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Alderney ferry may keep Big Lift hours

A $550,000 motion squeaked through council on Wednesday

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caption Dartmouth Centre Coun. Sam Austin ‘relieved’ his motion passed Wednesday during budget deliberations.

Riders of the Alderney ferry are one step closer to keeping extended service hours associated with the Big Lift project.

Halifax regional council passed a motion, 8-6, on Wednesday, to add $550,000 to the ferry service budget.

The motion was proposed by Dartmouth Centre Coun. Sam Austin, who was was “relieved” it passed.

“The ferry is really important to a lot of folks in Dartmouth,” he said after the meeting.

During the Big Lift project, when the Macdonald Bridge was shut down for re-decking, it was a challenge for people commuting to peninsula. To mitigate effects from construction, an extra shift was added to the ferry schedule, extending its operating hours to 37.5 per week. This meant it needed an extra crew and had higher operating costs.

If the motion makes it through the final budget, the ferry will continue to operate full hours on Sundays; other hours will be distributed through the rest of the week to meet demand. After 8 p.m., the ferry will switch from 15 minutes to every half-hour, until midnight.

“It’s all about where you put these 37.5 hours per week for a full-time crew and how you distribute them,” said Austin.

Austin said Alderney ferry ridership jumped 50 per cent during the Big Lift. Revenue also saw a spike, jumping from $840,000 before the Big Lift to $1.15 million after the extended service. He said these figures do not account for riders who had a multi-use pass or were using a transfer.

While the motion was on the floor, Mayor Mike Savage said they need to ensure money goes where it is deserved.

“We can’t fall in love with stuff,” said Savage. “I need to know that this is actually increasing the ridership, not just shifting it, and that this is a project that is actually enhancing (the public service).”

Savage voted in favour of the motion.

The final decision on whether the service will continue will come in March when the budget is passed.

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