Halifax City hall through the memorial arch
Municipal

Begging for a (pedestrian) beg button report

Transit update, crosswalks, and long commutes oh my!
 | January 21, 2021

Transportation Standing Committee, Jan. 21, 2021

Meeting recap (the important stuff):

Not a super productive Transportation Standing Committee meeting all things considered. The first hour of the meeting was about whether or not council could or should try to bully the province into putting a crosswalk at the William Porter Connector in Porter’s Lake. 

There is a technical explanation for why the province won’t put a crosswalk in, but the abridged version is not enough people are crossing the 80km/h roadway at the unmarked crosswalk to warrant putting in a marked crosswalk. Would you cross an unmarked crosswalk on an 80km/hr roadway? 

The committee decided to ask council to send a letter to the province asking them to reconsider their decision. 

There was supposed to be a motion about pedestrian beg buttons, but the chair of the committee, Waye Mason, didn’t ask for a presentation from staff in advance of today’s meeting. Councillors of the committee felt that the issue was too far outside of their scope of expertise without a staff briefing to make an informed decision so they deferred it to the next meeting to get a presentation. 

And the committee sent the On Demand Private Accessible Transportation Service proposal to council for final approval. 

They also got an update from transit staff about the second quarter performance of Halifax Transit. All things considered, it’s probably an outlier quarter because of COVID and transit restrictions. Councillor Mancini asked about pre-planning transit for the Port Wallace development in Burnside and Councillor Stoddard asked about the hour-long ‘express’ bus in from Timberlea. Staff will be following up with both next meeting.

Who said what (paraphrased): 

Mason: Alright, let’s go live. Additions and deletions? 

Clerk: We have an addition request for on demand private accessible transit, and can you take off 12.1.4, we can explain why if you want. 

Mason: Sure.

Patricia Hughes, staff: It has to have information from the bylaw change. 

Mason: Can we do the two at once? 

Clerk: You can do them both at once if you get unanimous for 15.1

Mason: Motion to add 15.1 and 12.1.4 but with separate votes? 

Kent: *Says that in formal motion form*

M/S/C – Vote – Unanimous – Aye (on both motions)

Mason: Correspondence? 

Clerk: I’ve sent it to you. 

Mason: William Porter Connector Road Crosswalk, I’m going to call on Hendsbee for this. 

Hendsbee: This was brought forward in November and then booted forward again in December. This crosswalk would connect Sandy Point Park and the Porter’s Lake school, and Trans Canada Trail and the park’n’ride. It’d be great to have the crosswalk because of a lack of school bus service. But the province is going overboard on design requirements. I don’t think we need flashing lights, I think paint is fine.  

Mason: What do you want the motion to do? 

Hendsbee: Send it back to council? 

Brad Anguish: The province has asked for specific design requirements and a crossing guard. The half signal (design requirement) would be $70,000, and the cost of a crossing guard. We find it over the top, but they’re consistent with their decision here. It’s an 80km/h zone, 90km/h vehicles, and children. So we’ve asked them to knock the speed down on the connector. It doesn’t meet the threshold for the HRP to get a crosswalk. So we really can’t do what the province is asking us to do. 

Taso Koutroulakis, staff: That’s basically it. And we need to commit to paying for the crosswalk. The community just wants a crosswalk, not a school crossing. The province did minimal study and said it didn’t need a crosswalk because there weren’t enough people. They could do a school one if we could provide a crossing guard. If it were an urban place, I’d be on board with the province. Except for the school, this crosswalk doesn’t meet the criteria for a crossing guard. 

Hendsbee: I’m hoping we can make another formal request to the province to reduce their design overkill? 

Kent: What do you think we could do at council? 

Hendsbee: It got sent from council on this process, so we need to send it back to council to make a formal request to the province as a council. 

Mason: We should make a recommendation to council to write a letter to the province to ask them to reduce their design requirements. Would something like rapid flashing beacons be appropriate here? I think it should be tied into other similar rural locations. We’re hearing this in East Preston and Hubbards too. You’re just not going to get high pedestrian traffic until it’s safe to cross. And we should CC the MLA

Hendsbee: I have four crosswalks in my district on 50km/h streets and they’re great. If we can do a crosswalk at the exit of a highway we can surely do it here. 

Mason: Are we asking for the impossible, staff? 

Koutroulakis: If this location exists in our jurisdiction, I’d recommend the same thing in an 80km/h zone. Like the one on Nantucket by the transit terminal. 

Hendsbee: What if they lowered the speed limit?  

Koutroulakis: The overhead flashing lights would be a minimum. 

Hendsebee: In a 60km/h zone? 

Koutroulakis: Yes, but even if you lower the speed limit, it doesn’t mean people stop speeding, so there’d need to be enforcement. I’d recommend a higher level crosswalk. 

Outhit: We obviously support Hendsbee, what are we hoping to achieve? Write a letter? From the Mayor? Or the committee? Or city staff to provincial staff? 

Mason: Council needs to write letters to the province now. 

Outhit: So we just need council to say yes to the letter, not debate the crosswalk? Then I’d support that. 

Mancini: Will this letter be any different than the other letters they send? Will it change anything? It’s just a frustration I have. 

Mason: How about a motion to refer it to council to write a letter and Hendsebee and I can work on the wording of the letter? 

Kent: Sure, I’ll move the motion in chat.

Hendsebee: Is this technically an unmarked crosswalk?  

Koutroulakis: Yes. 

Hendsbee: And all we’re trying to — (he got cut off but I’d guess he was going to end with ‘do is mark it’).

Kent: There’s a lot of the word ‘crossing’ in that motion. 

Mason: *Mumbles through the motion* Is that alright? Moved by Becky Kent? 

Russell: Part of the changes we’re going for is reducing the speed, should the letter say reducing speed? 

Anguish: I’m concerned with the motion. Can you send it to council without the motion? We have to be careful not to ask something of the province we wouldn’t demand from ourselves. And our staff is recommending what the province is asking us for. 

Mason: This is why meeting in person is better, we could have had this written out beforehand, so just a motion to refer? 

Clerk: Yes. 

Mancini: Why does Hensdbee think this design is overkill? 

Hendsbee: It’s design overkill because we’d have to put it in, pay for it and pay to maintain it. 

M/S/C – Vote – Unanimous – Aye

Mason: Thank you Hensdbee for consuming the first hour of the meeting, meeting schedule

M/S/C – Vote – Unanimous – Aye 

Mason: Presentation. 

Staff: This is the Q2 Halifax Transit presentation. Summer’s normally our highest ridership, and this is also when we started our full ridership again. We have four deliverables for a safe and accessible transportation network. 

Staff: We have a design for the West Bedford park’n’ride and we’ve talked to the community. That should be built by November. Platform and bus shelters, but no heated building. Doing design work on the Ragged Lake Transit Centre Expansion. We’re hoping to bring in an electric bus to do testing within the near future. Woodside Ferry Terminal upgrade is going well. We’ve replaced the one small elevator with two big ones. The escalators are being replaced now, the parts for the old ones weren’t available anymore.  

Staff: Ridership is at 50 per cent but on-time rate is up, due to less traffic and riders. Gas was cheaper than budgeted by $0.02. 

Mancini: There was talk of route changes on route 55, where do they stand? 

Staff: We had a plan ready last year, but I’m not sure it ever went to council. A lot of the stuff we wanted to do last year got kicked to this year. We’re going to try and make up for lost time. We don’t anticipate changing the Burnside routes, since we haven’t done the public consultation yet. 

Mancini: There’s a Port Wallace development going on, it’s like 10,000 people, can transit be part of that right of the bat? 

Staff: I don’t have a start date, but we’re aware of it. 

Russell: I want to make sure the busses are on time since it builds confidence. Working from home has allowed us to experiment if we could increase on-time performance with less ridership. I hope we never do it again but. Anyway, is there a target for on-time performance? 

Staff: Not really, 80 per cent is the standard. But some of these routes are 30 years old, so they might not work great. But the lower ridership gives us really good data on the interconnected-ness of the routes. We’ll have a better sense of where we are when we fully implement the Moving Forward Together plan, like the old route 20 to the new route 9. But this data isn’t always read correctly, not being on time doesn’t mean late, it could mean early with idling to keep the schedule. 

Russell: On time means 1 minute early is 3 minutes late? Are you differentiating between early and late in the data? 

Staff: Yes, especially early, because there’s no real good reason to be early. And usually, when a bus is early it’s for a good reason like they’re blocking something. 

Russell: I —

Mason: Five minutes! 

Outhit: Revenge for him doing that to us during budget! We’re back up to 50 per cent which is a cause for optimism. Getting transit in West Bedford sooner is something that we didn’t do right, we should do it right for Port Wallace. If it’s in early, it means people can rely on it when they move in. The tender for the park’n’ride has gone out, which is nice, a group of people met with you with suggestions, are you letting them know that you’ve incorporated their feedback, or at least being listened to?

Staff: Yes. 

Erin Blaise, transit staff: Yes we’re continuing conversations with the group that met with us. Some of their suggestions, like pedestrian connections, were great. 

Stoddard: Two questions/statements. In Timberlea, there are two busses in a growing environment, 21 and 23. The 21 has a transfer to get downtown, and 23 takes an hour to get downtown. If I go by car it’s 20 minutes, bus is an hour. (As an aside, from Selby’s Bunker in Cole Harbour to the IWK is 20-25 minutes driving, 1.5 hours by bus) That’s an issue I have. Timberlea Parkway, there’s a lot of construction in that area. There are 333 new apartments in the area, so a potential 666 new people, and there’s a Sobeys there now, so I think having a bus there would be good. 

Staff: We’re hearing this from passengers as well. 23 is supposed to be an express route, so it shouldn’t take that long. As for a new route, it’s not on our radar, so we’d have to go back and take a look at it. I’m not sure we’d restructure since it is a transfer-based system, it’ll still go to Lacewood. 

Russell: Overloads, on page 22 of the report, the number 8 had more overloads than any other. Recognizing it’s short term data, and potentially out of date, but when does staff think about changing types of busses or whatever? 

Staff: We’re not seeing a lot of overloads right now. It might have been a low service due to COVID issue. 

Mason: 12.1.3 push buttons! Staff presentation?

Clerk: I don’t have a presentation?

Mason: Okay, someone put the motion on the floor? 

Russell: (Reads the motion for agenda item 12.1.3 as written) I’m generally in favour of item three (3. Adjust the programming of the Accessible Pedestrian Signals at all locations to remove the requirement for the push button to be held for 3 seconds to activate the audible tone and allow for single press activation) and that’s about it. I think we should remove push buttons, does this require a different motion? We’ve gotten a lot of correspondence about this both as councillors and to the committee. I generally think perhaps a better motion would be to remove all push buttons except the accessible ones. 

Kent: There were a lot of submissions that have raised questions for me that I would have asked staff. Is there anything pressing time wise or could we get a presentation? 

Mason: Great option, great idea. 

Anguish: That’s our bad. We’d appreciate the opportunity though, now that we understand the magnitude of the community concerns. Yes, I’d appreciate the chance to come back. 

Mason: Good of you to fall on your sword, but this is my bad, I should have asked, as chair. It’s hard to guess when I can’t see your faces. In a motion to defer, you can ask specific questions to give to staff. 

Kent: *Makes a motion to defer* Why are some locations selected and not others? Is it a pilot? Phased? The heavy weight of the traffic vs cycling? There’s no context for how this fits into the Integrated Mobility Plan

Mancini: I’d rather blame the chair than staff, so that’s great for me. We’re following guidelines when it comes to these devices, but are there examples from other jurisdictions? Just in case our policies aren’t in fact best practices. 

Cleary: I miss you guys, I’m disappointed that I’ll have to watch another one of these meetings though. If staff could address the half signal timing and how that could be addressed (I’ll need a staff report for this, I have no idea what this means).

M/S/C – Vote – Unanimous – Aye


Mason: It’s deferred. Student Pass has been pre-deferred. On Demand Private Accessible Transportation Service

Mancini: (Reads the motion for agenda item 15.1 as written) Is there a presentation on this one? Not that I’m planning on deferring. 

Dave Reage, Halifax Transit: No we don’t have one. 

Mancini: This today is just to send it to council? 

Mason: Yup and there’ll be a presentation there? 

M/S/C – Vote – Unanimous – Aye

Mason: Notice of motion, it says none, but I have one. (Reads: Transportation Standing Committee requests a staff report recommending establishing new standards for municipal, utility and abutter work in the right of way to ensure accessibility and detectability for pedestrians shall be maintained at all times.)

Present:

Councillor Waye Mason, Chair (District 7)

Councillor Becky Kent, Vice-Chair (District 3)

Councillor Tony Mancini (District 6)

Councillor Iona Stoddard (District 12)

Councillor Paul Russell (District 15)

Deputy Mayor Tim Outhit (District 16)

Absent: 

N/A

Interviews:

N/A – COVID

Previous meeting minutes and current agenda:

Previous meeting

Current agenda


A former Naval Officer turned journalist, Matt Stickland is committed to empowering his community to ensure that everyone has access to the information they need to make their city a better place.

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