It’s time to expand our rapid transit network

newlacewoodLike the last election I’ve made 30 promises this campaign, progressive ideas that focus on our neighbourhood prioritiessupports stronger communities, and builds a better HRM. This is a detail policy blog that outlines three of those promises.

Halifax needs to be implementing an expanded network of higher-order transit by 2020.

Higher-order (or rapid) transit service is separated partially or completely from general vehicular traffic and is therefore faster, more reliable and moves more people  than  transit vehicles operating in mixed traffic.  The Dartmouth ferry is our best example of rapid transit.

Over the last four years, Regional Council has done lots of work to lay the foundation for an excellent transit network in HRM. There are many signs of change: three new ferries, improvements to or replacements of the terminals at Alderney, Lacewood (pictured above) and Highfield Park, the new “Departures Line,” which replaced the old “GoTime” system, and almost 100 new buses.

Meanwhile, in the background things have been happening that will make the system even better. The new Departures Line means that starting this fall, bus stops will be announced (both on the new digital signs and out loud) and you will be able to track your bus on a smartphone app. By the end of next year, a new ticketing system will allow riders to pay by tap, enabling the introduction of all-door boarding on select bus routes. The bus fleet will be 99% accessible by the end of this year.

The Moving Forward Plan, while still being finalized, gives us corridor routes that begin to outline what must become rapid-transit routes. This fall, the Integrated Mobility Plan will help identify where we should consider giving road space to buses, or look to other modes of transportation to take the burden, rather than relying on cars.

We have the foundation, we have a funding from a willing federal government, and we have the opportunity to make a huge difference in how we experience transit and transportation in HRM. We also have a well-researched and costed study on the cost of a rail system to Burnside.

In addition, the railway to Bedford continues to be a strong possibility. The railway bypasses all the traffic on the peninsula, as well as the Fairview overpass and the Bedford Highway. We can also explore dedicated bus lanes and busways, but I continue to think rail may actually be the cheapest approach, especially considering the challenges of widening any of the key roads. The recent study shows the costs are significant, but the benefits could be staggering.

We need a dedicated network of bus and HOV lanes to Bedford, Sackville, Dartmouth, Clayton Park, and our transit terminals.  A priority for road investment has to be any of these transit priority measures, and we have to be willing to sacrifice some of the space currently devoted to single-occupant vehicles to make sure that buses move on time. If rail is not viable, we need to immediately work to implement a fast ferry, which, combined with these transit measures, would help make transit a more viable option for people commuting from Bedford and Sackville.  We need a strategy for higher order transit that includes all three modes available to us.

Commitments:

  1. Transit priority measures, busways and HOV lanes will be mapped out and funded for rapid implementation on key corridor routes.
  2. Make a new policy the states when buses should have priority on city streets, even if it reduces that roadway’s capacity for single-occupant vehicles.
  3. HRM shall commit to a higher-order (rapid) transit network expansion, with analysis and decisions completed by 2017/18 and implementation underway in 2018/19.
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