On Tuesday Halifax Regional Council debated a staff report that recommended raising the price of bus Route 320, the MetroX Airport-Fall River Express, to the price of $6.00.
This would see an increase of $1.75, up from the current MetroX price of $4.25.
Councillor for Waverly, Fall River and Musquodoboit Valley Steve Streatch put the motion on the floor, but told council that he “vehemently disagreed” with it.
Streatch said residents of Fall River rely on this route as there are no others in the area.
“I can tell you clearly that the residents in Fall River do not support this,” he told council.
The District 1 councillor suggested an alternative that was proposed in the staff report, keeping all MetroX routes in HRM at the current price of $4.25.
“I think it’s penalizing everybody for living in Fall River for living in Fall River if they are trying to take the bus,” said Councillor Paul Russell, who said he would support him.
A second option in the report suggested a price increase for riders who were travelling to the airport could pay the higher fee, but Fall River residents would remain the same.
“To lump the residents of Fall River in with the increase as it relates to those travellers is akin to not seeing the forest for the trees,” Streatch added.
But city staff told council that Option 2 would put the onus on bus drivers to figure out which riders were going to the airport and which were residents.
“What you’re kind of stuck with is the honour system,” said Dave Reage, Director of Halifax Transit.
Councillor Streatch also brought up that not everybody who goes to the airport is travelling out of town.
“Not everybody going to the airport is getting on a plane to Florida,” he said, saying airport employees and people who work in the Aerotech Business Park as others who take Route 320.
Councillor Waye Mason brought up the idea of only increasing the price for those who travel with suitcases, but said he would ultimately support Councillor Streatch’s fight to keep the price at $4.25.
“Saying to Fall River that you will have to pay more to get on the bus to go there doesn’t make any sense to me,” Mason said.
Most councillors were in favour of increasing the price for people who were taking the bus to go on vacation.
“I have no problem with it being more to go to the airport,” said Mason, comparing fees of around $12 for airport transit in Montreal and Toronto.
But council couldn't come to a conclusion on how to implement an amendment that only targets airport travellers.
“It is more in other cities, so I wouldn’t mind doing a gradual increase. Maybe we increase it by 50 cents or a dollar,” said Councillor Lindell Smith.
Staff told council if changes weren’t made today, they had no plans to come back with another increase for Route 320 in the foreseeable future.
“If council decides today to leave the fares where they are, that would be the end of the story for the time being,” said Reage.
In the end, all the councillors voted against raising the price (Although Councillor Mancini accidentally pressed the wrong button. Staff corrected it on the record).
Councillor Streatch put forward an alternative motion to not raise the price at all.
“I’m going to come back with status quo. Leave it where it is until we can find something better,” he said.
The alternative motion passed unanimously.