Halifax Bus Rapid Transit plan sparks discussion at open house
Public responds to proposal for faster bus travel time in HRM
February 13, 2018, 9:22 pm ASTLast Updated: February 13, 2018, 9:22 pm
Deb Woolway sat at a long white table on Monday afternoon, furiously writing her opinions about Gottingen Street bus routes across three blue sticky notes.
She’s against the part of a new transit proposal calling for a bus lane on Gottingen Street.
“I think doing that would be destroying a part of the city where we are trying to encourage growth,” she said.
Woolway was one of many people who stopped by the Halifax Public Library to share their opinions at an open house for the proposed Bus Rapid Transit plan for the Halifax Regional Municipality.
BRT is meant to allow buses to move through traffic in a more reliable and efficient way. The plan proposes four new BRT routes, to include bus priority lanes on Gottingen Street, Spring Garden and Coburg roads, Oxford Street, Bayers Road and Robie Street.
“We want to make sure we’re improving the transit environment for everyone that we can, which happens through projects like this one,” said Halifax Transit representative Erin Blay.
A transit performance report presented to council in December shows that 73 per cent of Halifax Transit buses arrive on time — which is approximately 15 per cent below industry standards.
Blay said the plan calls for dedicated bus lanes in high traffic areas, allowing buses to avoid other traffic. Other plans include off-board bus fare payment systems, fewer stations and raised bus platforms.
Woolway said this sounds good in theory, but a bus-only lane on Gottingen will hurt businesses.
“Don’t throw Gottingen under the bus,” said Woolway. “If it happens, it says to the community that the city doesn’t care about the quality of life on that street.”
Woolway’s sticky notes joined several other suggestions already stuck to an easel designated for feedback.
Patricia Cuttell Busby, executive director of the North End Business Association, shares Woolway’s concerns. She said turning Gottingen into a bus corridor would change the nature and function of the street.
“We would be looking at losing 52 parking spots and some crosswalks too,” said Cuttell Busby. She said she is worried the plan would change Gottingen Street from a desirable destination to a street that people simply pass through.
‘I think it’s needed’
Others at the open house were in favour of the proposal, like Casey Bellemore, communications coordinator for Carshare Atlantic.
“The more people who can get to businesses, the better business is,” said Bellemore. “If you make it easy to get from point A to point B, people are going to go out more and shop more.”
Bellemore said she thinks constructing the BRT services would affect businesses no matter wich roads are chosen for bus corridors.
Ben Hammer, a fourth-year student studying urban planning at Dalhousie University, agreed. As a frequent commuter, he is keen on the new transit plan.
“I think it’s needed because it’s difficult to get around Halifax fast using the transit system,” he said. “It shouldn’t take an hour to get from Halifax to Bedford, or from Scotia Square to Mumford. This (plan) would fix that.”
Blay said the project is still in its early days. She was unable to provide a cost estimate, but said it will be included in the final BRT proposal report, which is expected to go before council in April.