We’re a lucky bunch. Though the more ecological amongst us may yearn for the kind of city cycle programs that exist in places such as Copenhagen and Paris living in Halifax we do have a multitude of ways we can diminish the emissions billowing out of the exhaust pipes of our cars and trucks.
There’s the E-Pass---initiated by the Ecology Action Centre---the employer transit pass pilot program going on at a few provincial workplaces such as Conserve Nova Scotia and the Department of Energy. The gist of the program in most places is that the transit authority provides the discount of about 15 percent in exchange for employees committing to buy one year’s worth of passes. “Metro Transit is trying a different model,” says Stephanie Sodero, a coordinator for TRAX, the provincial eco-transportation division of the EAC. “They’re asking the employers to provide the discount.” At press time there was nothing confirmed that the project would go further into the year. “But if it was to continue, potentially more workplaces would join in October.”
Then there’s the U-Pass, the university transit pass. At the big schools in Halifax (excepting NSCAD and the NSCC…for now), full-time students are obliged to pay for a transit pass as part of their tuition, amounting to around $120 per year, a 75 percent discount of the cost of a year’s transit pass. Ridership has increased dramatically on Halifax’s busses and ferries. “The one stat we do have is that the Saint Mary’s program resulted in 50,000 new student riders a month,” says Sodero.
On the bicycle front there’s the Can-Bike programs, a Canada-wide initiative to get adults who’ve never been on bikes to learn how to ride them, and more importantly, how to ride them in the city. (Call 490-6666, or check out the website for information: canbike.net/cca_pages/schedules-ns-halifax.htm.) Bicycle Nova Scotia is for you if you’re looking to connect with like-minded cyclists in the region. Join BNS and support cycle-centric initiatives. Check out the site: bicycle.ns.ca. Or show up at Victoria Park on Spring Garden the last Friday of the month at 6pm for Critical Mass, a tour of downtown among slow-moving cyclists to celebrate sustainable transit and provide safety in numbers.
The city is currently putting a system into development to encourage carpooling. The service will be a website where people can register their commuter route and destination in order to pair up with others doing a similar drive. By sharing drives, commuters can extend the life of their vehicles and minimize costs and emissions. HRM transportation engineer Roddy MacIntyre won’t confirm exactly when the site will be up and running. “Baring any unforeseen problems, we’re pursuing to have it by April.”
Former product designer Peter Zimmer is also establishing a car sharing service for Halifax, in partnership with Hillcrest Volkswagen’s Mike Velemirovich. Members would need to be 23 years of age or older and have a relatively clean driving record---“Our insurance tells us who we can accept,” says Zimmer---and could book gassed-up cars at any time of the day or night for increments as small as 30 minutes. A card swipe system gets you into the cars and records the rental, distance, etc. “We’re aiming to reduce the hassle of car ownership,” says Zimmer. “To treat cars as a utility, so you don’t have to own one.” Zimmer quotes studies that say every car share vehicle removes 5 from the road, as employees will take the bus more often and are less likely to want to own cars themselves. “And overall, members drive much less,” says Zimmer.
Zimmer has roughly 250 people interested, and hopes to be up and running by June. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Or, we can take the bus. Metro Transit’s fleet of busses run on biodiesel, a mixture of diesel fuel and fish oil supplied by Wilson Fuels. In the summer there’s FRED, the “Free Rides Everywhere Downtown” bus, sponsored by the Downtown Halifax Business Commission. Or try the MetroLink, the express bus service started by the HRM as part of a project to reduce greenhouse gasses by getting more commuters into a speedy bus system. It runs from Sackville and Cole Harbour into the downtown area. And if you’d like to park and ride, Metro Transit offers 13 locations for you to leave your car during your workday. For more information on all that Metro Transit offers see: halifax.ca/metrotransit.