CBC news had a fascinating article today about businesses refusing to hire people who only use Halifax Transit. Some businesses feel that the bus is simply not reliable enough. This article hits a number of critical points about quality transit service, especially service for people working shifts or people who don’t make a lot of money.
- There is a real need for quality service outside rush hour.
- Many people need to travel crosstown, instead of downtown. This issue is not addressed in Halifax Transit’s network plan.
- Transit isn’t reliable if it’s stuck in traffic.
First, more people are working shifts outside the 9-5 workday. Many people need quality service throughout the day and into the evening. Too many transit decisions, however, overestimate the importance of rush hour service aimed at the 9-5 professional. There is an obvious demand for more service during rush hour, but focusing too heavily on rush hour service means less service at other times.
Second, more people need to travel crosstown. This includes people heading to Burnside, Bayers Lake, Woodside, Main Street Dartmouth, Innovation Drive and Dartmouth Crossing. Many people working in the service industry or retail – people who often don’t make a lot of money – need to get to these locations. People who often don’t own cars often work in places that are difficult to service with transit, and are poorly served by crosstown routes.
Third, buses are late and slow because they are caught in traffic. Because the same bus often runs several routes, this even affects routes that don’t run near chokepoints like the Bridges or the rotary. If we are going to have a reliable transit system we need to spend money to upgrade roads like Bayers Road so that there are bus lanes. There is no way to run a reliable schedule with buses caught in traffic.
We feel that issue two in particular is not addressed through Halifax Transit’s latest network plan. There is not enough crosstown service, which is critical to people heading from suburb to suburb. Good crosstown routing allows people to transfer to reach many more destinations. When service is frequent people can transfer quickly to routes heading into the city, out of the city and across the city.
Every transit network makes trade-offs between crosstown routes and routes heading downtown. Every transit network makes trade-offs between peak hour service and all day service. These trade-offs have huge consequences on where and when people can travel. They impact who benefits the most from transit. We absolutely need to redesign our transit network, but we have to get it right. The current network lacks enough crosstown routes: are we comfortable with the consequences? We don’t think we have enough info on what the transit does to even start the discussion.