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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Metro Transit ferry service torpedoed

Council cuts late-night and early Sunday service, reduces mid-day trips.

Posted By on Wed, Aug 8, 2012 at 12:11 PM

Halifax council Tuesday voted to severely cut ferry service. For the downtown-Alderney ferry, council’s vote cuts the morning Sunday service before 11:30am, reduces the current 15-minute weekday schedule from noon to 2pm to 30 minutes, and ends service with the Halifax-departing 10:15pm ferry Monday through Thursday.

For the Woodside ferry, the cuts remove the weekday ferry leaving Woodside at 9:37am, as well as the return ferry leaving Halifax at 9:52am.

Council’s decision for these cuts was actually a compromise. Metro Transit had asked council to also cut the late-night Friday and Saturday service, but council rejected that proposal. As a result, ferries on Friday and Saturday nights will continue to run its current schedule—the last ferry will leave downtown Halifax at 11:45pm and arrive in Dartmouth at midnight.

Metro Transit had asked council to cut service to reflect service standards council had adopted last year. Those standards call for a minimum of 98 passengers in the commuting direction during peak hours, and 73 in the the heavy direction on off-peak hours. Actual ridership in the late hours is often fewer than 20 passengers.

But several councillors pointed out that the ferry service as a whole is running more efficiently than the bus service as a whole. Metro Transit manager Eddie Robar confirmed as much, saying that in terms of direct rider payments, the ferries collect between 68 and 70 percent of their operating costs, while direct rider payments are responsible for just 40 percent of bus operational costs.

While transit ridership is subsidized, the money spent on transit dwarfs what would be much larger expenditures for widening and repairing roads, and for building new roads, were transit riders given no option but to drive cars. Moreover, ferry supporters argue that the late-night service is an important component of economic development downtown.

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