The plan for new bike and bus lanes on Herring Cove Road got the Transportation Standing Committee’s stamp of approval on Thursday.
Transportation planning engineer Harrison McGrath presented the Herring Cove Road Functional Plan to the committee after it deferred a vote last month to give councillors and the public time to digest the 599-page report.
The process started in 2018 when the committee asked for a report on adding bus lanes and active transportation infrastructure to the road connecting Spryfield and the peninsula. Since then, the city went through a public consultation process and then hired a consultant to create a 30% design plan. Needing more detail for the complicated section between the Armdale Rotary and Glenora Avenue, the city then commissioned a 60% design for just that portion of the road.
That’s what was before the committee on Thursday. As the Examiner reported last month:
The preferred design now incorporates a shared active transportation path, for cyclists and pedestrians, along the east side of Herring Cove Road from the Armdale Rotary to Glenora Avenue, and a standard sidewalk on the west side. From Glenora Avenue to the 500 block, the plan calls for separated bike lanes and sidewalks on either side of the road. This is a slight departure from the 2019 plan, which had the separated bike lanes and sidewalks stretching further toward the rotary, to Cowie Hill Road.
In terms of transit infrastructure, the Rapid Transit Strategy contains plans for bus lanes in either direction for most of this part of Herring Cove Road.
As part of the 60% design, the municipality considered adding outbound lanes on the whole stretch.
“Due to significant constraints between Armdale Roundabout and Purcells Cove Road, it was agreed to begin the outbound transit lane south of Purcells Cove Road,” the report says.
After Purcells Cove Road outbound, the consultant contemplated two options in the 60% design: an in-bound lane from Cowie Hill Road to the rotary with some transit-only traffic signals outbound (Option 1), or bus lanes in both directions from Purcells Cove Road to Glenora Avenue (Option 2).
Both options also include realigning intersections like Purcells Cove Road and the curve in the road at Osborne Street, and while there are no private vehicle lanes being added, both options require road-widening and land-purchasing.
The consultant, Crandall Engineering, settled on Option 1:
There is potential for significant travel time savings for inbound transit service on Herring Cove Road with the introduction of a continuous transit lane from Armdale Roundabout to Glenora Avenue;
There is less potential for outbound transit travel time savings. Considering the higher costs and property impacts associated with Option 2, the benefit/cost of Option 2 is less than Option 1.
“I do feel that we need to move ahead on this,” Coun. Patty Cuttell said during the meeting.
“Herring Cove Road really needs some work done on it, throughout the whole thing, but particularly the from Glenora to the roundabout section.”
Cuttell noted that there will be more public consultation soon on the second phase of the project, from Glenora Avenue to the 500 block.
The motion before the committee, to recommend that council endorse the plan and direct staff to start buying land to make it happen, passed unanimously.
Request for report on restricted turns passes
The committee also voted in favour Coun. Waye Mason’s motion requesting a staff report on protecting pedestrians by stopping vehicles from turning.
Mason gave notice that he’d bring the motion after a driver hit and killed 75-year-old Dr. David Gass at the intersection of Kempt Road and Young Street. The driver, who was ticketed for failing to yield to a pedestrian, was making a left turn from Kempt onto Young.
As the Examiner reported last month, Mason said the “tsunami of anger” on social media over Gass’ death is “entirely justified.”
“People are dying for no good reason,” Mason said. “It is unacceptable that my neighbour, David Gass, who lived two houses up from me, died because a guy was doing a left-hand turn and didn’t pay attention.”
Mason said he’s looking for changes at intersections like Kempt and Young, where Gass died. That intersection is wide enough that it has left-hand turning lanes where drivers could wait.
Right turns on red lights should be prohibited too, Mason said, maybe not everywhere but at least in intersections with a history of collisions.
The requested staff report, to be complete before the next budget, “outlines options for a program for establishing protected left-turn movements and protected right-turn movements at signal controlled intersections. The program should prioritize high traffic and pedestrian volume intersections and high conflict intersections.”
During Thursday’s meeting, Mason said he knows the idea would slow traffic, and he thinks that’s a fair trade-off for reducing those conflicts between vehicles and pedestrians.
Deputy Mayor Tim Outhit said slowing drivers down may create more road rage, potentially endangering pedestrians again, but he supported the motion, which passed unanimously.
Councillor wants less regulation for taxi drivers
A few months after council legalized ride-hailing in HRM, the committee voted for a staff report taking another look at the way Uber and Lyft drivers are licensed.
Coun. Becky Kent asked for a report on amending the city’s taxi bylaw “to ensure fairness in the process to become either a taxi driver or a transportation network company, or TNC, driver.”
The rules for ride-hailing companies, which the municipality calls transportation network companies, passed in September, before Kent was elected. As the Examiner reported at the time:
The regulations require ride-hailing companies to buy an annual licence for between $2,000 and $25,000, depending on the number of vehicles in their fleet. A company with one to 10 vehicles will pay $2,000, while one with 100 or more will pay $25,000, with steps in between.
Unlike the taxi system, the companies themselves will licence the drivers. The companies will have to report safety issues or criminal charges to the city, and drivers who are suspended or banned from driving taxis would be barred from driving for ride-hailing companies — and vice versa.
Kent said she’s heard concerns from a lot of taxi drivers, and she said councillors have received a letter from Casino Taxi asking for change. She argued the process for becoming a driver, and the training necessary, should be the same for taxi drivers and Uber drivers.
Coun. Tony Mancini said the taxi industry in Halifax was “broken,” and that’s why ride-hailing is here now. He said he supports Kent’s motion, and the process should be as fair as possible.
“But let’s not raise the flag too high, and say, ‘Oh, poor cab drivers,’ because there was a mess and TNCs are helping to fix that,” he said.
Coun. Paul Russell felt the report should also look at the licensing system for taxi brokers and ride-hailing companies, and that was added to the motion as a friendly amendment.
Deputy Mayor Tim Outhit said he supports the objective of fairness, but doesn’t want to lower standards.
“The last thing I want to do is reopen the whole taxi debate again,” he said. “I think I’d probably rather talk about chickens and cats some days, but I guess we have to.”
Kent’s motion passed unanimously.
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