Halifax Transit hosted an open house on Feb. 12 to discuss the potential of a bus rapid transit network in the city.
Erin Blay, supervisor of Service Design and Projects at Halifax Transit, said a bus rapid transit network would be more reliable than the current transit service. It would operate using "transit priority measures," such as specific bus lanes that would make buses less likely to become stuck in traffic.
Bus rapid transit would also differ as bus stations would be further apart and fare payment would not take place on the vehicle. These changes would allow buses to travel more quickly and stop less often, according to Blay.
“It’s part of a bigger conversation that’s happening now through the Integrated Mobility Plan and the Regional Plan, that directs us to increase … sustainable modes of transportation, like transit,” Blay said. “So something like bus rapid transit, which is more reliable, faster and more frequent, might attract substantially more riders to transit service.”
Sean Pothier attended the open house and used the opportunity to write down suggestions he had for Halifax Transit.
He doesn’t want to see a rapid transit network compete with other mass transit options, such as rail or ferry. He also proposed a reversing lane rather than an explicit bus lane, which could go one way in the morning rush hour and switch directions later in the day to accommodate for the afternoon rush hour.
Potheir said he currently doesn’t use transit often, but might use the proposed rapid transit network depending on where routes are located.
“If I lived on one of those routes and could get on and off where I needed to, I would use it, most definitely,” Pothier said. “But I find that, like many people here, I live a few blocks away from the transit routes…so that’s why I don’t personally take the transit.”
At the open house, participants were invited to vote on which of four possible rapid transit routes should be implemented first. These included Bedford Highway to Lower Water, Portland Hills to Lower Water, Ridge Valley to Dalhousie/St. Mary’s and Lacewood to Bridge Terminal.
According to Blay, the proposed routes were selected by taking into account how many people are already using established routes, whether a route had available space to accommodate infrastructure for the rapid transit network, whether a route connected to key destinations and whether it could increase the profile of transit.
Deb Woolway also attended the open house. She said she is associated with a project being built on Gottingen St., and is unhappy with the idea of a route being established there.
“I’m concerned about what will happen to people who have retail operations on the street,” Woolway said. “People live in the area, they have a right to a sense of community there and…putting all these buses barrelling down that street all day long will destroy that neighbourhood.”
Woolway was also concerned that the city had already decided to go through with the rapid transit network as is.
However, Blay said the bus rapid transit network is still in the early stages, and details of what the design and implementation will look like are far from being determined.
Feedback collected at the open house will be used for a report that will be presented to regional council in the spring.
Residents who can't attend can also provide feedback online.