Photo: Lawrence Plug, via
Photo: Lawrence Plug, via

People are rightly up in arms about the recent poor turnout for our municipal election, but let me throw another log on the fire of concern over citizen apathy: The first round of consultations for the Integrated Mobility Plan have come and gone, and a whopping 300 of us participated. Actually, it’s probably worse than that. Only 130 of us showed up in person at sessions to meet staff and weigh in, and 165 of us signed in online to share our ideas. A good number of us probably did both (I know I did) so it’s quite possible that the total number of participants is considerably fewer than 300.

That’s a dismal number considering what’s at stake. But then, part of the problem is people don’t necessarily know what’s at stake.

Since some have been confused by the title “Integrated Mobility Plan” (no, it has nothing to do with cell phones), from hereon in let’s start calling the IMP what it is: Halifax’s new 15-year transportation plan.

A clearer name is a start, but we’re also missing some clarity around what a transportation plan means. Sometimes the language of planning gets in its own way. So let me take a stab at boiling it down into the most immediate of terms: This transportation plan is about space, and who gets to use it.

Do we continue to give the lion’s share of space on our streets to personal vehicle drivers, or hand some over to public transit passengers and active transportation users like walkers and cyclists?

This plan is about redrawing Bayer’s Road and Gottingen Street to include bus lanes. It’s is about redrawing the space between the buildings along Spring Garden Road to reflect the huge numbers of pedestrians moving to and fro along the corridor. It’s about redrawing Portland Street and Wyse Road to maximize their potential in moving people quickly and safely. It’s about the Mumford Terminal. It’s about the Bedford Highway.

All these real places will be impacted by this plan, and it’s likely that re-allocations of space are in line for all of them. We just don’t have any choice if we plan to achieve the modest goal we set for ourselves in our Regional Plan, to go from an average of 77 per cent reliance on private vehicles down to 70 per cent.

Because the discussion around the IMP, er, I mean, Halifax’s new 15-year transportation plan, has been vague so far, I don’t really think lack of participation in this first round of the process is all that unexpected. We know that people in Halifax care about how they get around, especially once the maps come out and we start to see how our own everyday routes and habits might change.

When Halifax Transit was coming up with the Moving Forward Together Plan, they logged over 15,000 online survey responses and just shy of 1,500 in-person participants at their public sessions. Of course, that tally came at the end of a years-long process. The consultations on our transportation plan will happen in a much shorter timeframe, with the plan due to be delivered to council by May 2017.  That means we’ll likely be asked to weigh in at least twice more in the next six months.  It also means if you don’t pay attention, the future of transportation in the region will be decided without your input.

Voting is an important duty in a representative democracy like ours, but it’s not the only one. We also have the duty to participate in how our communities are planned, to share our perspectives, and inform our leaders and planners of what’s going on from our perspective.

If you’re short on opinions when it comes to bus lanes and where they should go, then consider this: Probably the single most basic input that Halifax staffers need from you this year is knowledge of your real, everyday travel needs and habits. And there is a relatively painless way to give them that, via the NovaTRAC survey for 2016, a kind of transportation census, with the power to properly inform our planners and technocrats on how the municipality actually moves.

But I hope that most of us will see the IMP Halifax’s new 15-year transportation plan for the important document it is, and take the time to share our ideas and experience, to help give it the wisdom and weight of Halifax’s citizenry.

Join the Conversation


Only subscribers to the Halifax Examiner may comment on articles. We moderate all comments. Be respectful; whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims. Please read our Commenting Policy.
    1. Click on Environment at the top, Rhea. That’s what I was looking for too.

      Examiner: your link to the Tidal Power story in today’s email isn’t set up properly. It goes to the transportation story. Both are of course important!

  1. thanks for this important story Erica – ps when I click on the link you provided for the Novatrac survey, it asks me for an access code…

    1. Yeah, that access code is there because they are doing two things: One, a randomized survey for which you would need to have received an invitation with a unique access code, and then two, a non-random, self-selected sample of as many households as possible, for which anyone can use the access code they mention on the site: nova2016