Tourism

Hali the road train to return for a second year

Operators of the $140,000 tourism venture will ask HRM for funding again

Halifax’s bright red road train will make its way around downtown Halifax this tourism season — with or without funding from the municipality.

“As of now, there is no indication of support from the city, but the service is intended to go ahead as planned,” said Terri McCulloch, spokesperson for Murphy’s The Cable Wharf.

The road train was launched last year by Murphy’s, but failed to receive funding from the Halifax Regional Municipality because it was a privately owned business. It now operates as a non-profit as the Halifax Community Road Train Society, a requirement to qualify for municipal funding.

The organization has re-applied for funding for this summer, said McCulloch.

Coun. Waye Mason, whose district includes downtown Halifax, is a member of the society’s board. He said the municipality has no deadline to respond and has not given any indication of support, but he will encourage council to approve the request.

“It’s a tourism opportunity, especially as one-time funding that can grow towards being self-sustaining. It is the kind of operation that makes sense to me,” he said.

“The estimate is that we had 3 million visits to the waterfront last year,” he added. “That is way more than even a few years ago, so as long as those trends continue, the use of the road train will go up.”

Last year, the road train ran from June until the end of October. Its main route was along Hollis and Lower Water streets, connecting the tourist points of downtown Halifax for 36,174 passengers, according to the society’s web page.

It worked on a pay-as-you-go basis; the transportation was free but donations were encouraged.  The suggested donation was $2, but the average was $1.55 per person, said McCulloch.

 

She said this summer the train will still be free but donations will be accepted, and there will be slight changes to the route. The road train will run every day from the May long weekend until late October.

 

Last year, the operators pursued a three-year funding deal with HRM: $50,000 for the first year, $40,000 for the second, and $30,000 for the third year. This year, the organization is again asking for $120,000.

Mason said the total cost of running the road train is around $140,000 per summer.

The society looked into purchasing a train with glass sides so it could be used during cold and rainy days, he noted.