Last month Halifax Transit shared their long awaited proposal to re-work the transit network city wide. This, at the very least, is unprecedented in our city and badly needed. Our transit network right now is a hodgepodge of service duplication and redundancy focused on the downtown peninsular core. This is the draft plan, and I am hoping that as residents all across the city we provide feedback and input that will see a revised draft.
The introduction of expanded corridor models I feel in principal is a positive step. There are some route revisions and improved service to Burnside and Dartmouth Crossing. A big positive and addition in the part of the network will be the Wrights Cove Terminal in Burnside. Burnside has for many years needed a terminal that would help facilitate more efficient transit service in this employment centre. Changing the cross-town route to not run up Akerley is a positive change. Coupled with express routes that will run through Burnside along Windmill, and this could become a strong corridor. Photo Credit to Halifax Regional Municipality
However, in our community of Eastern Passage/Cow Bay it seems we are still being forgotten. Part of this redesign, is to focus service within the Urban Transit Service Boundary, which most of the Eastern Passage area of our community falls within. Cow Bay however is just outside the service boundary, which I feel is a problem. Eastern Passage has been designated as “Urban Settlement Designation” in the Regional Plan, which will focus development within those boundaries, though with Cow Bay being an adjacent community it is reasonable to expect some of that to spill over into Cow Bay. Coupled with the fact, that from Cow Bay you can directly access Cole Harbour; it is important that Cow Bay be within the Urban Transit Service Boundary (UTSB).
The positive change for our community is that there will be improved service to Heritage Hills. This area has grown, and deserves more expanded transit service outside of just peak hours. Also, splitting the current route 60 into two lines, 6B and 6C will hopefully provide a more efficient service for more people. However, there are some aspects of this new draft plan that I have concerns about. First, as a community of nearly 12,000 people ( 2011 Census) we are drastically underserved in terms of municipal infrastructure such as transit, sidewalks, cultural venues and expanded recreation services. The peak service frequency is set at 30 minutes for each branch of 6 Woodside that will service our area; I hope will result in the continuation of 15 minute peak service like we currently experience. However, off peak service Monday – Friday drops to hourly frequency which aside from the expanded Heritage Hills service is only a marginal improvement.
The lack of use of the Woodside Ferry Terminal as a connection point for these two branches of 6 Woodside is a mistake. The Woodside Ferry is an extremely underutilized piece in our regional transit network. While many corridor routes in other parts of the city that have branches become express services akin to the current Metro Link – ours will not. This is an oversight in the new transit network. With a population of almost 12,000 and growing we need an express service for peak service. This peak service could link our community with other transit connections by one of the following ways:
1) Express Service from Eastern Passage to Bridge Terminal : Limited Stops after leaving Eastern Passage, stopping in Shearwater, Woodside Ferry Terminal, Alderney Drive and then terminating at the Bridge Terminal for Halifax connections
2) Express Service from Eastern Passage/Heritage Hills to Portland Hills Terminal: Servicing Cow Bay Road, Heritage Hills and Caldwell until intersection of Hines Rd & Caldwell. Then Limited Stops on Caldwell at Caldwell Elementary terminating at Portland Hills Terminal. This would provide direct connections to Downtown Halifax, and the employment and retail sectors of Cole Harbour.
3) Express Service from Eastern Passage to HMC Dockyard: Servicing Cow Bay Road, Heritage Hills, and Caldwell Rd to Shore Rd. Then Limited Stops: Shearwater (Main Rd), Alderney Drive, Bridge Terminal, terminating in HMC Dockyard.
The other missing piece is a dedicated connection between Eastern Passage/Cow Bay and Cole Harbour. Cole Harbour is an important connection for our community as it is a retail and employment hub for some residents. For high school students of Cole Harbour High having a direct link between the two areas would allow for better participating in extra-curricular activities that enhance learning outcomes. Also, as we have no access to primary physician care in our community many also use medical services in Cole Harbour. Lastly, in the 2008 Community Facility Master Plan, it references the model of multi-district recreational facilities that would act as a regional hub as one model of service delivery. Cole Harbour Place is an example of the hub model. Within that model, acceptable transportation times would be 20 minutes by car or 15 minutes by public transit where feasible. Having a direct link between Eastern Passage/Cow Bay and Cole Harbour is more than feasible – it is a requirement to properly integrate our community with the regional public transit network.
We live in a beautiful community, full of great committed people who work hard and enjoy their recreation time as well. Halifax Transit has an opportunity to truly improve our regional public transit system, and they are on the right path. They just need a push to a network that will meet the needs of all people who wish to use transit that live within the Urban Transit Service Boundary.