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The pitch: Halifax should give away bus passes as gas prices soar

For city hall, the gasoline crisis is an opportunity to break the chicken-egg cycle of poor transit and car reliance by getting drivers to try the bus.

Pop psychology gospel says it takes three weeks to make a habit stick. Just ask anyone with a Pinterest account, where elaborate, 21-day “life hacks” are pinned into ubiquity. Fast-food monolith McDonald’s knows it, too: Why else would it discount its coffee to a dollar a cup just long enough to make you change your morning routine?

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to send gas prices soaring skyward—reaching a record high today after going up three times since last Friday—Halifax has the perfect chance to shake up its routine. Why not give out free bus passes for the next month?

There’s a chicken-egg feedback loop when it comes to taking Halifax Transit. Drivers drive because the bus isn’t dependable or frequent enough. The bus, meanwhile, isn’t frequent or dependable enough because not enough people take it. Free bus passes would be the hard circuit break we need: An incentive for car owners to try the bus, which would in turn boost numbers enough to rationalize adding more buses and routes.

While it often takes government a couple of years to move from an idea proposal to its implementation, Halifax Regional Council has proved during the pandemic it can hurry up when it needs to, like when the decision was made in 2020 to offer free transit to help essential workers. It’s also worth noting how life-changing free transit would be for essential workers, saving them $82.50 a month on bus passes. It would also make the city more financially accessible to low-income and wage-insecure people.

In most substantial cities, you’d never dream of taking your car downtown, anyway, between truck-and-taxi traffic, the nightmare of finding parking and the convenience of good public transit networks that get you where you need to go quickly and dependably. Imagine a life where the hassle of parking is gone! Statistics Canada recently reported that Halifax has the fastest-growing downtown in the country; transit that keeps up is what all Haligonians deserve. It might just take the city giving it away for a month to help us all realize it.

About The Author

Morgan Mullin

Morgan is the Arts & Entertainment Editor at The Coast, where she writes about everything from what to see and do around Halifax to profiles of the city’s creative class to larger cultural pieces. She’s been with The Coast since 2016.

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