Transportation

HRM considering transit-friendly changes for busy roads

Community voices heard amid concerns for changes

Patricia Cutell Busby and Edward Edelstein are concerned about changes to Gottingen Street.   Lothian Taylor

The Halifax Regional Municipality is moving forward with plans for changes to some of its busiest streets, and community members are letting their concerns be heard. 

At the transportation standing committee meeting on Thursday, a motion carried to go forward with a detailed design of bus lanes on Bayers Road. These designs will be the next step towards improving the public transit in the area. 

“I think it’s great,” said Coun. Waye Mason during the meeting. He added it was exciting to see the Integrated Mobility Plan, to improve transit across the HRM, starting to become real.

The municipality is currently researching transit priority corridors, which are roads prioritized for bus lanes. The four roads that Halifax Transit will start with, as outlined in the Integrated Mobility Plan, are Bayers Road, Gottingen Street, Robie Street and Young Street.

A presentation by Mike Connors, transportation engineer with strategic transportation planning, described the work needed for Bayers Road. Pending approval, possible changes include widened roads, less parking and a priority to public transit. The standing committee’s report says these changes could be seen by 2020. 

Community concerns

The committee was also supposed to talk about changes on Gottingen Street at Thursday’s meeting, but voted to wait because of councillors having a busy week and community concerns. The committee also noted that Coun. Lindell Smith was away during Thursday’s meeting and he represents the area where Gottingen Street is located.  

Edward Edelstein, who owns businesses and property on Gottingen Street, expressed gratitude for the deferral. He said there were “erroneous statements by engineer consultants,” in regards to the affected businesses and residents.

Edelstein is also concerned about the street being more transit-friendly.

“(Gottingen Street) is the most sensitive social area in all of the province, and clearly in all of the city,” he said to the committee.

“There’s a community there. This high volume bus traffic, and the possibility of taking away parking is going to be detrimental.”

Edelstein suggested bus pressure could be taken off Gottingen Street by fixing the ramp from Barrington Street to Macdonald Bridge.

‘Short-term pain for long-term gain’

Later Thursday, an open house was held at the Halifax Forum to discuss two more bus-heavy roads: Robie Street and Young Street.

Sa’n Herney said he attended because he often takes the bus in these areas.

“I want to know what is going to be decided, because I’m going to have questions if there are changes to the routes,” he said.

Other community members spoke with municipal staff and its partnering design company, WSP, on planning and wrote suggestions on boards. Discussion topics included trade-offs as public property, utilities, trees, parking, loading and traffic along these sections.

Caitlin Stonham provided her suggestions for transit on Robie Street and Young Street.   Karli Zschogner

“It’s always tough with the trade-offs for any project,” said Tanya Davis, transportation planning manager of the Integrated Mobility Plan.

“It’s kind of the dance you do in detail design; you figure out what can give and what can take on some of it.”

Construction is supposed to be finished by 2021, and Davis admitted it will be an aggressive schedule. She said she understands people may be uneasy about construction once it begins.

“I think it’s kind of short-term pain for long-term gain,” she said. “It’s easy to say when you’re not living right in the construction area, but I do think that once we have a more connected network for our transit and our pedestrians, we can actually have a more vibrant Robie Street and Young Street.”

Nancy Tindall said as a senior, it’s very convenient to be able to hop on a bus close to her house.

“Being in a glass apartment, I see all the traffic at Young, Kent and Robie,” she said. “We need better flow.”

She doesn’t have a problem with construction happening, but recommends crosswalk lights need to be longer to help the elderly.

“I may mutter under my breath at times, but it’s a case of allowing time for that construction and to remember to leave 10 minutes earlier.”

The federal government and HRM will both be contributing up to $125,000 for design of the two transit areas. The HRM has online questionnaires available for those who couldn’t attend the meeting.