Metro transit has been in the news a lot this year: from the strike, route additions and cuts, the ferry issue and most recently funding/revenue concerns. As reported, Metro Transit's expenses are at least double their revenue. Again, we are potentially faced with route cuts, higher fares or higher property taxes. I am in agreement with HRM's transportation standing committee that there must be a better way. I am an advocate for a strong, healthy public transit service. In a city of our size, it is imperative that we have an efficient transit system to move our citizens around in a timely manner. Our city's geography presents challenges in service delivery; however I feel we can deliver a better system than we currently have.
Firstly, I think that we need to do more to incorporate active transportation into our public transit vision. That is to say, that we build on our existing active transportation initiatives and identify core areas that can act as hubs. Promoting set areas in the city and providing or modifying existing infrastructure to allow active transportation and Metro Transit to work in tandem:
-- A connected bike lane network across the communities of Halifax, Bedford, Dartmouth, Sackville and Eastern Passage.
-- Exploring implementing a car free street in downtown Halifax
-- An effort to connect and enhance walking trails across all of HRM.
Secondly, we need to re-consider the manner in which our transit currently operates. It is common in other jurisdictions that transit is delivered with a combination of express and local routes. For example, in Ottawa they have main lines that run North-South and East-West with limited stops. These express routes provide fast and wide-reaching service. Additionally, there are the local routes for the neighbourhoods adjacent to the express routes.
I feel that if we approached our system similarly, we could improve efficiency and aid in controlling the cost of our public transit system. We need to honestly audit our current transit system and address inefficiencies, duplicity of service and the sprawl of our transit system. In many jurisdictions in North America, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) has become a popular and efficient choice. Even in nation’s capital, it is a combination of BRT routes and local routes, coupled with commuter rail that form the public transit system.
Earlier this week, I met with Dane Hollett a local transit advocate. He has since the 2012 bus strike being looking at our current service delivery and discovering ways to improve efficiency. His plans are built on the model of BRT and local feeder routes. If we can address the duplicity and inefficiencies in the system while looking at the service delivery on a regional level our transit system could be a model. Also, with a re-organization of service delivery it is possible for savings that would address current budget concerns.
Article Discussing Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)