News
Views
Government
On campus
Noticed
In the harbour
Footnotes


News

1. Transit plan

Halifax Transit has released its draft plan for reworking bus routes, The plan is a modest improvement on the existing routing system, but it is a hesitant, conservative step. Everything about it is unimaginative, from the name — the consultants were paid $250,000 to come up with something yawningly titled the “Moving Forward Together Plan” — to the specific route changes.

The core of the problem with the existing routes is duplication. This is best illustrated in the Gottingen–Barrington–Spring Garden Road corridor (north of Cogswell Street, some buses travel on Gottingen, others on Barrington, but they are essentially the same routing). As the existing route map (above) illustrates, right now the following buses travel the entire corridor: #s 1, 10, 14 (becomes the 61), 53, 59, and 68 go all the way to the Bridge Terminal and points east, while the #s 21, 31, 33, 34, and 84, go to varied other suburban destinations. What this means for people standing on the side of the road at a bus stop is that often times you can wait 20 minutes and no bus will come by, and then suddenly six show up at once. Things improved somewhat when the #1 was put on a 10-minute schedule, but that’s only during peak times.

The proposed changes take some half steps. The 53 and 59 are left in Dartmouth, where they belong, but the 61 and 68, rebranded as the 5, still make the entire G/B/SGR corridor at rush hour, as do the 1 and 10, so all three buses will follow each other, all going to the same place (the Bridge Terminal).

Halifax Transit uses this scheduling because it wants to keep transfers at a minimum. The idea is that your bus will take you from downtown, right to your suburban destination, and you won’t have to get off and transfer to another bus. Halifax Transit’s fear is that increasing transfers will lead to a decline in ridership. They’re wrong.

Duplicating buses on the G/B/SGR corridor necessarily means decreasing frequency and limiting the geographic reach of routes. It’s simple: putting many buses on the same route means they can’t be used elsewhere.

There may once have been good reasons for the duplicated routes: the bus system was primarily designed as a commuter system, not for general transportation, and getting people to wait at the god-forsaken stretch of asphalt that used to be the Bridge Terminal — I swear it was the windiest, coldest, crappiest place in all of Nova Scotia — would turn people off from transit for sure. But now people want to take the bus throughout the day, and the new Bridge Terminal is toasty warm and dry, has usually clean washrooms, and coffee and snacks available at the kiosk. Heck, you can even charge your phone.

What’s needed is a radical rethink, a clean break from the past, a bold plan, if you will. Take all the buses off the G/B/SGR corridor, except the #1, and make that at the very most a 5-minute schedule, through the entire day and evening. (At rush hour, it’d probably need a 2- or 3-minute schedule.) Then redeploy all the other buses to routes that connect to the #1, but don’t duplicate it. Keep all the Dartmouth buses in Dartmouth, and let everyone transfer to the #1 at the Bridge Terminal. The buses that serve the western suburbs can connect in a various points, as appropriate (the Mumford Terminal or elsewhere, depending), and a short university/hospital shuttle could connect in at Spring Garden Road and Robie.

The point is to get to where urban residents won’t need a schedule at all, and where everyone, no matter where they live, won’t be stuck standing on the side of the road in the freezing rain for a half hour. They’d get on the #1 within five minutes, then wait for their transfer in a warm, dry place.

The freed-up buses could be used to increase frequencies on other routes and to create new routes on the peninsula.

2. Lies of omission OK

Michel Samson. Photo: http://apf-francophonie.org

Merlin Nunn, the province’s conflict of interest commissioner, says lies of omission are perfectly OK at Province House.

Progressive Conservative Chris d’Entremont had complained to Nunn that Economic Development Minister Michel Samson had violated the conflict of interest act by not revealing to reporters that his department had spent an additional $2.5 million on the Yarmouth ferry. At a scrum in Province House, reporters had repeatedly asked if more money had been spent on the ferry, and Samson repeatedly avoided the question, and at one point said “no,” even though in fact the money had been spent.

As Nunn wrote to d’Entremont:

The implication that Minister Samson should have revealed to the media that additional monies had been advanced really has no merit. The obligation to announce a matter such as this is up to the Minister whois  aware all the events and circumstances surrounding the matter with the one legal requirement set forth in Section (2 & 3) the Accountability in Economic Development Assistance Act “within 30 days”, and that obligation was met, with the January release.

Unfortunately, the events giving rise to your letter and significant media coverage occurred before the 30 day period, the result a particular and unusual chain of events.

3. Self harm

An online friend of James Gamble, the Timberlea man involved in the plot to shoot up Halifax Shopping Centre who appears to have killed himself, says Gamble was self-harming. Reports Dan Arsenault:

She said her last contact with him was Jan. 20.

“First, he messaged me a link to a Led Zeppelin song, In My Time of Dying.”

Smith said she answered yes, and he sent a smiley face back.

“Then he was telling me that he was self-harming. He said, ‘I finally got an X-Acto knife and I carved a swastika into my stomach.’”

Smith said she did not see pictures to prove this happened but claimed he had self-harmed and posted pictures before.

4. Snow

Yep, more snow.


Views

1. Creepers

Photo: Stephen Archibald

“Lots of ice underfoot these days and we are constantly reminded to be careful out there,” writes Stephen Archibald. “My message is: grow up and wear creepers.”

I wonder if “creepers” is an east coast term; in California we called them crapons. They are a big help, but I find that they’re often cheaply made and fall off easily, especially in the slush, and it’s a big hassle taking them on and off before walking indoors on carpets and wood floors.

Probably the most annoying thing about winter is the ordeal at the porch. Just darting out and dropping some kitchen scraps in the green bin is a tremendous hassle — take the indoor shoes off, put the outdoor shoes on, walk five feet, return, take the outside shoes off, try not to step in the puddle while you put the inside shoes back on… repeat a dozen times a day.

2. CN Hotel

A 1931 photo of CN’s Halifax Hotel, showing Cornwallis Park. Photo: Nova Scotia Archives

Peter Ziobrowski provides the history of the CN Hotel, which was built as part of the rail cut/train station project in 1918, replacing the train station that was destroyed in the Explosion the year before.

3. Violence

John DeMont is shocked that white people can have murderous intent.

4. Cranky letter of the day

To the Chronicle Herald:

I’m sitting here with coffee in hand reading through what has become a common theme in my Facebook feed: weather grief. There are so many opinions about yet another school day being missed.

Some roads look clear; we’ve just had a long weekend. How much time can we miss before children’s educations are negatively impacted?

Kitty Palmer, Halifax


Government

City

City council (10am, City Hall)—budget deliberations continue. Today council will look at the Transportation and Public Works department. I’m guessing that snow removal will be a major topic of discussion. A staff report notes that the city now has 64 “pieces” of snow and ice control equipment, and that staff is asking for a $2.1 million increase in the “snow contracts” budget.

Snow removal has always been a giant fudge factor in city budgets; typically, council has under-budgeted for snow removal by a couple of million dollars every year, and then makes up for the expense in the contingency budget. I remember former Finance Director Cathie O’Toole complaining about this (and trying to right it) as far back as 2010, so it’s good to see staff trying to correct the situation.

But, clearly, getting the budget outlay right is the least of the problem with snow removal. There’s no silver bullet on this, but I think a huge part of the problem in the contracting out of snow removal services. Trying to maximize profits, the private contractors simply cut too many corners, and evidently the performance standards are simply not enforced.

I have one tiny example of the problem. When I was working at The Coast, I’d take the bus across the bridge, get off on the North Street bus lane at the end of the bridge and walk the rest of the way to work. Right when I got off the bus, I’d cross North Street. There’s a pedestrian island in the middle of the street, and when city crews were responsible for snow clearing, that island was always clear. After the service was contracted out, the island wasn’t cleared. I’d call the city every year after the first snowfall, and to their credit, they made sure the island was cleared thereafter. But I had to do this every year.

This is the first winter since working at The Coast, so I haven’t been making the same journey, and so hadn’t made my annual phone call. But I made the same trip Monday, and once again the island hadn’t been cleared. Three other bus passengers and I skated across, fearing for our lives. I’ll call again today, and we’ll see if it does any good.

But it shouldn’t require a call to get an obvious pedestrian path cleared. And this isn’t the only uncleared island. Last winter, I slipped and fell on the pedestrian island just up the hill, at North and Gottingen Streets, and broke my wrist. Evidently I’ll never fully recover, as I still feel pain occasionally, and yes, I take this personally. Moreover, walking around the city recently, I’ve noticed that many other pedestrian islands aren’t cleared. The contractors just don’t care; they’re paid to plow the sidewalks, and that’s the end of it for them.

We should de-privatize the service, and put it back in the hands of well-paid, unionized public servants.

Oh, and by the way, Paul Vienneau, the man who cleared the crosswalk on Spring Garden Road last week, is inviting the public to help him today clear another crosswalk:

I went out today and the crosswalk that I spent 5 1/2 hours on last Thursday was cleared by someone, probably the city! Made me very happy that shining a light on the issue may have had the desired effect.

I went to the Aveda Life Salon today for my haircut appointment. To get there I had to push my chair down through ice, granulated ice, and puddles from McDonalds at Spring Garden/South Park to the corner at Dresden Row. The four corners at Dresden/Spring Garden were completely encased in ice. I had to push up Dresden to the driveway across from the front door of Pete’s and, with help, got onto the street, to travel down to Spring Garden, where I had to cross.

[This] morning at 10am I am going to show up with my metal rod and blue shovel and start to clear the corner. Crosswalks and curbcorners/cuts have been an issue since I moved to the neighbourhood six years ago.

I made the visual point last Thursday by doing the job myself. Tomorrow morning I would love to have some help. Together we can help the city do this corner.

As with the crosswalk last week, this isn’t my “you suck” to the city crews or the mayor. I believe that the crosswalks and curb cuts and corners simply aren’t on their radar, so they aren’t included consistantly in their efforts.

Please bring a metal shovel and any took to break up granulated/hard pack ice, and as a group of happy citizens we can make this corner safe for everyone.

Today I watched an elderly woman in an electric wheelchair come very close to flipping her chair, which weighs several hundred pounds. People have died in falls like this, and I have had injuries like a broken leg and sprain/bruises from falling out of my chair.

If you want to coordinate, email me at paul@paulvienneau.com, or just show up at the corner of Dresden/Spr Garden Road. Coffee/hot chocolate is on me when we’re done!

Halifax Explosion 100th Anniversary Advisory Committee (3pm, Nova Scotia Community College, Leeds Street campus, Room B227)—the committee will discuss a Halifax Explosion Commemorative Coin & Stamp. I have a vague fear that this commemoration is going to go off the rails. Hope I’m wrong.

Province

Public Accounts (9am, Province House)—Peter Vaughan, the deputy minister at Health and Wellness, will be grilled about surgical wait lists.


On campus

Dalhousie

Today

Surviving racism (Wednesday, 4:30pm, Tupper G-36)—prof Barbara Hamilton-Hinch works “with a number populations, particularly the African Nova Scotian community, LGBTQQ community, and Persons with (dis)Abilities.” She’ll be talking about women of African ancestry living in Nova Scotia.

http://youtu.be/aCSseobduQ4

The Brasher Doubloon (Wednesday, 8pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery)—the 1948 film noir by director John Brahm is an adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s The High Window.

Thursday

Kelp Bed Ecosystem (Thursday, 11:30am, 5th floor Biology Lounge, LSC)—PhD student Colette Feehan will talk about “Increased Frequency of Disease drives Community Dynamics in a Kelp Bed Ecosystem.”

Planetarium show (Thursday, 7:15pm, Room 120, Dunn Building)—a repeat of last week’s show:
The first soap opera was not aired on radio or TV, but was displayed in the night sky. The Greeks and Romans created a drama of the gods, the main characters are visible each clear night and the show has had a run of over two thousand years! Come to the planetarium to catch up on the love life and shenanigans of the gods, while learning about the night sky. It will make your nights under the stars far more entertaining. Rated PG13.” Five bucks at the door.


Noticed

There were two journalism scandals in the news yesterday. First, in New Brunswick, two editors at the Moncton Times and Transcript — Murray Guy and Patrick Brethour — were fired, when it was revealed that Guy had stayed at Larry’s Gulch, the swank, provincially owned fishing lodge, to meet secretly with the head of NB Liquor, the provincially owned liquor corporation.

Larry’s Gulch

Canadaland’s Sean Craig, who broke the story leading to the firing, explains:

So a newspaper editor went there. Why is that a scandal?

Newspaper editors really shouldn’t be traveling as guests of the government to clandestine meetings with powerful government bureaucrats for secret conversations, the purpose and content of which never get reported. 

Is that all? 

No. Prior to this revelation, the Times and Transcript and other papers owned by Brunswick News Inc (BNI) had been crusading for the government to publicly disclose the Larry’s Gulch visitor’s logs. They ran over 10 pieces demanding transparency. Then BNI reporter Shawn Berry discovered BNI editor Murray Guy’s name on the logs, and BNI’s crusade promptly stopped. Oops.

Anything else?

Yes. Once BNI found out that CANADALAND was poking around, their Editor-in-Chief Patrick Brethour launched an internal investigation. BNI’s ombudsman reported the details of the investigation. Patricia Graham found that editors Murray Guy and his boss Al Hogan tried to cover up the whole thing by enlisting Darell Fowlie, an aide to then-New Brunswick Premier David Alward, to doctor the government’s records and scrub Guy’s name from the visitor log. Screwing with government records is a crime.

There’s going to be, or at least there should be, big scandal falling out from this, but there’s a very weak media in New Brunswick, and the freedom of information laws are toothless. As Craig points out, BNI is owned by the Irvings.

I fear that after the Dennises milk the Chronicle Herald dry, they’ll sell the rotting corpse of the paper to the Irvings, who would want it not so much as a profitable business venture in itself, but rather simply because owning the largest media operation in Nova Scotia could help limit unfavourable press about their newly enlarged shipbuilding operation in Halifax.

The second journalism scandal was in Britain, where Peter Oborne, a veteran columnist at the Telegraph, resigned over too much editorial control being given to advertisers, especially with regard to the HSBC money-laudering scandal. Writes Oborne:

Telegraph readers are intelligent, sensible, well-informed people. They buy the newspaper because they feel that they can trust it. If advertising priorities are allowed to determine editorial judgments, how can readers continue to feel this trust? The Telegraph’s recent coverage of HSBC amounts to a form of fraud on its readers. It has been placing what it perceives to be the interests of a major international bank above its duty to bring the news to Telegraph readers. There is only one word to describe this situation: terrible.

[…]

A free press is essential to a healthy democracy. There is a purpose to journalism, and it is not just to entertain. It is not to pander to political power, big corporations and rich men. Newspapers have what amounts in the end to a constitutional duty to tell their readers the truth.


In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 8am Wednesday. Map: marinetraffic.com

Victory Leader, car carrier, Baltimore to Autoport
Asphalt Sailor, tanker, Philadelphia to McAsphalt
San Fernando Rey, general cargo, Kingston, Jamaica to Pier 28
CSL Spirit, bulk carrier, Sept-Iles to anchor for bunkers


Footnotes

I’ll be on the Sheldon MacLeod Show, on News 95.7, at 4pm today.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. Why are there so few buses and routes in Burnside? It is a huge employment centre but seems completely ignored. I was looking forward to this new plan to actually start serving that area, but it is just ignored again? WTF?

  2. In my 21 years of living in Halifax I’ve witnessed a gradual decline in public services – due in large part (not totally) to the contracting out of services. While it may appear on the surface as if it is saving governments and tax payers money, it’s largely an illusion. Quality of service suffers, no pride appears to be taken in services – rather it’s ‘hurry up and get it done at the least cost’. Contractors, for the most part, pay their employees lower wages and no benefits. So, how does this serve the whole of the city and the province? Poorer services per taxes paid, lower wages for Nova Scotians…………. I don’t get why governments see contracting out as a good thing………it’s a way to off load services and provide the illusion of saving money. When public services are well managed (which seems to be an challenge in this part of the world – yet it is fixable) and public servants are encouraged/rewarded for taking pride in the quality of their work, everyone wins.

  3. The existing service standards for snow clearing of bus stops is a clear example of how Halifax prioritizes transit. If (or hopefully) when council responds to Halifax Transit that their plan is not Bold enough, then we might see some real change. That and bus stops being cleared as priority 2 or even priority 1. Transit is an essential service.

  4. Excellent piece on the Moncton Times Transcript debacle and thanks for the links to the Canadaland reporting. It’s a sign of the times that some of the most important reporting seems to be highlighting journalistic malfeasance. Much of it a result of corporate control and consolidation of media outlets, of course, but sadly, public broadcasting in Canada is not immune. Personal greed and ambition from the likes of Peter Mansbridge and Amanda Lang has brought shame on the CBC and what is most distressing is the fact that CBC management doesn’t even think there is a problem.

  5. Two family issues with the buses. I cannot tell you how many times I have got off the ferry, immediately rushed up the steps to Alderney Drive, just in time to see a bunch of buses driving away, especially my bus (the 60), My daughter works in Bedford, but taking public transportation takes, I think, something like 80 minutes or a couple of hours each way from Dartmouth, a twenty minute drive, so she maintains a car she can ill afford. In the past we’ve experienced a similar problem with getting to Burnside by bus. You’d think downtown Dartmouth could be better served.

    1. I experience this too and it drives me insane. I take the 87 to the Dartmouth terminal. The 1, 10, AND 52 will sometimes all be there, pulling away just as the 87 arrives. The other day I got off the 87 and was walking towards the 10, which was right in front of the 87, and the 10 pulled away right before I got to the door.

      It’s gotten to the point that I feel like the drivers do it intentionally. I’m glad the terminal exists, but what’s the point of it if you can’t even get on one of the 6 or 7 buses that are there, because they all leave before you can get to them?

      Are we expected to run to catch a bus even though we’re already at the terminal? What about people who can’t run, especially in this weather? Metro Transit feels almost antagonistic in its functioning.

  6. We will never get an effective transit system as long as current management is in place. They are married to the no transfers option and they are not interested in a feeder route / terminal transfer based system. This means we will not get suburban cars off the road, something that cities like Ottawa have done effectively. I would take the bus from Hammonds Plains and save myself gas and insurance however to do so I have to take the Metro X to Scotia Square (driving right past my Bayers Road office) and then take another bus back. I don’t have that kind of time. The Metro X is a highway bus and instead of dropping everyone at Mumford where they can connect to a high frequency bus to their destination they drive a highway tuned bus all the way down town. Transit reform is a waste of time and money unless we get management in place that will consider other options. Council however doesn’t have the stomach to do what it takes and clean house.

    1. I relocated to Ottawa from Halifax several years ago, & am quite surprised to read this comment. In my experience, while Halifax’s public transit has problems, Ottawa’s is vastly worse. Formerly a regular transit user, in Ottawa, I bike year round — even in February snowstorms with -40 windchill — rather than deal with the sporadic, unreliable, & poorly-routed public transit.

      Car culture remains deeply entrenched in Ottawa, & the bulk of those cars come into the city from surrounding suburbs. Highway 416 (from the south), & Highway 417 (from the west, Kanata), despite being 4-lane highways, are stop-&-go traffic during rush hour(s). For instance, apparently the 98 km commute from Renfrew to Ottawa typically takes in excess of three hours; nonetheless, many drive it (& other routes such as those from North Grenville, Nepean, Kanata; the various townships; & the numerous surrounding rural villages & hamlets) every single workday. As you can imagine, the situation does not improve as they funnel off the highways into the downtown core. Hence the over $5 billion ($2.13 B, for phase 1; the rest for phase 2) recently allocated to create a light rail system from suburbia to the city centre. Alas, by the time it is complete, it will likely be inadequate, & it does nothing to solve the problem of poor coverage & routing downtown.

      Whether any Canadian city has managed to throw off the shackles of car culture, I cannot say. Ottawa, however, definitely has not. One of the issues, I suspect, is that convincing North Americans to abandon their cars requires not only a solid transit system, but also strong disincentives to drive, & politicians recognize that implementing such disincentives exposes them to the wrath of the auto-addicts.

    1. ” But I didn’t necessarily see that when I looked at Shepherd and Souvannarath. Their very ordinariness is one of the most unsettling things about the alleged ambush that was said to be averted through an anonymous telephone tip.”

      “But I also know this: Not everyone in this world wishes us well. Sometimes it is good to keep that in mind.”

      One part subtle racism, one part low-level fear. Mix thoroughly and pour over ice and you have yourself a DeMont.

      1. Really obnoxious for a white guy in Halifax to publish a sentence like this:

        “Evil has somehow found us, ladies and gentlemen.”

        Note the condescending, pompous tone and the pretentious “ladies and gentlemen” language.

        The idea that “Evil has somehow found us” is very disrespectful to First Nations people who have been subjected to policies of ethnic cleansing and cultural genocide in Nova Scotia for hundreds of years.

        The notion that evil just popped up last week in Nova Scotia is disrespectful to the people of Africville, who were also the victims of racist government policies.

        And then there is the endless cycle of rape in Nova Scotia that has traumatized children in residential schools, the women who appear in the form of testimony in Stephen Kimber’s book “Not Guilty”, Rehtaeh Parsons, & the DDS 2015 Gentlemen.

        There’s that word again: “gentleman”. Always a red flag nowadays, right.

        There is enough rape in the Nova Scotia public record to identity a pattern and call the behaviour a cultural form.

        Is Demont’s Ocean Playground propaganda a form of dog whistle racism?

        http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=dog+whistle

      1. This kind of scheduling makes transfers easier. If three buses come at the same time, you create nine transfer relations (plus three ending and three starting options) at that one station.

        I remember public transport studies that showed that passengers rather ride longer than transfer. On the other hand, this study suggests that shorter, but overlapping (!) lines are the best solution.
        http://nielsvanoort.weblog.tudelft.nl/files/2014/01/5-TRR-2009-Van_Oort_Line_Length.pdf
        (less transfers AND more reliability vs one looong route)

        These scientsts tried to come up with a formula on how to optimize connections:
        https://secure.orsnz.org.nz/conf45/program/Papers/ORSNZ2010_AngMcIvor.pdf
        That is beyond my paygrade.

        As for the currently proposed changes: I haven’t had the time to sift through most of them yet. The “see this route in action” map doesn’t work for me.

        One thing I’ve noticed: The Beaver Bank bus will run longer, which is good. The current schedule is a joke, students can not get home when they are done with university courses downtown.

        However, the new route will terminate at Kinsac Rd. Anyone who lives or works north will be completely cut off public transport. That includes a sizeable continuing care facility. Two friends of mine volunteer there. One of them has no access to a car, the other one can borrow one. If the bus stops running, at least one of them will have to stop volunteering at the continuing care facility. Not to speak of regular staff, residents and their visitors.

        I agree that the system needs a radical redesign. Start with scrapping all school buses (except maybe for special cases, for example for children and staff with disabilities). Give the money saved to Halifax Transit in return for free bus passes for all the school children. Thus, they will be able to ride any bus any time. This is a seed which will yield future users of public transport. And it should relieve “soccer mums” of considerable “chauffeur” duties.

        Of course, Halifax Transit will have to put more routes with more buses on the road to get children to school. But Halifax Transit would have a bigger budget, too. More routes and more buses bring a more attractive public transport system for all of us.