Melissa Walton says the upcoming service changes to Halifax Transit make her feel like a “second class citizen.”
Walton has lived in Beaver Bank for eight years. She has no driver’s licence, and her husband often works 12-hour shifts.
Walton is used to taking the Route 400 bus four times a week. Her 14-year-old son also relies on public transit if he misses the school bus.
On Nov. 25, Route 400 — the only bus that serves Beaver Bank — will be replaced with the 86 and the express route 186. Walton lives almost three kilometres from the Beaver Bank Kinsac Community Centre, where the new routes will end.
“They have now cut off my lifeline from society. I’m going to have to become a hermit in my own home,” said Walton.
Jason Hines is also unhappy with the changes. Three years ago, Hines moved to Beaver Bank with his wife and daughter. He leaves for work at 6 a.m., his wife leaves at 7 a.m. and his daughter catches the 400 to get to school in Sackville.
“If I had known they were cancelling the bus service, I wouldn’t have bought this house,” said Hines.
When the newest phase of the Moving Forward Together Program rolls out, Hines, Walton and everyone else more than one kilometre north of Kinsac Road, will no longer be served by the transit system. This includes those that live or work at Ivy Meadows, an assisted living facility located at the tail end of the current route.
The distance between Ivy Meadows and the community centre is 6.6 kilometres — an hour and a half walk, according to Google Maps, on a road with no sidewalks.
Transit is maintaining the Access-A-Bus for seniors who currently live at Ivy Meadows, but plans on phasing it out and will not take on new passengers.
Not enough demand
Part of the Moving Forward Together Plan involves allocating more resources towards high-ridership routes while eliminating and reducing low-ridership routes. According to Halifax Transit’s ridership guidelines, corridor, local and rural routes are expected to have a minimum of 25 passengers an hour during weekday peak times.
As of fall 2015, 12 people were getting on the bus north of Kinsac each day, with a cost of $66.32 per person. In 2017-18, the number of boardings a day increased to 24, according to a report presented at a transportation standing committee meeting.
South of Kinsac, meanwhile, had 186 boardings a day.
Hines and Walton aren’t alone in their frustration at losing transit access.
The plan lists petitions put forward by various communities that had issues with the changes, including Beaver Bank. A separate online petition that was circulated gathered 376 signatures.
During public engagement for the Moving Forward Together Plan in 2015, the most common feedback transit received from the community was, “Do not shorten this route, access to Beaver Bank Villa is important.”
Lisa Blackburn, the councillor for the area, said while the changes improve the route south of Kinsac, she “feel[s] for those residents who do depend on that bus.”
Blackburn was elected to council in November 2016, a month before the Moving Forward Together Plan was approved.
“There wasn’t much that I could do to overturn it,” she said.
Blackburn said part of the solution might be to return the Beaver Bank transit service to its roots.
In December 1985, the community started its own volunteer-driven bus service out of a refurbished blue school bus. It was known as the Beaver Bank Bullet. In the 1990s, what was then known as Metro Transit took over the route.
Blackburn plans to meet with the Beaver Bank Community Awareness Association to see if there is interest in bringing back a similar service to transport people from North Beaver Bank to the community centre bus stop.
She also wants the Access-A-Bus service to continue taking on new passengers.
“Personally, I think that transit should be expanded and not contracted. I see this as a real step backwards for that community,” said Blackburn.
“I’m not done fighting yet.”
About the author
Kristin is a Prince Edward Islander currently working in Halifax. Her journalistic interests lie in copy editing and longform features.
Dominique Amit is a journalism student at the University of King's College. She hails from Stellarton, Nova Scotia. She's interested in politics...