Regional council has voted to overhaul HRM’s transit network—barring a couple dozen amendments it needs to investigate first.
Halifax Transit’s Moving Forward Together plan was discussed for several hours at Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting. The five-year plan has been in the making since 2013, and will dismantle and rebuild the municipality’s bus system into a transfer-based network focusing on 10 new high-frequency corridor routes.
The plan was only approved though on the condition that it will wait to be fully enacted once staff come back with a supplementary report outlining the options and implications of 23 amendments asked for during Tuesday’s meeting.
The individual amendments will be discussed and voted on once the report comes back to council. Given the complexity of some the requests, that’s unlikely to happen for several months and maybe not until after the municipal election.
None of this really sat well with councillor Russell Walker.
“I’m a little disappointed we won’t be able to give the plan presented to us even a chance,” said the representative for Bedford Basin West. “This is not making anything faster or more convenient, in my opinion.”
Amalgamated Transit Union president Ken Wilson was more blunt in his assessment.
“It’s almost a case of ‘not in my backyard,’” he said after Tuesday’s meeting. “‘Change the transit system, but make sure you don’t affect my route in my district.’”
Wilson, who says the ATU wasn’t properly consulted by Halifax Transit, was also critical of the Moving Forward Together plan’s overall design.
“We’re going to lose ridership. There’s no doubt in my mind about that,” Wilson said in a presentation to council. “We’re using outdated analog data to blow up our transit system and put it back together...it makes absolutely no sense.”
Mayor Mike Savage defended this newest delay as part of a healthy democratic process, even while admitting that he hopes not everything council asked for will be approved.
“I probably would’ve preferred to have a few less amendments, but I do think you have to understand that this is the beginning of the political part of this process,” Savage told reporters. “At the end of the day, I’m hoping we don’t try to pass everything, because if you pass everything then you really pass nothing.”
According to acting Halifax Transit director Dave Reage, the proposed amendments won’t impact the minor transit system changes the city is planning for this fiscal year—including alterations to routes 56 and 330, an increased Access-a-Bus fleet, technology upgrades like real-time GPS tracking and new bus shelters.
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