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COMING TO COUNCIL: Taxi service, buses and land-use changes

Tuesday's meeting of Halifax Regional Council could prove to be a dramatic one, as significant changes to the taxi industry are up for debate
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Halifax City Hall (Meghan Groff/HalifaxToday.ca)

Tuesday's upcoming meeting of Halifax Regional Council promises to be a controversial one for a specific segment of the community.

Taxis

Regional council is set to take a deeper dive into the discussion around how taxis work in HRM, and it's generating controversy before even happening.

Councillors will be getting a look at the Vehicle for Hire Licensing Program Review, which was conducted over the course of more than one year by Ottawa-based Hara Associates.

The debate expected at council on Tuesday is likely to be attended by a large portion of the taxi community, as the Taxi Driver's Association has already called an emergency meeting for Monday to get its ducks in a row ahead of the council meeting.

The association has already threatened legal action, taking particular exception to a possible bump to the number of taxi licenses available in HRM. Staff recommends increasing owner licenses from 1,000 to 1,600 in order to improve gender diversity, and to reduce the wait list.

On top of that, the report calls for a staff report taking a deeper dive into the feasibility of bringing ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft to town, and finds there's solid support for an all-female cab service.

According to the motion coming before council on Tuesday, a comprehensive review of Halifax's taxi industry was necessary due to the public's growing concern about safety, after a spate of sexual assault allegations were made against drivers.

"The last comprehensive review of the municipal taxi licensing program occurred in 1994 by the former City of Halifax," the motion reads. "The population of  HRM has grown considerably since 1994 and along with it, the public’s demand for better service from the taxi industry."

Amongst other things, the review recommends council get rid of taxi zones, put Global Positioning Systems in every vehicle and increase driver training.

Buses

Staff want councillors to let them buy more buses.

A report coming to council on Tuesday is asking councillors to approve increasing the current contract with Nova Bus to supply 127, up from the current 100.

Staff says a Halifax Transit is in the process of decommissioning 15 of the 35 buses in its fleet that are now beyond the 14-year service life. Halifax Transit is also going to need 12 new buses in order to meet new commitments laid out in the Moving Forward Together Plan.

Council's also being asked to direct Halifax Transit to implement the Access-A-Bus Continuous Improvement Service Plan.

That plan is an extremely in-depth scheme to reach the goals of guaranteed accessible transit and same-day service. To get there, Halifax Transit is looking at a long list of actions to take in the short-, medium- and long-term. 

Those include things like implementing online booking and visiting with providers to get a better understanding of the needs of their clients.

Public hearings on development proposals

Councillors will get a chance to hear what members of the public think about requests to amend land-use bylaws to permit a couple of development proposals.

First up is a hearing to discuss a proposed multi-unit residential development at 29 McFatridge Rd. in Halifax, which would require council approve the re-zoning of some land.

The applicant, W.M. Fares Architects Inc., is proposing a seven-storey development facing Joseph Howe Dr. on a patch of land currently home to a few houses and a church. The staff report says that church is moving to Dunbrack St.

The second hearing, on another application from that some company, is looking for changes that would allow for a trio of five story buildings: one each on Chebucto Rd., Beech St. and Elm St. The latter two locations currently house what the motion refers to as "low-density dwellings".

The public hearings get underway on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the council chambers.




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