Our Harbour Ferries: Keep them public and keep them frequent.
Today regional council will meet, with one of the items to consider being whether to reduce ferry service in HRM. I have included the staff report, HRM staff recommendation is to: 'It is recommended that Halifax Regional Council implement the Ferry service reductions effective August 27, 2012, as per the Metro Transit 2012-13 Annual Service Plan approved by Regional Council on April 3, 2012."- Metro Transit Ferry Service Recommendation from HRM Staff
Their recommendation is not one that I support. While, I applaud some re-alignments Metro Transit is making to service delivery effective August 27, namely their creation of a Portland Street corridor. I do not support, the in my opinion short-sighted requested reductions to harbour ferry service.
Firstly, we need to realize and value the marine component of our public transit service delivery. Public transit should be about providing people options, options to move people from point 'a' to 'b' in an efficient, timely manner. Approving the reductions in ferry service, is removing people's options and an a minor scale helping to decrease the efficiency and reliability of the whole service.
With the reality that our city wants to, and in my opinion should focus development in the regional centre and other identified growth centres, I feel it is crucial to have a public transit system that is integrated, diverse in service options and efficient. Downtown Dartmouth and Woodside are both in a period of re-birth: with new residential and commercial developments. A diverse, integrated public transit system will be required to move our citizens in an efficient, sustainable way. Add to that the projected growth that we will experience in peninsular Halifax and Eastern Passage, it is necessary to maintain the current public marine service; while we explore ways to grow the marine component of our public transit. Also, I find lacking in the HRM staff report the mention of the impact of the 2015 closure of bike and pedestrian lanes on the MacDonald Bridge. The closure of these two active transportation links between Halifax/Dartmouth will add stress to regional core. It will add stress in terms of how people move from point 'a' to 'b', and has the potential to
- increase the number of cars on the road or
- increase ridership on peak runs of main bus routes already close to or at capacity.
The proposed peak service reduction of the Woodside ferry and daytime reductions at Alderney would only add to stress on transit while those two lanes of the MacDonald bridge were closed.
Ferry reduction is not simply a Dartmouth issue, this is and should be an issue that concerns all residents of HRM. If ferry reduction happens, it will be added to the list of decisions that have been made by regional council that are clearly favouring car centric transportation. I am not suggesting we should never drive our cars, however we need a cultural shift and policy shift to have true options outside of solely driving. Equally important is to think of if the reductions do happen, those savings will be utilized elsewhere within Metro Transit (as they should be), but I believe that once cut it would be difficult to bring back full service as the capital would have been redistributed.
In today's decision council should consider the following:
- Let's begin to truly value and respect the benefit the marine component of our public transit system.
- Think long-term not short-term: Our regional core is being reborn, re-visioned and people are moving back into the city. We need to provide transportation alternatives to citizens, and it should be a variety of public transportation options.
- Economic impact: Reducing the link that connect both downtown areas in our regional core is bad for business. Business needs customers on their front doors, the ferry can help bring people to those front doors.
- It's due time, as a collective regional council that it breaks away from this car centric policy. We can no longer govern with models from the 1960s and 70s, and I feel that if council approves the staff recommendation it will be a step backward for our region's sustainability.
What can we do to realize the value of the marine component of our public transit model:
- Establish a marine corridor that maintains and enhances Alderney service. Increase service for Woodside ferry to meet the growing demands of Woodside, NSCC Waterfront Campus, Eastern Passage and the commercial area of Dartmouth Gate (just before Highway 111)
- Properly integrate ferry service with bus service on the Portland St corridor, so at Alderney we can provide a more efficient transfer service.
- Explore the possibilities of ferry service from Bedford to Downtown Halifax. From Eastern Passage to Downtown Halifax
- Examine the demand and viability of commercial water taxis
Below is the staff report regarding ferry reduction.