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The bus buy is part of a larger prospective purchase of up to 80 buses over the next three years. Council must approve each installment of that purchase, and this year’s buy was initially going to be for 19 buses, but the budget allows for 22.
The new buses will be 12.2-metre New flyer buses, costing $406,422 each, or $9,324,508 collectively, including HST, which will be refunded to the city. They are not the “double” buses, but rather the standard bus size. They are wheelchair-friendly “low floor” buses with 36 seats each, plus standing rooms.
Eleven of the buses will replace older inaccessible 60-foot buses with 49 seats, which will be scrapped. Five more buses will be added to enhance existing bus routes. The remaining six new buses will be used on a new “feeder service” route, probably up Mount Hope Avenue, that will service the Woodside Ferry Terminal, and are needed to meet new demand created by a new ferry, which will arrive in 2014 and allow the Woodside ferry to operate all day.
The buses won’t arrive until early next year. Exact routing for the new buses will be spelled out in a service plan that council will adopt as part of its April budget negotiations.
At 9:55 pm officers were dispatched to assist HRM Fire Dept. with several buses that were on fire in the Metro Transit compound in Burnside. HRM Fire Dept. were able to quickly extinguish the fire but 3 buses were destroyed. Investigators from both HRM Fire and Halifax Regional Police attended and examined the scene. At this time the cause of the fire has not been determined. Investigators will continue their investigation today during the daylight hours.Spokesperson Tiffany Chase tells me this morning that the fire occurred out in the yard, not in the building proper, and that fire investigators are still investigating.
The destroyed buses were two 40-foot conventional buses and one Access-A-Bus. The conventional buses were in regular service, and both were low-floor buses manufactured by the New Flyer company. Bus #1022 was acquired by Metro Transit in 2003, while bus #1054 was acquired in 2004. Neither was air conditioned. The Access-A-Bus was out of service, used only for parts. Chase did not provide a bus number for it.
At eight and nine years old, the conventional buses were what used to be about halfway through their expected lives, but Metro Transit has made good progress in recent years retiring older buses and replacing them with longer, 60-foot buses. The longer the life expectancy, the increased maintenance cost. Most years, the company acquires 15 new buses, replacing five old ones and expanding the fleet with the other 10.
It's too soon to know for sure, but presumably insurance will cover the cost of replacing the lost buses, which might mean that the fire is actually a good thing in that it helps modernize the fleet at a quicker pace than expected.
Chase says there will be no loss of service, because there are enough spares to cover the routes.
Bus riders and drivers alike were left scratching their heads last weekend over business-as-usual bus service. Metro Transit scheduled its normal skimpy Sunday service for Canada Day, without adding any additional buses to bring people to the waterfront festivities, but then had normal weekday service for Monday, July 2, even though most people had the day off work.
During a typical workday, dozens of rush hour buses cram into the terminals every 15 minutes, but are still standing room only. Monday, however, the same number of buses ran, but they were nearly completely empty.
“The scheduling and, by extension, the work for the operators was picked before it became clear that most stores, etc. would remain open on Sunday and close on Monday,” says city spokesperson Shaune MacKinlay, by way of explanation.
But that’s a remarkable claim, seeing how most Metro Transit managers and supervisors themselves—including, presumably, the route schedulers—had a Monday holiday.
And the lack of additional service on Canada Day?
“Metro Transit does not provide extra scheduled services on holidays for civic events, but Transit does provide as many buses on existing routes as possible to manage ridership,” says MacKinlay. “Extra service is usually only planned for large scale, significant special events that are in targeted areas and are based on projected ridership figures—i.e. tall ships. Extra bus service is not scheduled for civic events like the parade of lights or the tree lighting although the ferry typically runs extra trips for these.
“Looking back,” notes MacKinlay, “with all of the information that is available now the only different approach that would have been made was to have discussed with the union the potential of the reduction of service on Monday to reflect holiday service.”
A roundabout considered for the intersection of Devonshire, Novalea and Duffus Streets caused considerable stir when nearby residents learned of the plan, but that intersection "is very obviously an ideal spot for a roundabout," says Reashor, and a roundabout there would increase safety for pedestrians, slow traffic and provide more green space.
Reashor will make a roundabout presentation to Halifax council this month, and hold an open house with north end residents this spring in hopes of convincing them to accept the roundabout proposal.
Exact details of the plans won’t be made public until Monday night, but Terry Drisdelle, a planner of with the Waterfront Development Corporation, revealed the broad outlines of the proposed development to me last Friday. The plan to be presented Monday is an amalgamation of the “best ideas” of three earlier working plans, says Drisdelle.
Both the roundabout and the waterfront towers will likely prove controversial.
The proposed roundabout would replace the present intersection of Kearney Lake Road and the Bedford Highway, one of the busiest roadways in Nova Scotia. Roundabouts are very common in Europe, and are gaining acceptance with North American traffic engineers because they slow traffic without stopping it, and send merging cars in the same direction, as opposed to against each other, as in traditional signaled intersections. Moreover, says Drisdelle, a roundabout will give motorists more “breaking out” points to access the new Birch Cove lands.
Still, partly due to a history of problems at the Armdale Rotary/Roundabout, the Nova Scotian public has not generally supported new roundabouts. For example, a proposal to simplify the north end intersection of Duffus Street, Novalea Drive and Devonshire Avenue was met with scorn by councillor Jerry Blumenthal.
Drisdelle says the towers, occupying the present site of Chinatown restaurant, are the trade-off that makes the Birch Cove plan possible: United Gulf Developments, which owns the site, will agree to pay for infrastructure costs like the new bridge, and to provide large areas of public amenities including a waterfront park, in return for increased density allowances.
The proposed bridge roadway will leave the Bedford Highway just south of the Birch Cove store, and head over the tracks to access the Chinatown property. Some of the working plans call for placing the tracks in a tunnel, but it’s unclear if that proposal made it into the final plans.
“Residents in the area want Birch Cove to become a destination, a neighbourhood,” explains Drisdelle of the plans. The plans will be made public Monday, 7pm, at St. Peter’s Anglican Church. For more information, see tinyurl.BirchCove.
Dartmouth residents like the design for a new, expanded Bridge Terminal, but dislike its location on Dartmouth Common land.
Architectural drawings for the new transit terminal were revealed at a public meeting at Dartmouth High School Monday night. The proposal stretches the terminal between Nantucket Avenue and Thistle Street, through what is now the wooded "urban wilderness" park behind the Sportsplex parking lot.
The existing Bridge Terminal is already the busiest transit terminal east of Montreal, and the proposed expanded terminal is very large indeed---stretching over 700
metres feet long, it will serve 17,000 commuters daily. There will be 16 bus bays, and a bus parking lane along the length of the back, eastern, wall. The terminal building itself will be three times as large as the Portland Hills terminal building, and will include seating, washrooms and a concession stand.
Early proposals for the terminal oriented it east-west, parallel and adjoining Nantucket Avenue, but in response to complaints that such an orientation would bring it too close to Dartmouth High, the plan was re-worked into its present north-south orientation. That brought its own set of design challenges, however, as people walking to the terminal from adjoining neighbourhoods would have to cross the buses' paths.
To resolve that problem and to provide a buffer between the noise of the terminal and the nearby Dartmouth High, architect Troy Scott has the terminal 18 feet beneath the existing grade leading up to the school, and provides a block-wide, curved pedestrian bridge leading to the top of the terminal building. There, three "lantern"-like entry points, two for stairways and one for an elevator, provide access to the building.
The pedestrian bridge and substantial excavation have increased costs considerably---Halifax council last month upped potential project costs from $4.5 to $9.5 million.
Residents at Monday's meeting (full disclosure: I live nearby as well) mostly felt that, so far as is possible on the site, Scott had listened to their earlier concerns and has produced what several called a "beautiful" building. Scott, who also lives in the neighbourhood, was clearly proud of the design.
But residents also felt the expanded terminal is inappropriately placed on Common land, and that the decision to place it there was made with no community consultation. "This is a fait accompli," said Dartmouth High teacher Mike Cosgrove. "We were never asked what we thought of this location, or if we had any better ideas."
The terminal proposal will go before the Harbour East Community Council in April, and the full HRM council soon thereafter. If it is approved, construction will start this summer, and likely take a year or more to complete. The public can still comment on the proposal; see tinyurl.com/bridgeterminal for architectural drawings, contacts and other details.
Let's be clear: Halifax city council is making significant headway in improving our feeble bus system. Some 15 new articulated buses will hit the streets in coming weeks, with 30 more coming over the next two years, and councillors appear committed to even more exciting expansion as laid out in the Five Year Transit Plan.
But as the first new buses were rolled out Tuesday (two hybrids costing a total of $2.6 million, with a $600,000 contribution from the province), and as councillors used the opportunity for a photo op, I realized I've *never* before seen a politician, or a city administrator, on a city bus. While buying more buses is good, if they don't experience it themselves, in a directly personal way, how can councillors and staff address the day-in, day-out ridership issues that so vex regular bus users?
So I asked all 23 councillors, mayor Peter Kelly, senior City Hall administrators and Metro Transit staff about their bus habits. Their responses, which are about what I thought they'd be, are collected at thecoast.ca/bites.
Councillor Barry Dalrymple
District 2, Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank
Route 55 serves only the Waverley part of the district.
Councillor David Hendsbee
District 3, Preston-Lawrencetown-Chezzetcook
Routes #51, 66
"on average twice a month - and the ferry about 4-8 trips a month > higher frequency in the summer, fewer in the winter ... ok ?"
Councillor Lorelei Nicoll
District 4, Cole Harbour
Routes #56, 59, 61, 65, 68, 72, 159, 165
"Thanks for the opportunity to provide you with information on how I get around this fine municipality, Tim. It is all about options, most days I car pool from Cole Harbour, some days I take the Link bus from Portland as it can get me downtown in less time than I can (and I get time to respond to emails at the same time). If I can avoid taking my car, I do. I also take the ferry from Alderney to downtown (and return) if I have business to conduct back-to-back on both sides of the harbour."
Councillor Gloria McCluskey
District 5, Dartmouth Centre
Routes #1, 10, 16, 41, 51, 52, 53, 55, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 68, 87, 159
Councillor Darren Fisher
District 6, East Dartmouth- The Lakes
Routes #10, 54, 55
"I don't take the bus very often, but I live to carpool. I rarely cross the bridge without 3 others in the car. During snowstorms I will take the ferry and a bus. I do ride the ferry whenever possible during the summer with my kids to different waterfront events such as Buskers. I also will Ferry to the odd Moosehead game. "
Councillor Bill Karsten
District 7, Portland - East Woodlawn
Routes #56, 59, 61, 65, 68, 72, 159, 165
Councillor Jackie Barkhouse
District 8, Woodside - Eastern Passage
Councillor Jim Smith
District 9, North end Dartmouth
Routes #16, 52, 53, 64, 66, 72, 87
" I don't but want to...schedule is too erratic."
Councillor Mary Wile
District 10, Clayton Park West
Routes #2, 4, 16, 17, 18, 21, 31, 33, 34, 35, 42, 52, 89
" I normally don't take the bus. I live out in Clayton Park West and taking a bus would be quite difficult as it would take up considerable time from one transfer to another. Most cases I have to go to another meeting or appointment and need to hop into my car and either head to Dartmouth, back out to my district, or elsewhere. Councillors are like sales people, we go from one place to another and then to another. It is too difficult to try and catch buses for all these appts. Some places don't have bus service. I do have a great car though that is easy on the gas."
Councillor Jerry Blumenthal
District 11, Halifax North End
Routes #3, 7, 9, 21, 31, 33, 34, 35, 84, 85, 86
Councillor Dawn Sloane
District 12, Halifax Downtown
Routes #1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, 10, 20, 35, 41, 51, 53, 58, 59, 61, 82, 86, 87
"My bus usage depends on my work schedule and where the meetings are being held. It's difficult to have back to back meetings in various locations within a workday. I typically use the bus 6 to 8 times a month"
Councillor Sue Uteck
District 13, Halifax South End
Routes #1, 3, 7, 9, 14, 17, 18, 35, 41, 42
Councillor Jennifer Watts
District 14, Connaught - Quinpool
Councillor Russell Walker
District 15, Fairview - Clayton Park
Councillor Debbie Hum
District 16, Rockingham - Wentworth
Councillor Linda Mosher
District 17, Purcell's Cove- Armdale
Routes #6, 14, 15, 19, 20, 32
"It is important to note that I work from home as much as possible. When I go downtown I don't take the bus - in my area you require 2 buses to get to most places I need to go. I do take the ferry to go to Dartmouth from downtown Halifax. In addition, if we implement high speed ferry service I certainly would be a frequent user from Purcell's Cove - downtown."
"Neglected to mention that I walk if it is about 20 minutes or less.Also if we had a high speed ferry from Purcell's Cove - downtown Halifax it is my goal to have community shuttle buses during peak periods. So I would take a bus and then a ferry. Multi-modal :) Many members of Council car pool frequently as well. Russell Walker and I have car pooled many times."
Councillor Stephen Adams
District 18, Spryfield - Herring Cove
Councillor Brad Johns
District 19, Middle and Upper Sackville-Lucasville
Routes #80, 82, 83, 84, 85, 88, 185
"It should be noted, although I take the bus it is only the link and not traditional transit. As well, it is directly from the Sackville Terminal to City Hall. (As does my wife). My position and the expectations of me would not allow me to use transit exclusively. "
Councillor Bob Harvey
District 20, Lower Sackville
Routes #82, 84, 85, 87, 88
"I have gone to council a couple of times on 185 from Sackville in the last year."
Councillor Tim Outhit
District 21, Bedford
Routes #66, 80, 82
"Nope, but I will take rail, hovercraft, or ferry if / when the service(s) are launched in Bedford!!"
Councillor Reg Rankin
District 22, Timberlea-Prospect
Routes #21, 23
"I use the bus from time to time ; perhaps once every 3 or 4 weeks. "
Councillor Peter Lund
District 23, Hammonds Plains - St. Margaret's
CAO Dan English
Deputy CAO Wayne Anstey
Metro Transit manager Pat Soanes
Metro Transit spokesperson Lori Patterson
Metro Transit planner Eddie Robar
God of traffic Ken Reashor
Reporter Tim Bousquet
I buy a monthly bus pass, and take the bus to and from work almost every day (I drive maybe twice a month). I also often travel by bus through the day, on evenings and weekends, and of course to and from city council meetings.
Well, it wasn't a council quorum-- several councillors were still wiping blood off themselves from the on-going secret HPD vs RCMP battle, but that's as many politicians and administers as we'll ever see on a bus, so we should pause and relish the moment, before noting that if they made this a regular occurrence--if they used the bus to actually commute and otherwise get around-- we might have better bus service. As is, transit is something for other people, and not very important other people at that (important people don't take the bus, don't you know) so transit doesn't get the fiscal or managerial attention it deserves.
Oh, here's the bus:It's an articulated diesel hybrid, which means that when it stops, the electric motor takes over. The plan is to place the two of them on either the #1 or #10 routes-- I'm not sure why the uncertainty, but I've noted before that Metro Transit staff doesn't seem to know that there are presently no articulated buses on the #1 route; placing a couple on that route would be a welcome change, but I really get the feeling that Metro Transit staff is so disconnected from the actual rider experience, they don't really understand the issues involved. For what it's worth, should they happen to be reading this: the #1 bus is nearly always crammed full of people, uncomfortably so, and if you're not going to increase frequency on the route, you should put longer buses on it.
The buses cost $1.3 million each, with $300,000 of that pricetag coming from the province. Estabrooks quite rightly noted that there will be a learning curve for running the buses, but the hope is that they'll achieve a 30 percent reduction in fuel use, compared to a new traditional diesel bus.
Those are the headline take-aways from the five-year transit plan currently being debated by Halifax council. But, those snippets are immensely unfair: for the most part, the plan is a good one, and moves Halifax in the right direction, transit-wise.
Halifax council Tuesday agreed to buy 45 new buses. The $33 million contract will have Nova Bus, a division of the Volvo Bus Corporation, supply 15 buses over three years, with the first buses arriving in time for next school year.
Each year, 10 of the new buses will serve to expand Metro Transit's fleet, and five will replace aging buses. The new buses are the articulated, 60-foot LFS model, shown above. They'll be deployed on heavily used routes, increasing capacity by 50 percent; the 40-foot buses now used on those routes will be shifted to new and presently underserved routes.
At tonight's meeting, Halifax council agreed-- in secret-- to purchase a property-- for a secret amount of money. All very cryptic.
But, given that the purchase is related to a "regional transportation corridor," and given that the three councillors who objected to it were Jennifer Watts, Jerry Blumenthal and Dawn Sloane, it's a reasonable guess that the property involved the potential future widening of Bayers Road. (The road is the border between Watts' and Blumenthal's districts, and a widened road would funnel increased traffic directly into Sloane's district.)
Congratulations---you just bought one of them.
Discussion of property purchases can legally be held in secret council sessions, because there is expected to be some back-and-forth niggling over price, and the city needs to go into such negotiations without having an open hand. But in this instance, the cryptic paperwork states that the city is actually entering into a purchase agreement, not making an offer, so the secrecy played no role in negotiating a lower price.
Moreover, this purchase involves a contentious political issue---the controversial proposal to widen Bayers Road. At a public meeting last year, several hundred area residents came out in opposition to the proposal. Such matters of large public concern, which, if it proceeds, will cost the taxpayers many millions of dollars, are absolutely a matter for public debate and government openness.
Council is cheating the public of that responsibility.
Update, 12 August, 12:44: The realtor for the house for sale at 7020 Bayers says he has no contact with the city concerning the property. The realtor for the house for sale at 6850 Bayers hasn't returned my phone call. So....
Several dozen Dartmouth High School students braved a downpour to hold a spirited protest against Metro Transit's plans for an expansion of the nearby Bridge Terminal. They carried signs calling for preservation of the Dartmouth Common, and chanted "Metro Transit, we need a better plan," and other slogans.
The students were well received by passing motorists, many of whom honked in support.
As proposed, the expanded terminal will stretch from its present location next to the Sportsplex, all the way up Nantucket Avenue to the crosswalk leading to the McDonald's. A rough sketch of the proposed new terminal is posted on the city's web site, but it doesn't show the high school. Students and teachers at the school, however, say the terminal will be just ten metres from the school.
Moreover, as proposed, the terminal expansion will consume about a third of the Dartmouth Wilderness Park, a forested area of the Dartmouth Common that has been left in a natural state.
[Full disclosure: I live in the neighbourhood and have a relative who teaches at the school.]
"We have limited green space left," says student Chelcy Jordan, one of the organizers of the protest. "And nobody wants to have an environment driven by the demands of technology and industrialization. This is a school environment; this is not a mall, or a parking space---this is meant for us to grow and learn and have fun while doing it and to be able to have a healthy environment."
"I want to save the green space for further use, by maybe reading a book in the space or something like that," explains student Jacob Larkin, another organizer. "Also, I don't want the bus station too close to our school---the noise pollution or air pollution could potentially harm people. And also I have security concerns."
Metro Transit has been working on the terminal expansion plans for at least a couple of years, and last year the legislature amended the Municipal Government Act to allow Dartmouth Common land to be used for the terminal. But the Dartmouth High community wasn't notified about the plan until last month, says Michael Cosgrove, a teacher.
Students in Cosgrove's Philosophy class initiated today's protest, which was sanctioned by the school administration.
Many of the protesting students are themselves regular bus users, and they acknowledge that the existing Bridge Terminal is too small and presents a safety hazard to users.
"But the amount of space they want to take up to have a new one, and where they want to have a new one, is not ideal to us at all," says jordan.
"We're trying to come up with options," says Larkin. "I met with a couple of architects and urban designers---we want to move it a bit farther from our school, and keep it under a hill, so the noise will be absorbed by the hill and the trees.
"I want to preserve as much of the trees as possible, because it also is a part of our heritage. The Nantucket whalers in the 1700s gave it to us, the people of Dartmouth, so we should cherish this land."
Students want the new terminal oriented perpendicular to Nantucket, and to run along the back side of the Sportsplex parking lot, instead of up the hill. Such an orientation would spare the bulk of the Wilderness Park and provide a good distance between the terminal and school.
Metro Transit has yet to respond to a call for comment.
The RFP was scored using a two envelope process. Envelope one was the technical component of the RFP (qualifications and experience, methodology and approach, work plan schedule). Envelope two consists of the lump sum project cost and deliverables for this project (i.e., responds to Transit’s needs, efficient site plan, LEED Silver, etc.). Only those proponents that received 80 points or greater from envelope one had their second envelopes opened and evaluated.I'm not sure what to make of the process; city staffers will no doubt argue they want a qualified and experienced firm to build the project, and cost is a secondary consideration. There's merit in that argument, but it could also lead, potentially, to a rigged process favouring one firm. And no, I have no evidence that's the case, so it's just vague unease on my part.
Regardless, a new garage is required for any further expansion of Metro Transit, and so there is some urgency to get this moving. Metro Transit correctly argues that a second garage on the west side of the harbour will lessen "dead head" times and reduce costly bridge tolls for empty buses.
But while I don't really oppose this project, I would've like to have seen a garage closer to downtown, like, for example, on Port land near the international terminals.
All in all, like for most of HRM's large capital projects, I get that wishy-washy feeling that everything wasn't thought out well, we could probably do better and yet, still, the work has to get done...
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