Halifax desperately needs a more aggressive plan to provide many more residents with fast, frequent and reliable transit service. Sadly, Halifax Transit’s preliminary budget for next year doesn’t provide us with that plan. The status quo reigns: a five year roll out of the new network (the Moving Forward Together Plan) and modest expansion of standard bus service this year.
The proposed budget falls dramatically short on two pivotal projects: quick implementation of a new, more effective transit network; and infrastructure plans to get buses moving past traffic.
At budget deliberations, several Councillors identified the big problem with our transit system – it takes way too long to get anywhere. So, predictably, most people choose other ways to travel.
There are a few reasons why our transit is so slow. Our buses take twisty routes and don’t come often enough: a new transit network is needed now to start addressing this. Halifax Transit, however, is still planning for a five-year roll out of the new network. Our buses also travel slowly and get jammed in traffic: new infrastructure like transit lanes, turn lanes, special traffic lights and transit right-of-ways are needed. So far, Halifax Transit’s response has been to increase the scheduled run times on congested routes. So transit is actually getting slower. It’s unsurprising that ridership dropped 1.5%, since transit travel times have been increasing. Slow transit is unattractive transit.
This budget does propose a new turn lane for buses on Windmill Road! This is great, but we can’t even suggest this is only rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic – it’s not even that. One transit turn lane is ridiculously short of even the basic infrastructure needed to keep transit running on time. There is no indication that anything much bigger is being planned. Once again, slow transit is unattractive transit. Slow transit is also expensive to operate, as driver salaries are a big chunk of costs.
The federal government is planning to spend billions on urban transit. So far, Halifax has budgeted for one turn lane. We desperately need leadership on plans to provide quality transit – fast, frequent, reliable and user friendly. It’s More than Buses suggests we start, right now, by:
- Improving and implementing the Moving Forward Plan, immediately in the next year.
- Reduce the number of stops on core routes to speed up service.
- Increasing frequency on corridor routes to fifteen minutes, all day.
- Investing in amenities that speed up boarding and service. This could include raised platforms at stops, all door boarding and new payment methods.
- Regularly tracking and reporting transit speeds and delays, by route.
- Reviewing vehicle options for rail to Bedford, with the goal to identify a service that would need only one operator per vehicle. Vehicles with one operator would drive down operating costs and increase financial feasibility.
- Creating an integrated transportation and land use plan, that would consider the long term costs and impacts of investments in all transportation modes.
- Considering transit priority – lanes, transit signals, etc. – at the conceptual stages of all road construction.