Council

Transit fares may increase for the first time in five years

New express routes might not happen

Transit riders may pay 25 cents more to board a bus this fall, if Halifax Transit’s proposed budget is approved by regional council.

Fares haven’t increased in more than five years said Dave Reage, Halifax Transit director, at the Halifax Regional Municipality budget committee meeting on Wednesday. The department has proposed increasing fares from $2.50 to $2.75.

Councillors were split about the potential increase. Some said it should be higher, while others want to see fares eliminated completely.

“I believe the taxpayer is already paying for the transit system through taxes,” said Coun. Richard Zurawski.

Coun. Lindell Smith said a fare hike may decrease ridership. He would rather raise adult fares and freeze senior and child rates.

Halifax South Downtown Coun. Waye Mason said his family has one car and his annual bus pass is cheaper than the cost of a second car. He favoured the increase.

Reage also proposed killing plans for new express buses to bring people from the suburbs to the urban core. These plans are part of a long-term strategy, the Moving Forward Together Plan, that could be cut because of budget constraints.

Sackville Coun. Lisa Blackburn was concerned about cutting transit to areas where the population is growing rapidly. Councillors agreed to reconsider changes to the Moving Forward Together Plan at a later stage of the budget process.

Transit was one of three budget proposals presented Wednesday. The other two were Transportation and Public Works and Corporate and Customer Services,

The committee will meet again on Friday to discuss the capital program budget. A revised budget plan will be brought forth on Feb. 15 and final approval is expected on April 2.