Two of Halifax Transit’s flagship routes are changing this year as the municipality implements the last changes of its five-year-old service plan.
Dave Reage, Halifax Transit’s executive director, presented his proposed 2022-2023 operating budget to councillors during a virtual meeting on Wednesday. As part of that budget, Reage detailed the route changes proposed for the coming fiscal year as part of the Moving Forward Together Plan, approved by council in December 2016.
While the changes proposed for 2022-2023 aren’t as significant as last year, when Halifax Transit revamped the Dartmouth routes, they effect some key buses. Here are the highlights:
Rather than using Barrington Street when travelling inbound, the Route 1 will travel on Gottingen Street in both directions, something Reage said is a “longstanding request of the community.” He also acknowledged the route has a “lateness issue,” and that will be addressed with scheduling changes.
Continuing with Halifax Transit’s recent trend of splitting routes into A/B/C (like the 6, 7, 9, and others), the Route 10 will get what Reage calls “branch service.” Routes 10A, 10B and 10C will run from Dalhousie University to the Bridge Terminal in Dartmouth. Routes 10B and 10C will continue to Mic Mac Mall. And Route 10C will continue to Caledonia.
Halifax Transit is also folding Route 41 into Route 10, because Reage said it “largely duplicates the same route.”
This new route will replace Route 11 Dockyard and carry the same name and similar service, running between the dockyard and the Bridge Terminal, but now extending to the Iriving Shipyard.
Another branched route, the 51A/B will replace the current Route 51 Windmill. It will run between the Bridge Terminal, Oceanbreeze Estates, the Bedford Institute for Oceanography and the planned Wrights Cove Terminal during peak hours as the Route 51B. During off-peak hours, as Route 51A, it won’t run to the Wrights Cove Terminal.
Compared to the current iteration, the route won’t run as far into Burnside.
The new Route 56 Dartmouth Crossing will run further than before, stretching into Burnside and down to the planned Wrights Cove Terminal.
Like Route 56, the new version of Route 72 Portland Hills will run further than before, servicing the area around IKEA and Kent.
The Route 192 Hemlock Ravine Express is a new commuter bus taking people from the Larry Uteck Boulevard area to downtown Halifax.
This is an existing route, the Basinview Express, getting more trips added in the morning and afternoon peak times.
The new route changes are scheduled to take effect in November 2022.
Free fare Fridays?
Councillors approved Reage’s budget proposal for $33.6 million, a reduction from last year’s $38.5 million. Much of that change is attributed to higher projected fare revenue.
On top of that budget amount, councillors agreed to consider spending $100,000 to $750,000 on removing fares one day a week this summer. The move would be intended to support businesses recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The lower end of the range represents free ferries on Saturdays, while the high end is free buses and ferries on Fridays.
Coun. Tony Mancini put the motion on the floor.
“Maybe we’ll move people from Dartmouth to Halifax, Halifax into downtown Dartmouth, free of charge and hopefully we’ll see events taking place again and buskers, and lots of activity. I really think this will be worthwhile,” Mancini said.
Coun. Sam Austin said it may be a better idea to provide free fares during the lunch hour and afternoon.
“I’m not so sure that we want to be doing all-day promotion on a Friday because I mean, to me, the goal isn’t to subsidize someone’s commute to the office, it’s to try and spark that those recreation trips,” he said.
The motion to add that item to the budget adjustment list, for consideration at the end of council’s budget-building process, passed unanimously. It will come back with a briefing note costing out multiple options for council.
In other news from Wednesday’s meeting:
- Reage said, in response to a question from Mancini, that the ferries will be retrofitted this year to allow fat bikes to fit in the on-board bike racks. As Suzanne Rent reported in an October 2021 Morning File, the wide-tire bicycles don’t fit in the current racks.
- Believe it when you see it, but Reage said new fare payment options are coming this year. The first phase will allow riders to show drivers a pass on their phone, and the second phase, expected to be complete in 2022, will allow riders to scan QR codes on their phones or tap debit and credit cards. In July 2020, the Examiner reported the staffer in charge of the project said that first phase would happen “quickly.”
- Coun. David Hendsbee apologized for his word choice. During debate, Hendsbee said, in reference to reports taking back to 2012 talking about better transit for the Eastern Shore: “Ever since that time, we’ve been raping the area with that regional tax rate for the reaping of for the services [sic], and what have we got to show for it? Nothing.” Later, he apologized: “I want to take this opportunity to apologize for a word I said in a heated debate in regards to rural transit and the regional tax rate and stuff. I used the word rape and I shouldn’t use word raked. Later on I used the word reaped and stuff but in the heat of debate, I said the inappropriate word.”
- Councillors started their debate on the 2022-2023 Parks and Recreation budget of about $32 million, hearing a presentation from acting executive director Maggie MacDonald. They voted to add two items to the budget adjustment list: $250,000 for Discover Halifax and $40,000 for a new off-leash dog park in Spryfield. The debate on the Parks and Recreation budget is scheduled to continue either this Friday or next. Councillors are also expected to debate the Planning and Development budget this Friday.