Municipal councillors approved a plan to overhaul Halifax’s public transportation system on Tuesday on the condition that the final system plan will only be approved once councillors debate and vote on 23 proposed changes to it.
Councillors are waiting for another staff report on the Moving Forward Together Plan
Halifax transit plan going to council next week
The proposed changes were tabled at committee of the whole on Tuesday and cover everything from reinstating bus routes slated for cancellation to reviewing east-west routes on the north end of the peninsula.
Before councillors vote on the changes, staff will write a report outlining the cost of each of the proposals and how the changes would impact the system overhaul.
Coun. Steve Adams raised concerns about a bus route near Purcells Cove that’s slated to be cancelled, saying it would ruin the livelihood of residents.
“I’ve had a number of people call me – one guy in tears because his job is done – if this bus leaves, his job is over,” Adams told councillors. “(He) doesn’t have the resources to buy a vehicle and can’t move.”
Five bus routes are slated to be cancelled or shortened but on Tuesday, multiple councillors asked for some routes to be reconsidered. If no changes go ahead, the routes that would be cancelled all had an average of 25 riders per day. For example, the staff presentation says Route 406 averaged 12 riders a day and Route 22 averaged five riders a day.
The long list of proposed changes means it’s not clear when the report will be brought back to councillors for more debate, but Halifax Transit acting director Dave Reage says it will take at least “several months.”
Mayor Mike Savage says he’d hoped for a shorter list of proposals but ultimately thinks the discussion is good for democracy and hopes the debate will shorten the potential number of changes the plan could see.
“I’m hoping that we don’t try to pass everything, because if you pass everything then you really pass nothing,” Savage said.
Coun. Russell Walker spoke out against any changes in the plan until it was implemented and the municipality could assess how it works.
“We’re not even willing to give it a chance to see where it would go because with all of theses amendments, it’s not going anywhere,” he said.
Transit advocates at the Ecology Action Centre and It’s More Than Buses say the proposals are a mixed bag of ideas that would make the overhaul stronger and other changes that would see more of the status quo kept in place.
One of the proposals will look at providing more service to high-need areas like the Hydrostone neighbourhood and the shipyard, according to Tristan Cleveland from the Ecology Action Centre.
“The plan, as proposed today, would not achieve that basic skeleton, that basic core system of corridors, and so there are a few changes that are necessary that were proposed today that we hope will get passed by council.”