HRM transportation committee talks transit safety, recruitment

The transportation standing committee has requested a staff report on “opportunities and challenges related to public safety in the Halifax Transit system and options to mitigate these challenges.”

“The pandemic has hit everybody; I think folks are a little shorter with one another,” said Councillor Tony Mancini when putting the motion up for debate. He says there has been aggression and violence that has been increasing in Halifax Transit stations. Harried commuters run into unhoused people seeking shelter from the elements who run into a transit employee, who is likely having a bad day. It’s a recipe for conflict.

Mancini stressed that unhoused people using municipal facilities for shelter, wifi or a bathroom is a good use of public facilities. The soft language in the motion is to make sure “we address the conflict by helping people,” explained Mancini after the meeting. He wants to avoid having a transit authority like Toronto’s. That motion passed.

Halifax Transit’s executive director Dave Reage was grilled by Waye Mason about the public service’s labour shortage. The issue is two-pronged. “We heard about the grey wave coming,” explains Reage. “Well, it actually crashed on us.” Transit had a huge wave of longtime employees retire during the pandemic.

The second part is the Canadian military problem; how does a government get people to sign up to do a job in what’s very publicly a terrible workplace? Reage says that transit is working on the “recruitment side of things from all angles” and is “working with human resources to tackle” absenteeism. Details on what this actually means would likely have forced the meeting in camera, so the conversation stayed somewhat vague.

Publicly subsidized accessible taxis are coming, and the committee has been promised that these cabs will travel to even the far-flung places of the HRM like Lower Sackville. And the city has also been promised that fares will be comparable with non-accessible taxis.

It’s costing less to maintain buses these days because the city planned ahead. The very short version is that instead of running buses into the ground, the city plans to replace buses after 14 years. This means more maintenance is covered under extended warranties, and warranty maintenance has better parts, and better parts mean less maintenance.

Mason is going to force the city to learn its lessons from Spring Garden. Next meeting, he’ll request a staff report on how to make future pedestrian street plans go more smoothly.

Mitch Van Oosten lives in the north end and wants his phone to tell him how his bus detoured, not just that his bus is detoured. He said there’s software that helps transit authorities integrate information into Google Maps. Right now, when routes are on a detour, there’s just a little yellow note instead of the new route, stops and times. If transit did this integration, Google Maps could give directions based on the actual bus detours. Mason informed Van Oosten that after a presentation like this, at the next meeting there will likely be a motion about it. If someone on the committee thinks this is a good idea.

About The Author

Matt Stickland

Matt spent 10 years in the Navy where he deployed to Libya with HMCS Charlottetown and then became a submariner until ‘retiring’ in 2018. In 2019 he completed his Bachelor of Journalism from the University of King’s College. Matt is an almost award winning opinion writer.

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