Halifax Transit: what stats are missing?

Last week, Halifax Transit released it’s year end report for this fiscal year. Most of the results for ridership are unremarkable, except that the ferry ridership is up almost 30% year over year. This is likely due to the hassle of the Big Lift, and the extra departures that were added to compensate. Frequency is attractive and convenient, and helps increase ridership.

Transit ridership has been mostly flat for years, but the statistics from Halifax Transit (their Key Performance Indicators or KPI) don’t give us much insight about why. The statistics provide information on how many trips are taken, how much revenue is collected per rider and how many trips per service hour. While this is useful information, Halifax Transit’s reporting doesn’t tell us much about the quality of trips. Specifically, we need to know:

  • How reliable are different bus routes?
  • How fast are different bus routes?

Simply put, few people will chose to ride buses that are slow and might not come on time. The city’s busiest route, 1 Spring Garden, is scheduled to travel it’s 9.8 km route in 40 minutes, at a leisurely 14 km/ hr. That’s a pretty unimpressive scheduled speed, but the actual speed of the route can be much worse due to traffic. How much slower? How many of the departures are late? We just don’t know.

Halifax Transit is finished installing their automatic vehicle location (AVL) technology, which will use GPS to track bus locations in real time. This is a great chance to start collecting and publishing data on route speeds and delay. This information might not be too flattering to Halifax Transit, since most people riding transit know that most routes are slow and too many buses are late. But, we need better data to find good solutions that give more people faster, more reliable transit.