The way we clear snow should reflect how much we care about our transit system.
These are all photos taken Tuesday morning, approximately 48 hours after receiving 30cm of snow this past weekend.
And then of course….
Halifax currently has a service standard where all bus stops should be clear 48 hours after a weather event and only after sidewalks have been cleared. Clearly there are a number of problems with this service standard. Even though all of these stops are considered “cleared”, they are not friendly to transit uses.
A typical bus is 40 feet long. Articulated buses in Halifax are 60 feet long with two sets of rear doors. Yet, these stops have maybe 10 feet cleared of snow where riders can board and alight buses. Small snow clearings make the use of rear doors on buses impossible, thereby causing delays for everyone as it now takes twice as long to get everyone off and on a bus.
Each of these stops are also marked as wheelchair accessible, yet snow banks protrude into the road, preventing buses from fully pulling over to the curb and being able to operate their kneeling functions and wheelchair ramps.
These images show that we care enough about transit to clear snow, but we don’t care enough to do it well or consistently.
So what would it take to make user-friendly bus stops?
First, we need high traffic stops clear within 24 hours. That includes terminals, downtown streets, and stops at major intersections. 48 hours after a weather event means two days without access to transit service. That is in addition to the weather events themselves, which in Canada, can last a long time. We can also start by having crews ready, preparing and clearing stops pro-actively during weather events if it is safe to do so.
Second, we need bus stops cleared at the same time as sidewalks. Sooner or later, all transit users are pedestrians and having access to bus stops cleared at the same time as sidewalks ensures that once passengers get off a bus, they have a place to go safely. In practice, many operators do this already, even though it is not in the service standard (and they have our thanks!).
Third, we need 60 feet of ‘to-the-curb’ clearance at all bus stops. 60 feet gives enough room for a full articulated bus to operate all three sets of doors and will maximize efficiency in boarding and alighting passengers. 60 feet of’to-the-curb’ clearance will also ensure that there is plenty of room to operate wheelchair ramps and kneeling functions of buses.
There are examples of well-cleared stops in Halifax. Here’s one:
Ultimately, Halifax Transit is a $100 million system. An easy way to show that we really do care about the system is to make sure that stops are well-cleared, are user-friendly, and are accessible.