2017 – Will it be a major year for Halifax Transit?

3 JAN 2017 – UPDATE: Halifax transportation advocate Ben Wedge pointed out an important consideration with regard to all-door boarding on transit vehicles. See his comments from an email below.

As 2016 wraps up, we take a look at some of the exciting projects that Halifax Transit is working on that we can look forward to in 2017.

Automated Stop Announcements

Last month, automated stop announcements became “the voice” of Halifax Transit buses. While only a certain number of buses and routes are currently equipped with this feature as part of a pilot project, this year, Halifax Transit plans on equipping all buses and all routes.

Have a look at this video from a Halifax Transit rider:

Automated announcements are a major step toward making transit more accessible and easier to use. For people with visual or hearing impairments, they can now use transit without having to rely on asking for assistance. For newcomers and visitors, they can know which stop they are arriving at without having to guess. A simple, but effective, way of making transit more convenient is to take the guess-work out of it.

Fare-box Management

This year, we could be saying goodbye to tickets, passes, change, and transfers in order to make way for things like smart-cards, and mobile payments. The fare box tends to be a major choke point in transit systems (think of how many times you’ve had to wait as the person getting on the bus in front of you fumbles for change or tickets). Multiply this delay by the number passengers and stops on a given route, and simply paying a fare becomes a major reason why buses are slow.

In 2016, Halifax Transit issued a Request for Proposals for a fare management solution, and a contract will very likely be issued soon. This will open the door to innovations such as swipe cards or tap cards, and preloaded passes, which will speed up the fare payment process and reduce delays along transit routes.

Take a look at Vancouver’s Compass Card:

In addition, it also will allow for all door boarding. Imagine, instead of everyone waiting to get on the bus at the front, both, or all three doors on buses can be used, speeding up the time it takes to get passengers on and off the bus.

Infrastructure

2017 also promises to be an exciting year with transit infrastructure. With the Integrated Mobility Plan, which will shape how people move around the region in the coming years, being finalized, a number of interesting opportunities emerge for transit.

Some of the new infrastructure, such as the various transit priority measures, new buses and new terminals, will be very noticeable. There’s also an ongoing discussion on commuter rail, a new refresh of the Halifax Ferry Terminal that will continue throughout 2017.  But something that isn’t as ‘flashy’ that is being developed, is use of real-time vehicle location data in information-technology projects. As more data is gathered, it opens up possibilities to improve the overall usability of transit, including using that data to improve stop spacing, stop-designs and travel time throughout the system.

Network Redesign

The Moving Forward Together Plan was finally adopted by Halifax Regional Council. This year, Halifax will see the first of the changes to transit routes. In addition to that, council requested staff report on bringing in an outside expert to review the corridor routes as more and more of these other projects are completed. Corridor routes are designed to be the ‘backbone’ of the network, so getting these right will be critical to the success of Moving Forward Together.

Corridor routes won’t change until at least 2018. But this year, we can expect to see less duplication as service starts to change.

With so many changes happening, it’s looking like there will be a lot of potential this year. As all of the pieces above start to take shape, we may start to see a major shift in the way transit is thought about in Halifax.

Update from Ben Wedge:

“All door boarding is the policy at many agencies without electronic fare boxes and has been for years. All you need for all door boarding is a team of fare inspectors. Then anyone with a valid pass or transfer can board by the door they want, only those who need to purchase a fare need board at the front. 

With that said, electronic fare boxes can further enhance all door boarding by allowing passengers to purchase a pass at the back of the bus.”

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