On campus
In the harbour


1. Halifax Transit punts on real time bus info via smart phones, ticket vending machines, and credit card payments


This morning, the city issued a Request for Proposals for an initiative called “Halifax Transit Technology Program – Fare Management.”

In May of 2014, Halifax Transit hired Trapeze Software Group to implement what’s called the AVL+ program. The RFP explains:

The AVL+ project scope includes Automatic Vehicle Location, Public Interfaces / Traveler Information, Automated Vehicle Announcements, Automated Passenger Counters and Headsign Integration for the Halifax Transit fixed route fleet. AVL+ is currently completing the mini-fleet/pilot phase of activities and starting full-fleet installation. Trapeze TransitMaster is a foundational platform with which the Fare Management solution must integrate seamlessly.

My understanding that Trapeze is providing the back-end software and GPS systems for buses, but another company is needed for the hardware to connect to Trapeze’s systems. So in the Fall of 2014, a RFP was issued looking for a “Fare Management Solution”; the winning vendor would oversee the following programs:

• Fareboxes
— Cash validation
— Mobile Data Terminals (MDTs)
— Transfer printers
— Smart Card (account-based), Credit Card and Smartphone payment enabled
• Ferry terminal faregates
— Smart Card and Credit Card payment enabled
— Passenger Counting technologies and processes
• Back Office Software
— Configurable for current and future Fare Management rules and business processes
— Manage all Fare Management components, technologies and financial transactions
— Provide Employer Pass and University Pass management functionality
• Cash Handling Equipment
• Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs)
• Point of Sale (POS)
• Public Interfaces
— public Website functionality
— Smartphone Applications • Solution Implementation

Yeah! Finally, we’ll get real-time bus information on a smart phone app! It’s about time, right?

Not so fast.

Explains today’s RFP:

While Halifax Transit still intends to implement an end-to-end Fare Management Solution, the evaluation team recommended a phased procurement approach based on lessons learned through the RFP vendor solution evaluation process.

And so that first “Fare Management Solution” FRP was cancelled, and Transit went back to the drawing board. Today’s second Fare Management Solution RFP asks for the following:

• Fareboxes
— Cash validation
— Mobile Data Terminals (MDTs)
— Transfer printers
• Ferry Terminal Faregates
— Fare collection
— Passenger Counting technologies and processes
• Back Office Software
— Configurable for current and future Fare Management rules and business processes
— Manage all Fare Management components, technologies and financial transactions
— Provide Employer Pass and University Pass management functionality
• Cash Handling Equipment
• Solution Implementation

In other words: No Smart Card, Credit Card, or Smartphone payments. No Ticket Vending Machines. No public interfaces, meaning we won’t be able to find real-time bus info via a website or on our smartphones.

Fear not, though: The “objective” of the RFP is to “Improve service quality and customer satisfaction by successfully implementing a state of the art solution.”

State of the art, heh. In the rest of the civilized world, “state of the art” transit technology includes all the stuff Halifax Transit is omitting from the RFP.

I have this recurring nightmare that Halifax is stuck in the 1980s. The Nova Centre looks like 80s architecture, our government’s labour relations are reminiscent of Reagan’s 80s policies, the Chronicle Herald is trying to hold onto an 80s business model, and now our transit system is getting technological upgrades that were “state of the art” in the 80s.

YouTube video

2. Layoffs at Health

The Department of Health and Wellness announced a “reorganization” yesterday:

In all, 100 positions at the department will be eliminated. The department will transfer 62 positions to the Nova Scotia Health Authority, the IWK and the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage. Twenty people have received layoff notices. Some vacant positions or terms will also end. As part of the reorganization, 25 new positions will be created.

3. Fire department

Halifax council yesterday voted to implement the changes at the fire department recommended at its previous meeting by councillor Steve Craig, with one change: the two aerial trucks will be staffed by two firefighters instead of four, thereby cutting about a million dollars off the $5.2 million proposal.

This was all very anticlimactic. Dartmouth gets to keep its fire station, a bunch of new firefighters (32) will get hired, the aerial truck in Burnside will be taken off the cinder blocks and put into action, and everyone will pretend like it’s not costing any money. Councillor Gloria McCluskey went so far as to say we really can’t predict how this will affect the tax rate because once the new convention centre opens the city will be rolling in dough.


1. Richmond County

Parker Donham continues his series about “The Mess in Richmond County.”

By the way, assuming I can stay awake until then (I’m writing this at 3:30am), Donham and I will be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, today at 4pm.

2. Cranky letter of the day

To the Cape Breton Post:

Living in an economically depressed region, we sometimes allow our hopes (for economic development) to marginalize what should be a more rational approach to its attainment.

Accordingly, we open ourselves to speak of projects such as “rocket launching sites” (remember that Bras d’Or location proposal) and, perhaps, even more tragically, instances of wasted public investment such as KeataPhrma Inc. That one was sold with such apparent veracity that Cape Breton University instituted a program of employee training for it. It turned out to be an abject failure. Politicians from all parties, government funding agencies and the usual talking heads lined up once again touting the “viability” of the project. 

After its failure, its proponents merely adopted an “oh well, these things happen” attitude. Where was the due diligence? Where was the accountability? Significant amounts of public dollars were wasted. Try missing a credit card payment. You will be called to task. Not so for those politicians and government-funded agencies who spend money recklessly. For them it is on to the next project. 

This is why we should be inquisitive and ask the appropriate questions before we once again march in unison to the drumbeat of another grand project positioned as the new economic saviour. Asking the right questions does not imply negativity or defeatism. Instead it says we have the confidence to peer beneath the headline and analytically determine what should represent our economic priorities and how we can best achieve them. Only in this manner will we accomplish anything meaningful and lasting.

One essential ingredient to any project that has such meaning is private money. If something is to be viable then surely we should see private investors, be they local or otherwise, seeking involvement in the project. All too often all we hear are the plaintiff pleadings of politicians and the employees of government-funded economic agencies. What they are saying may not necessarily be wrong but always at its core lurks a common theme. Politicians spin the dream in order to maintain their positions; publicly funded agencies do so similarly to sustain their funding spigot and, with it, their jobs. 

The fact is many of these people, had they been in the Titanic’s wheelhouse, would have told worried passengers, “don’t worry, we are just stopping for ice. Everything is okay. Now go back to sleep.” 

Be it the development of a container terminal or any other mega project, what is the opinion of our local business leaders and, for that matter, experienced business persons in the respective field of enterprise? We have become accustomed to politicians and these government sponsored power centers speaking of “all that is possible” and so forth. 

But here’s a challenge. Ask several local business people point blank. Do you believe in this or that project and, if so, how much of your own money are you prepared to invest in it? Then we might see the truth behind many of the headlines.

Scott MacFadgen, Albert Bridge



City council (9:30am, City Hall) — budget deliberations continue. Today council looks at Transportation and Public Works.


Public Accounts (9am, Province House) — Peter Vaughan, Deputy Minister of Health, and Janet Knox – President of the Nova Scotia Health Authority, will be asked about the Auditor General’s 2015 report on the Nova Scotia Health Authority Business Plan. No doubt the opposition will use the opportunity to dig into yesterday’s layoffs at the Department of Health and Wellness.

On Campus


Spiders and silk (4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building Link) — MsC candidate Nathan Weatherbee-Martin will speak on “Development and optimization of automated fibre production for recombinant spider wrapping silk.”

YouTube video

This Gun For Hire (8pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — a screening of the 1942 film by director Frank Tuttle. Explains IMBd:

When hired killer Philip Raven shoots a blackmailer and his beautiful female companion dead, he’s is paid off in marked bills by his treasonous employer who is working with foreign spies.

King’s College

China (7:30pm, KTS Lecture Hall) — Simon Kow will talk about “The East is Read: China in Early Enlightenment Thought.”

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 7:45am Wednesday. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 7:45am Wednesday. Map:

Skogafoss, container ship, Argentia, Newfoundland to Pier 42, then sails to sea
Ningbo Express, container ship, Cagliari, Italy to Fairview Cove, then sails to sea

British Merlin sails to sea


The reason I got up so early is I’m spending as much time as I can on the DEAD WRONG series. Part 2 will be published Saturday.

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. I was in Ottawa for work during July last year. One of the first things I did, and convinced my coworkers to do, was go to the OC Transpo outlet in the Rideau Centre and get a Presto card. Reload it online; board either door; it’s proof of payment and transfer rolled into one. Also used it in Toronto on the subway while there for a Blue Jays game. And using the card was cheaper than tickets, which were cheaper than cash. But it is a “mature” payment system now.

    Here’s a link:

    Didn’t Metro (Halifax) Transit buy electronic fare boxes a few years ago, but disable most of the functions?

  2. Sounds like the Dept. of Health has restructured, let people go,and hired new ones. Any idea what the net cost of it all is, or what the new people are going to focus on?? Given the mess that continuing/critical care is in, I would have thought some of the bright minds in the Dept. would have seen the need to start putting new, increased and serious efforts into tackling chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and depression which are some of the highest in the country here in NS. Given our growing increase in older people, the ‘sick care’ system will be totally bogged down, unless and until it is decided to put serious efforts into prevention of chronic diseases. Statistics show that if you don’t have one of the chronic diseases, your dr/hospital visits are no higher, regardless of your age. Just ask Dr. John Ross if you don’t believe me. But then again, remember, we promote high fat, high sugar eating in this part of the country – including the City of Halifax with their promotion of Donairs. I can only imagine the degree of laughter that created in other parts of the country that are more healthy. While we can all eat a donair once in a while, naming it as an official food was one of the more stupid things this city has done (1980s style). And topping it all off was the mayor breaking the tie in its support. All in the name of unwittingly promoting diabetes and hypertension……………no wonder people get depressed in NS. We are indeed stuck in the 1980s. Totally stuck.

  3. It constantly kills me the way Halifax has to constantly re-invent the wheel for everything. We don’t seem to be able to simply call up Toronto or Chicago, and ask them what they are using and how to they like it, and then buy that system. The RFP system is so huge and unwieldy, you ask for proposals to ask for proposals to actually look into asking for proposals to buy the system that is 10 years out of date by the time you are ready.

    1. Honestly, I don’t know about Chicago, but pretty much everything Toronto has done transit-wise has been at least as painful as what’s happening here. The PRESTO roll-out there was ridiculously delayed, overly complex, and Kafka-like.

      We shouldn’t even bother to look to other Canadian transit systems. Look at Europe, Asia, and the better American systems

    2. … or even better, check out London (UK) Oyster card, cashless system, integrated mode, .. etc., etc. been running for years now!

  4. Great to see the city getting all BOLD again with Halifax Transit. At least the logo looks TOTALLY AWESOME on the buses.

    Won’t make the buses run on time or improve the service but we wouldn’t want to put the cart before the horse now would we.

  5. On Halifax Transit – While the technology upgrades were presented as a bundle, there were two separate projects. First was AVLS – the dreamed of GPS on the buses. Second is new fare technology.

    ALVS was tendered 18 months ago. Testing has been underway since the fall of 2015. System will be public and fully operational this fall. This also includes a bunch of other important things that set up things like automatic announcement of stops (audible and visual).

    Fare Management Solution was put out to tender as one project, and no one company did all the things HT wanted to the standard that was hoped for, so it has been broken into two phases. First is farebox as outlined above, second is smart pay, so pay by tap or Presto or mag cards like you see in big cities.

    Fare management being broken into two will not slow down GPS. They are separate projects.

    1. For god’s sake call Yarmouth and ask how they did it.I fear Councillor Waye Mason has become an apologist for city hall rather than a driver of progress at city hall. I obviously wasted my $ 50 donation. Fool me once…

      1. Two points – 1 the article contains incorrect info and I provided correct info. How is that an apology?

        2 Yarmouth bought their one and only bus for their one route which started November. The bus is Accessabus size. It does not take cash, it only takes pre-paid passes that are purchased at town hall. That is not a viable solution for Halifax.

        Hope this helps.

        1. The info you provided doesn’t fit any definition of “apology” that I’m aware of. Thanks for the clarification Waye.

  6. Christ, the Toronto Transit Commission just last year permitted debit and credit cards. Otherwise, people are still using tokens. A lot of urban transit systems in Canada overall are stuck in the 80s. Except Yarmouth, I guess.