.

If all goes to plan, the electric buses would be on the road in two to three years.

The rapid transit strategy recommends three new ferry routes and for rapid transit bus routes. (Halifax)

Coun. Lorelei Nicoll said she's thrilled at the prospect.

"That is just the cherry on top as far as I was concerned," Nicoll said. 

The two projects will cost an estimated $786 million over the course of eight years. If both get the go-ahead from other levels of government, the municipality's share would be less than a third over that time period —  $210 million.

Coun. Sam Austin said he's not concerned about the federal government contributing to the project. He said the provincial government "would be the main stumbling block."

Mayor Mike Savage said before the municipality asks for money from other levels of government, it needs to have a plan.

With files from Pam Berman

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