For Mary MacDonald, Route 6 Stonehaven was more than just a bus.
“Route 6 is my lifeline,” she said.
On Monday, Route 6 was cut from Halifax Transit’s schedule, leaving users like MacDonald without convenient access to regular bus routes.
MacDonald has muscular dystrophy, a degenerative muscular disease. The Saint Mary’s University student uses a wheelchair to get around and relies on Halifax Transit system to get to class.
Unlike other discontinued bus routes, Route 6 will not be replaced. The only other bus that travels through Quinpool Road after Connaught Avenue and towards the Armdale Rotary is express Route 32 Cowie Hill. It only runs on weekday mornings and evenings – never on weekends or holidays.
“This is a disaster for our community but not a priority for Council,” Robert Finbow, a political science professor who lives near Chocolate Lake near the Armdale Rotary, said in an email.
Finbow has been a bus rider for 27 years. He worries about winter road conditions now that Route 6 is gone and the only alternative is to take a taxi or drive. If he walks to other bus stops, Finbow said, he risks an injury from slipping on icy, steep, sidewalk-less streets.
The changes are part of Halifax Transit’s Moving Forward Together Plan, which was developed to improve Halifax’s transit system. In the plan, Halifax Transit said there are alternate bus routes to Route 6 available at least 500 metres away from Quinpool Road.
Consultations for the plan began in 2014 when Halifax Transit gathered 100 to 125 comments from concerned riders about the end of Route 6.
Erin DiCarlo, senior communications adviser for Halifax Regional Municipality, said Halifax Transit is trying to accommodate as many people as possible.
DiCarlo said Route 6 was discontinued because its service was redundant. There are other buses, she said, that make stops along the same route.
She said transit staff have been riding buses this week to talk to residents about route changes.
“We want to make this service as user friendly as possible,” she said.
But, MacDonald said that’s not enough for people with mobility issues, or those who live along the Armdale Rotary.
Both MacDonald and Finbow sent emails to District 9 Coun. Shawn Cleary asking him to stop Halifax Transit from cutting the route.
Cleary, who represents Halifax-West Armdale, said despite his efforts to save Route 6, Halifax Transit did not make any exceptions to their final decision.
“There was just no way they were going to have any one-offs,” he said.
While DiCarlo said redundancy was a deciding factor for cutting Route 6, Cleary gave other reasons.
He said Halifax Transit considers ridership numbers and area coverage when making changes to bus routes. The transit organization focuses resources on areas with high ridership numbers. The reason Route 6 was cut, Cleary said, is because its ridership numbers were low.
“As a user of Route 6, I hate the fact that it’s being discontinued,” he said “(For some, it) is a difference between a 20-minute bus ride and a 45-minute bus ride.”
Still, Cleary is hopeful the Moving Forward Together Plan will improve transit services for the HRM. But waiting for that day, he said, is a challenge.
“How do we make it better today, for the folks who need it? We can’t wait for four years for the system to be great; we need to make it better every year until then,” he said.
In the meantime, MacDonald uses Access-A-Bus to get to class, but she has to call Halifax Transit a week in advance to book the bus. Once she’s on the bus it makes long, winding trips around the municipality to pick up other riders.
As a result of this, she said she was late to an evening class last week at Mount Saint Vincent University.
“It’s getting increasingly impossible to live a normal life,” she said.