Halifax hopes to crack down on bad behaviour at transit terminals and on buses with a new set of rules.

Council passed first reading of the “By-Law Respecting Halifax Transit” during its meeting on Tuesday.

Among other actions, the bylaw would make it an offence to “litter;” “spit, urinate or defecate outside of provided washrooms;” “perform a live musical performance;” or “operate any electronic device or musical instrument producing sound through external speakers” at a transit terminal. On buses, passengers would be prohibited from smoking, putting their feet on the seats, and trying to leave the vehicle while it’s in motion.

People who don’t follow the rules could face fines between $100 and $10,000, or a ban from transit terminals and buses for up to 180 days.

The bylaw is a response to an uptick of incidents at terminal and on buses in recent years. That’s part of the reason for an exodus of transit operators, resulting in major cuts to service in recent months. As Suzanne Rent reported last month, transit union president Shane O’Leary said the new bylaw wasn’t coming quickly enough.

Dave Reage, executive director of Halifax Transit, said the municipality hopes the new bylaw, combined with the transit code of conduct and the recent addition of supervisors to terminals, will make a difference.

“None of these things in isolation are a solution for everything, but they are all tools and all things that add to the ultimate solution of making it a safer workplace and a safer environment for our passengers,” Reage told councillors.

Halifax Transit would rely on Halifax Regional Police and RCMP to enforce the bylaw for now. There’s another report coming to council soon “on the next stage of the by-law enforcement program approach and methodology with timelines.”

The new bylaw will come back to council for second reading before becoming law.

Council also passed a motion on Tuesday to approve a contract for improved safety barriers for transit operators. At a cost of just over $1 million, the barriers “will have a fixed door incorporating a sliding two-piece glass system, designed to securely attach to the vehicle.” They will replace the temporary barriers installed during the pandemic.

E-scooter and bike share bylaw passes

In other transportation news from Tuesday’s meeting, a bylaw regulating e-scooters passed second reading.

The Micromobility By-law bans e-scooters from sidewalks; caps their speed at 25km/h in a bike lane or roadway and 15km/h on a multi-use path; and bars people from parking scooters “in such a manner that obstructs the flow of pedestrian, cyclist or vehicular traffic.”

As the Halifax Examiner has reported, the scooters are problematic for blind and partially sighted people.

The vote by council also authorizes a city-sanctioned two-year pilot project for e-scooter and bicycle rental.

The municipality will tender for a private company to run that service, and then use what it learns from the pilot to create a second part to the new bylaw.

HRM hopes to launch the pilot in 2024.

Buses to the beach?

Coun. Trish Purdy wants a bus to Rainbow Haven Beach.

The Cole Harbour councillor brought a motion to council on Tuesday seeking “a staff report to investigate the possibility of providing shuttle service” to the beach next summer.

Purdy met some resistance from Coun. Becky Kent. The beach is in her district, Dartmouth South-Eastern Passage, and she argued the bus should be picking up those residents, not just running from Cole Harbour to Rainbow Haven.

Other councillors said they’d like to have buses running to beaches in their districts as well. Purdy agreed to broaden the scope of the report to include Crystal Crescent in Coun. Patty Cuttell’s Spryfield-Sambro Loop district.

Suburban planning

Councillors voted Tuesday to start work on HRM’s long-awaited suburban plan.

It’s like the Centre Plan for the suburbs. Planners want to update and consolidate the decades-old land-use bylaws governing places like Cole Harbour, Sackville, and Spryfield, and create a set of clear, predictable development rules.

Planners will focus first on areas around the municipality’s planned Bus Rapid Transit network.

The first step is public consultation, which is expected to begin in the coming months.

Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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  1. I have to agree with Sean. These by-laws are not going to stop people from being a nuisance.

    Who is actually going to enforce these by-laws?? My understanding is that we do not have enough police officers to meet our needs now. Is it really reasonable to think that the bus driver is going to stop a bus and call the police to enforce a by-law for some one putting their feet up on a seat? A law that is never enforced is not really a law.

  2. Buses to the beach would be great, but how does that fit in with a broader vision of transit and what it could/ should do for HRM?

    Is the transit Code of Conduct really stopping anyone from telling a driver to go f’ themselves, throwing garbage on the bus floor, or screaming at another passenger?