Transportation

Integrated Mobility Plan addresses possibility of commuter rail system

Approaching halfway point in project, HRM holds second round of public workshops

Wednesday's workshop focused on active transportation and alternatives to cars
Wednesday’s workshop focused on active transportation and alternatives to driving.   John Sandham

The possibility of a commuter rail system was brought up at a public workshop for Halifax’s Integrated Mobility Plan (IMP) Wednesday night at the Dartmouth Sportsplex.

2015 study found a commuter rail system in Halifax “not economically viable.” However, project manager and Halifax employee Rod McPhail believes one could be implemented in a cost-effective manner without new development or expensive purchases.

“To introduce commuter rail, you don’t have to buy glitzy things from Bombardier,” McPhail said in an interview. He believes old stainless steel trains could be bought and retrofitted for use on existing rail lines for about $1.5 million.

Wednesday’s meeting was attended by around 15 members of the public. It is part of a series of public workshops for the IMP, which are being held both this and next week across the city. 

The first round of workshops took place in September. They gave municipality staff working on the project information about what the public believed the IMP should focus on.

McPhail, former director of transportation planning for the city of Toronto, calls working on the IMP “an interesting challenge.”

The plan aims to offer long-term transportation options so that Haligonians can use their cars less often when commuting. There’s a number of ways the plan suggests car usage can be reduced, such as adding dedicated bus lanes to busy streets or building a more comprehensive network of bike lanes.

McPhail calls the IMP a “realistic, affordable 15-year plan.” He believes the plan is necessary because Halifax is years behind other major cities in how it manages transportation.

Coun. Sam Austin who represents Dartmouth Centre attended the workshop on Wednesday. He calls the project “exciting.”

“We’re starting to think about our streets in ways that we can use and move people around that’s not just about cars,” he said in an interview.

Financing for the project wasn’t discussed at length on Wednesday night. It’s something McPhail says will be talked about in depth at the next round of public meetings, which will be held next April. The final, completed plan will be presented to council in June.

McPhail is hopeful council will agree it’s time for the municipality to take action and improve transportation.

“It’s not too late for Halifax,” McPhail says.

Austin agrees.

“We’ve known what we need to do; it’s (now) a question of getting there and how quickly,” Austin says. 

For a list of upcoming public workshops, click here