Bryn Jones-VaillancourtBryn Jones-Vaillancourt

Chef Local Food Advocate Darmouth Proud

HRM Council Round Up For Week of January 28, 2013

In the last week of January, regional council has made some interesting choices and there have been some long term projects that are moving forward albeit slowly.

First up, Councillor Steve Craig (District 15- Lower Sackville) purposed a motion around the crosswalk issues.  Over the last year, accidents between motorists and pedestrians in crosswalks have grown exponential.  Specifically, in the last two months there have been at least 10 people struck in crosswalks across HRM.  Ken Reashor, who is the Traffic Authority for HRM and Director of Transportation and Public works, has taken an unpopular stance on crosswalk safety. He believes that less not more crosswalks are the answers, and that motorists should maintain the right of way more often. Working against people such as Norm Collins, who has been a long time crosswalk safety advocate; Reashor has in my opinion helped the foster the car centric policies of HRM.

Councillor Craig’s motion is as follows:

11.3 Councillor Craig

That Halifax Regional Council direct staff to provide a report which:

1. Prior to the end of fiscal 2012-2013, to provide an interim report that:
- Provides the current understanding of how HRM focuses and performs on all factors related to pedestrian safety – HRM engineering, public education, law enforcement, public engagement and evaluation;
- Identifies HRM pedestrian safety statistics and how HRM statistics compare relative to other municipalities; and
- Identifies a short-term HRM action plan to address pedestrian safety and any impacts on the 2013-2014 budget.

2. During fiscal 2013-2014, to develop and present for consideration by Halifax Regional Council, a long-term comprehensive pedestrian safety action plan to help ensure, and to be seen as ensuring, overall pedestrian safety for HRM residents based on:
- The analysis of factors which may be contributing to pedestrian accidents;
- Provides options considering both process and organization structure that focuses on engineering, education, enforcement, public engagement, such as a Crosswalk Safety Advisory Committee, overall evaluation, policy and legislation, inter-agency/departmental coordination and cooperation elements;
- Provides a mechanism for continuous reporting and evaluation of the foregoing; and
- Identifies ongoing budget impacts to the proposed action plan.

In addition, that the Mayor, on behalf of Halifax Regional Council, correspond immediately with the provincial Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal to request an update regarding a recommendation from the 2007 Crosswalk Safety Task Force which stated that “the departments responsible for collecting and analysing collision data do so in a timely, comprehensive, consistent and accurate manner.”  [i]

While, I side with Councillor Craig on this motion.  There is additionally mention of the 2007 Crosswalk Safety Task Force that presented specific recommendations.  I think that the report process has some merit.  However, I feel that if we are to truly move forward on the issue it will need to be at the community level.  Presently, council is not moving to deal with the lack accountability of Reashor to HRM citizens.  While, this would require coordination with the province; I believe it should be a necessary part of this puzzle.   Furthermore, it is my hope that staff does not fully re-invent the wheel and access past reports, updating as required to expedite this process.   On the citizen level, if crosswalk safety is of concern to you I suggest that you contact your councillor and Mayor Savage to communicate such.

Another big, and in my perspective, positive move this week came out of the Audit and Finance Committee.  Eddie Robar, Director of Metro Transit, presented their annual budget but it did not include full late night ferry service.  Councillor Gloria McCluskey (District 5, Dartmouth Centre) motioned for Metro Transit to re-work their annual budget to include re-instatement of full late night ferry service.   The motion passed and sent Metro Transit back to the budgetary drawing board.   This is an important move, last year when regional council cut late night weekday ferry service, it was a horrible decision.   The harbour ferries provide a crucial link between our downtown cores, and if we are ever going to get serious about public transit in this city some of the things we need to:

  1. Restore full Halifax-Dartmouth ferry service to the level of pre-August 2012
  2. Look at expansion for the Woodside – Halifax ferry service.
  3. Explore how we can better use our harbour to move our residents around quickly and economically.

The negative aspect to the Metro Transit budget is the fare increase.   Metro transit has asked for a 0.25 cent increase, to help in funding technological modernization of their operations.  The fare increase was approved by the committee.  However, I do have reservations as to how that increased capital will be utilized.  Citizens have been hearing for years from Metro Transit, of a commitment to improved “real time GoTime” values, but to date that change has not occurred.   I am skeptical of the plan as in the past our public transit department has promised large but come up very short.   If you would like to read, the budget presentation from Metro Transit please click the link under the end notes.[ii]

The city has sold off the last piece of property it owned in Bayers Lake but because of development agreements has had to buy back the streets in this parcel of land to make them public.  Couple this with the expansion of the approved expansion in Burnside, and there is great potential to undermine our downtown core.  This is important because of the challenge we already face to attract retail and office space into our downtown cores.   Finally, council has approved a study to assess the viability of HRM investing in a district energy system.  District energy systems recycle waste heat from primary power generation, and sell it via a grid to customers.  The feasibility study will cost 300, 000.  I believe the investment could in the long term be beneficial to HRM and I approve the feasibility study.  If you would like to read the staff report, please check at the bottom of post.[iii] 

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