Budget Committee, March 10, 2021
Meeting recap (the important stuff):
Even though this was a Budget Committee meeting the casual observer would be forgiven for mistaking it for a meeting of the Transportation Standing Committee.
The meeting was dominated by granular level discussions of specific routes in councillor’s communities. As a legacy from former Dartmouth Mayor/Councillor Gloria McCluskey, the city’s transit business unit needs to bring forward its business plan with its budget. It is the only business unit that has to do this. Among those bringing up route issues was Councillor Deagle-Gammon, who was bringing forward constituent concerns about changes to route 55. Councillor Kent was worried about changes to and reductions in service for the Irving loop on route 63. And Councillor Cuttell was bringing forward concerns about the changes to route 415, namely that it was changed to encourage ridership of junior high students at the expense of people commuting for work. All three were concerned about the lack of communication with the affected riders.
All three routes are being added to the budget ‘parking lot’ for further consideration to ‘fix’ the issues in the upcoming changes. For a full list of planned route changes, click through here (page 26 if the link only brings you to the PDF).
There was a larger discussion in this budget meeting about when the appropriate time to bring proposed changes to routes to council would be. As well as the metric by which success should be judged. Although ridership is up, Kent raised the point that it’s not just about ridership, transit should also be about connecting communities. The busses from Cow Bay to downtown get more ridership than a bus going from Cow Bay to Cole Harbour, but people need to buy groceries. Prioritizing ridership means connecting Cole Harbour and Cow Bay would probably never be a priority. It’s a question of whether or not the city sees transit as a business or a public service.
If you know someone who doesn’t know how to use transit in Halifax the city produces a new riders guide, which will be available in 10 languages, and is currently available in seven different languages. It can be found here. If you want to provide feedback to Halifax Transit you can do so by calling 311 or taking part in their monthly surveys.
Who said what (paraphrased):
Russell: There are once again no speakers, you can sign up here. Transit presentation for Transit!
Dave Reage (Executive Director, Halifax Transit): I’m a big fan of transit puns. Our mission is to provide a safe, reliable and sustainable transit system. We have an executive director’s office, Access-A-Bus, conventional transit which is the bulk of our service, and ferry service. Here are some fast facts:
*Reage is frozen*
Mason: Let’s just vote on the motion, just kidding.
Reage: I’m back. COVID made ridership decrease by 71 per cent overall compared to the first quarter in the previous year. Overall ridership is down 45 per cent right now. Here’s what we have in assets:
Reage: We had our rapid transit strategy approved last year, we have an electric bus strategy. Bayers and Robie/Young now have priority transit corridors. Kids under 12 ride free, which hopefully will increase ridership as they grow up. We made a ‘how to ride transit’ guide. We’re upgrading Woodside Ferry Terminal. COVID changed how we operated, we hire more people to do more cleaning, we have more PPE, installed shields on busses, we gave out 40,000 masks at the start of the pandemic. Changes that normally would take months, we were able to do in weeks and days. We’re planning on improving Access-A-Bus, we’re looking at new transit priority routes, we have a new fare management system coming and the tender should go out next week. A lot of what we do is years-long projects, so you’ll see some overlap, but here’s what we’re planning this year:
Reage: The next major transit route change is happening in November and will impact about a third of our routes. We’re making our bus stops accessible, so far we’ve done the easy and cheap ones, but we need to do the harder ones next to make sure all stops are accessible. The Moving Forward Together packages and ‘how to ride transit’ packages are being published in 10 languages. Here’s how we did by the numbers:
Reage: COVID, obviously, hit us hard. We’re rebounding but don’t expect to be fully back for a couple years. The changes made with the Moving Forward Together Plan had increased ridership pre-COVID. Here’s our budget:
Reage: Our increased expenses are due to wages and benefits going up and new hires, janitorial and cleaning costs. Our building costs went up mainly due to the cost of electricity and heating going up. Every couple of years we need to refit ferries (salt water does serious damage to boats and ships). Here’s a budget overview:
Reage: Ferries look high because of the refits, it’ll smooth out next year. Most of the new positions are contract cleaning workers, but we are also increasing our employees as we increase ridership and need to hire to meet those needs, here are our staffing numbers:
Reage: Universities are indicating in-person learning is coming back. We expect fare revenues to be around 60 per cent of normal next year. We used conservative estimates though, I’m comfortable with them, here are the changes:
Reage: Fuel is an ongoing budget risk because the markets are what they are. If ridership doesn’t go up that’s also a risk. Our buildings are also getting older, we don’t know how much that will cost us, if anything. Questions?
Hendsbee: *Reads the motion for agenda item 5 as written* Rural express service (sucks), Exit 18 deserves a park’n’ride. The bus goes right by it, it should be easy to include. I’ll be asking for that this year. Buying and designing the land could be this year, build it next year. There’s an opportunity to build bus park’n’rides into the Ross Road realignment (YES PLEASE, I LITERALLY CAN’T BUS INTO TOWN RIGHT NOW). There’s a lot of opportunities for park’n’ride terminals. We should have at least two ferries per terminal, with only five if two go down it puts us in a dicey position. We’re going to be building more ferry terminals, we need more ferries. There’s potential use of green fuel, a wood additive, we should look at that to reduce our emissions. It’s a good alternative while we wait for electric busses.
Reage: The green fuel, I haven’t heard of that, but I have someone here who can check into that. Exit 18, there’s nothing in this year’s budget, we haven’t received direction to do anything from council. The lot was removed in a regional plan change, if you want it back, give us direction and we’ll make it happen. Park’n’ride lots, there are two in Bedford going in this year, but the next one is going into Marcus Road. Ross Road, we’re involved in those planning conversations. We do have an extra ferry, having two ferries down at the same time is unusual, I’m comfortable with our current spare ratio (4:1), we’ll add more as we expand service.
Mancini: How are your drivers and mechanics doing with COVID?
Reage: I can’t summarize the organization as a whole with so many employees, all we can do is make sure we have the safety precautions in place and have our leadership support the staff as they do a fantastic job keeping the service going.
Mancini: People who drive the busses are also part of our neighbourhoods, I thank them when I see them. Access-A-Bus, we need to improve it, what are the improvements you’ve made already and what impact are they/will they have? What’s the time frame to finish the improvements?
Reage: Two main areas for improvements, first one is eligibility criteria, i.e. who can use Access-A-Bus, and we haven’t updated it in decades. We’re moving to a functional mobility standard so if people need it, they can use it. The other improvement is tech, we give our drivers a paper schedule, but if there’s a cancellation we can’t update the paper. We’re moving to a digital system so we can update the driver’s schedule in close to real time, which should give us more flexibility for last minute trips. Both of those are planned for this year. A lot has changed, we’re going to come back to the transit standing committee with a standing update in the coming year.
Deagle-Gammon: The need to go in through Craigburn is due to Transit needing to do a loop, but it’s not what the residents need or want. There was a petition that went in, but COVID and the election happened so there was no direction given to Transit. The community would like to see a plan or other options. Is there an opportunity to come back and look at what’s happening on Route 55 and at least give them a good answer to their petition? The implementation time isn’t until November. Can I do that here?
Russell: You ask for a supplemental report here, or a full report at council.
Reage: A supplemental report on why we did what we did for Route 55 is easy, and can do it before final budget approval. Changing the route would be a parking lot item, I think, but we can do that too.
Deagle-Gammon: A report would just be answering questions, but they want more of a response.
Reage: We’re limited by no budget implication options. We would have needed to make the route shorter, turn on private property which we can’t do, or change the route, which is a budget thing.
Mason: My suggestion is to ask for a briefing note that also gives you options for community engagement. Transit did a lot of good work responding to COVID. I know things have gotten heated with operators at the start of COVID, but making sure you’re safe is very important to us. Budget isn’t what we want to do, it’s stuff that we’ve asked staff to do and they’re giving us solutions. This isn’t the meeting to get changes, councillors should be bringing it to Transportation Standing Committee or council. If you want a bus route and have for 10 years, this isn’t the meeting to bring this up (yeah, Hendsbee, stop it). This meeting is hard because we’re talking about the things we don’t like, but the Moving Forward Together plan is exceeding expectations. My questions, electric busses and fare management. If we get money for Ragged Lake and maybe Burnside, what is it’s capacity if it’s all electric busses? 50? 60? I fear we’re going to have a capacity issue. Can we get an interim charging solution in Burnside or is that off the table due to the scope of change? Fare management, the public is excited about using their phones, when’s it going to happen?
Reage: The initial project will put 60 at Ragged Lake and has a capacity of 240, but completely electric drops the 240 a bit. We need to get going at Burnside, and we’re starting those conversations. But we do need an interim solution, we know that, we’re trying to figure out what it is. Electric fare payment should go out next week and should be a quick turn around. Three to four months, for phase one. Which is buying fares on their phone and showing it to the driver. Phase two is people scanning their phones, but it should be quick (for government).
Lovelace: The Hubley Centre loves its bus service. The inputs for ridership, how do we increase ridership? We need access. We’re thinking about accessibility of the stops themselves, but where are the stops? Are the locations accessible? 1848 Hammonds Plains Road has a stop, but not the block up the road with the cluster of businesses (Ross Road Express bus on Lawrencetown road is a signpost on Lawrencetown Road at an intersection with no place to stop, not close to many houses). We need to do a better job of addressing the harassment that women and girls face on busses and ferries and have a concentrated effort to stop that (instead of lowkey encouraging it with terrible social media campaigns on Valentine’s Day)
Reage: Completely agree on harassment, it needs to stop and people need to be comfortable on busses. We have a campaign starting this year which will hopefully help. We were approached by an organization that was willing to pilot bystander training. I could speak for half an hour about where bus stops go but no one would find that interesting (I would). There’s a lot that goes into it, I’m not sure what did go into this one, but the team is listening, so they will look at it.
Blackburn: Are we back to pre-COVID service levels? Yes? Okay. Do you know where the riders have gone? Have they left transit? Are they working from home? Taking their cars? With data analysis, how will this year be used in data analysis? I don’t want this year to be used to reduce a route because of the pandemic.
Reage: We wouldn’t recommend a reduction of routes based on this year, we kind of need to throw it out. But as things grow back, we need to maybe look at our routes. I think even next year our routes will be under the standard use numbers. Most of our routes didn’t perform this year. Where the people go is the billion dollar question in this industry. Two more questions are when will they come back and will they come back. Car traffic has gone back up quickly, but transit hasn’t, which is concerning. Federal government and students are two big rider blocks that aren’t going into work or school. But we need good service to entice people to come back, so Moving Forward Together should help.
Morse: What are you considering to make things more pleasant for people to take the bus, even as simple as building shelters. Do we only add five bus shelters a year? Maybe it’s too late for this budget to expand those shelters. Putting a little more emphasis on the comfort of riders could increase ridership.
Reage: The way we do shelters is that they’re managed under a contract. We “pay” for that using advertising. The contract is up in September, so we can change that then. The issue with shelters isn’t budget, they’re pretty cheap, the challenge is available right of way space, if the space is too narrow we need to negotiate with private landowners, which is do-able, but it just takes time. Over the years we’ve tried to transform our major transfer hubs for comfort for exactly the reason you mention.
Morse: If we wanted to have more input in renewing the contract how do we do that?
Reage: Give me a shout.
Kent: Changes are necessary and we all need to accept that, but the 26 changes to routes coming, district 3 is pretty heavy, it’s eight out of the 26 routes. That’s a big change, and I’m concerned about some of them. What is it about this area that explains why there are so many changes coming?
Reage: This year is the Dartmouth side of the harbour’s turn. Last year we did Bedford, Sackville, the year before was Halifax Clayton Park, it’s your turn, essentially. The changes in Portland Hills, for example, are a mishmash of routes and we’re going to simplify and expedite it. Instead of taking four routes to downtown, the plan is to take one bus to the terminal, one to downtown. The thing I’m most excited about is introducing express routes into Woodlawn and Cole Harbour. During rush hour some routes will switch from community routes to express routes. (If this works as planned this will be great, Cole Harbour to the IWK is like an hour and a half bus commute.)
Kent: I’m pleased Lovelace brought up the experience of women on transit, I like that you have a plan to address it. Ultimately it’s around safety and respect.
Purdy: Public engagement, what are the forums for the public to engage and give input to transit routes? Residents of their neighbourhoods are experts on their neighbourhoods, I heard a lot about transit suggestions when I was campaigning. I know you can’t meet everyone’s specific needs, but are there regular engagements with the public?
Reage: You’re right we can’t accommodate everything, but we can listen to everything. We do consultation in several ways, in major projects we’ll have project-specific engagement, like with Moving Forward Together. We also have a monthly Talk Transit survey. We’ll report that to the transit committee. We also do ad hoc, so when people call 311 we hear it and we sometimes make changes.
Purdy: Is the monthly Talk Transit survey, is that on Shape Your City?
Purdy: I can share this on my social media.
Cuttell: Working on rural transit, I didn’t see any of that in the report or presentation, where does it fit into the budget this year? The park’n’ride terminals, how much of a priority for Transit? Can we expect the ones that are well used to be expanded? How are we budgeting for that and expanding them? Are there conversations with the province on regional transit? The Moving Forward Together positions, are they permanent or project positions? The budget, we approved expenditures for replacement busses, do we know how much of that will be used this year?
Reage: The amount that was put forward for busses is the full amount we needed, so we’ll spend all of it. Rural Transit Funding Program is still in our budget and set at pre-COVID levels, and we’ll adjust as needed. Park’n’rides, there are some places where they make a lot of sense, like in rural areas or ferry terminals. But on the whole, it’s only 1.5-2 per cent of our ridership. The vast majority of people get on the bus in their neighbourhoods. Expanding park’n’ride lots is very hard, and frequently not possible. We’ve tried to shift express bus routes away from park’n’ride lots to try and decrease dependence on them. But there are a few in places where it makes sense. I have not been involved in any discussions with the province on regional transit plans. The Moving Forward Together specific positions are permanent, because they’re bus drivers and mechanics required for the increased service. The contract temporary positions are the COVID cleaning positions.
Smith: The changes with busses coming up, how will we be tracking the changes because some of these changes are big? How will they be reviewed? When will we be able to track the bus in “real time?” I know it’s coming, but when. North and Gottingen was a capital project to consider in the future, with some realignment, I’m just wondering if there’s an update. How much revenue do we get for advertising on our busses? I have questions about the advertising in general, but that’s not for today.
Reage: Ad revenue is about $1 million a year. Bus speed, we can monitor bus speed through our operations centre, do you mean the public being able to see it? For our own review, we can collate running times and get average speeds and gauge effectiveness. How do we monitor the impacts or successes? We look at running times, ridership. We also work with the transportation planning group to keep tabs on how it actually functions. Gottingen, is it doing what we want it to do? We had to roll back the hours a bit because what was initially there wasn’t needed, for example. Any major project there is ongoing monitoring. North and Gottingen, I don’t have any information on that, but we can get something to you. I think it’s tied into the Macdonald Bridge ramp.
Savage: As we transition our mobile food market to a purpose-built vehicle, I just want to acknowledge your support in the initial vehicle. Councillor Blackburn spoke to this already, but I wish everybody could see our senior team in a time of crisis, not that I want more crises, but they and you do great work. Where do our operators fit in the vaccination lines? Smaller communities in the province look to us for support in implementing transit, can you speak to how we do that?
Reage: We don’t have a lot of involvement in that, we follow public health guidelines, and we’ll do that. I see ourselves as the older sibling for transit systems in Atlantic Canada, we have more resources, so we try and help the smaller systems with expertise, and donating older vehicles if it would be helpful for them. I take pride in helping transit flourish in Atlantic Canada.
Russell: The Sackville terminal fills up because there are a lot of people who come into Sackville to take the bus. I hope you move forward with the Margery park’n’ride ASAP, I know it’s second on the list. I hope the new fare management system is just adding things and not taking things away, they need to be able to use cash and tickets. Going cashless makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I hope the new system won’t remove those capabilities.
Reage: Nothing is going away, it’s an addition. People who pay cash can continue to do so. We hope people will shift, but they still can.
Mancini: Access-A-Bus, the thing that’s improved dramatically has been booking, I know it was changed to seven days in advance, but can you talk about where it is now?
Reage: The timing of the booking system, we’ll take booking up to seven days out, but you can book whenever. With the COVID reductions, there are very few trips we aren’t able to make. It just gives us a bit of reprieve. We want to get to an option for online booking to streamline the process.
Mancini: Port Wallace development will be 10,000 people (DRINK!). I want to make sure Transit is planning for those routes right now. Can you speak to that? Also, add Shannon Park.
Reage: It’s our preference to introduce service into a community as it’s built. But it also comes down to how things are built. If the roads are all dead ends, we can’t bring busses in so if-
Mancini: Are you having conversations to make sure they’re not?
Reage: Yes, we’re having those conversations. We want transit to be in communities before they need to buy a second or third vehicle.
Mancini: Are the Burnside changes still happening? I know they were delayed.
Reage: I don’t think so this time around. We did a number of changes years ago, any changes would be coming next year, probably around IKEA and that area.
Mancini: The number one complaint I get from businesses in Burnside is their staff can’t move around the area. I know we would build it differently if we built it today.
Hendsbee: My question is about regional transportation taxes, we’ve been paying the tax for 15 years, and I’m in a transit desert out here. I have one park’n’ride. You’re planning to adjust the 401 service to Grand Desert and Seaforth, is there a plan there so we don’t have a gap in service? I know COVID threw a wrench in it. I have a population base in Lake Echo that are blind, we need some tactile bus stops out there. WiFi, what’s the status of WiFi on the busses? Route 61 and 58, why does the 61 go into the subdivision around Circassion Drive and not 58? 58 seems better suited. There’ll be a request for a report coming from me at Regional Council.
Reage: WiFi, I don’t have a current status on that, things were delayed due to COVID. I can get an update to you. 61 and 68, you have perfectly described some of the issues we face when planning. We try to balance directness and serving the area. The 61 we thought the balance was to take it through Circassion, and the 68 has to go to Auburn, so we figure it would make more sense-
Hendsbee: I’m speaking about 58, not 68.
Reage: The Cherry Brook route?
Hendsbee: No that’s 68, I’m talking about 58.
Russell: Does this have an impact on budget discussions or a vote? Or is this a 1 on 1 chat?
Hendsbee: It’s part of the service plan, so if we approve it today it goes forward.
*Note: my video feed is very choppy, I’m going to be missing things, rebooting has not helped at all*
Mason: Point of order.
Russell: Go ahead.
*Hendsbee is also talking*
Mason: The routing plan was approved in council in 2016, council is the right place to debate this. We can ask for reports and all that, but you were there when it was voted on. We’re being asked ‘do you feel we missed anything in the budget that you’ve asked us to do?’ but it’s not a budget debate thing.
Russell: You can bring a motion forward.
Hendsbee: I’m just curious about the routing decision.
Russell: Offline or staff report.
Hendsbee: Offline is fine.
Reage: Route 401 timing, our intent is to proceed with the changes in November, it was supposed to happen last year, but we delayed it to consult about operating through Mineville. That’s done now, so we’re doing that in November. For tactile bus stops, if you have local stops, please send that to me. We are doing an overall review, but please send me specific stops, it’s helpful.
Deagle-Gammon: Can we get a briefing note, not a special report, that outlines the response to the petition with possible outcomes considered. And then could there also be a virtual meeting with me and the community? And then this may impact the budget if the community wants to do something differently.
Reage: Thinkin’ on the fly, briefing note is easy to do. It depends on what you want out of the virtual meeting. Part of the challenge for us is that we need a solid council approval in May for the changes to happen in November. If there’s something with budget implications it would need to go to the ‘parking lot’. We would need to give information.
Traves (Legal): I’d suggest start with the briefing note and then maybe take it to council, but I’d start with the briefing note.
Deagle-Gammon: Virtual meeting is not something you’d consider?
Traves: They need to see if they have direction from council, if they have clear direction the meeting could be quite short.
Deagle-Gammon: Thank you.
Russell: Do you want a briefing note?
Deagle-Gammon: Yes, please.
Russell: You and the clerk have been discussing this and Reage knows what to expect?
Deagle-Gammon: Yes *reads the exact wording*.
Mancini: There was a community meeting with Streach last year and took the petition back to council but didn’t do anything with it. I think he intended to after the election, but lost, and COVID hit. And now there’s huge changes coming in November and the residents just feel left out. We’re not trying to hang anyone out to dry, the residents wanted the virtual meeting to get answers.
Outhit: Are we requesting a briefing note and virtual meeting or? If we’re doing both we should make sure we give direction now.
Russell: Just a briefing note.
Deagle-Gammon: The briefing note will tell us if a virtual meeting is a waste of time.
Cuttell: I’ve had a similar experience with route changes in Herring Cove when notice was given on a Friday that the route was changing on Monday, with no real communication about it. I’ve been told there was extensive consultation, but no one I’ve spoken to has been consulted. I want to know how Transit is doing consultations because people don’t feel like they’re a part of the system and it turns them off transit. And when we can’t get answers about the changes that puts us in an awkward position with trying to support transit. I don’t know if there’s an ability to add how planned route changes in general.
Russell: I think that would be a change in the intent of the motion, so it would be a second motion.
Reage: If there’s an interest in the route change process and consultation, I can just give you that information.
Cuttell: That would be wonderful.
Cleary: I get that we’re getting a lot of discussion because new councillors are coming in dealing with changes that happened before they were elected. Community consultation and engagement happens really early. The Moving Forward Together plan consultation was before I got elected, and then we had a bun fight as it came to us. As pieces come together we have a lot of consultation, I think I met with all six riders of the 16 bus. There was a lot of consultation. There are appropriate venues for certain types of discussions, route changes could be talked about at Transportation Standing Committee for example. The changes today are because council’s goal from years ago is to focus on ridership instead of regional coverage. Even with COVID, we’re doing well because of these changes we’ve made. How are we doing with reaching our goals and faring through COVID?
Reage: We’re doing quite well compared to transit systems across North America.
Kent: I’m going to support this motion. I think us as new councillors have every right to ask for this information but I’m concerned with how deep in the weeds we are (honestly, same, it’s weedy down here). We all have to champion our districts to council, and I’ll be doing something similar when I speak on the main motion again. This notion that high ridership is a priority, I have underserved districts, how are we supposed to show high ridership without an opportunity to ride in the first place?
Austin: I don’t know if this is helpful, if there is a desire to change things in the plan we can do that at transportation committee and council. Outhit did it for a route in his district at council. There are opportunities to do it, but today isn’t the day. If you have concerns about routing, talk to staff and bring it to the appropriate committee.
Cuttell: I’m not talking about the reduction of the 15 to the 415, I’m not talking about changes to the route, I’m talking about the schedule was changed after a route reduction. There was no notice given or consultation with the broader community. I’m talking about scheduling, and I want to know how those are communicated and schedule changes are in the budget document.
Outhit: Today we’re talking about the budget, but also the business plan. So if councillors have issues with the business plan, when is the time for us to get into the weeds if not today? Because the business plan also affects the budget.
Reage: We’re a bit different than other business units because we have the plan and budget today. In terms of route 55 there are some issues with which councillor owned the issue, that’s our bad. Councillor McKlusky made the change to make sure our service plan came with the budget.
Outhit: That’s what I wanted to point out, this is different than other budget meetings. I think this meeting is the place to talk about it and they shouldn’t be chastised for doing it.
CFO: This is the appropriate time to talk about each business unit’s business plans. The budget is the tool to support the business plan, so the two are very tightly woven. The business plan is what will be achieved and the budget is the how and the when.
Outhit: Things might be different next year, but I think we should have flexibility here this year.
M/S/C – Vote – Aye – Unanimous – Deagle-Gammon’s motion for a report passes
Russell: We’re breaking for lunch, see everyone at 1.
*Break for lunch*
Russell: Welcome back, Kent’s up!
Kent: I have serious concerns about route changes and reduction of service to Cow Bay and Caldwell, as well as Woodside up Pleasant. I was on council when we got that loop, I’m concerned about the changes. The bus there is a huge benefit to that community, I want to see the rationale and dollars and cents required to keep it, because it may be a ‘parking lot’ item. When all of these changes were made, did you get into the weeds to this degree? If not we absolutely should now. I also would like a better understanding of what a decrease in service to Cow Bay, Caldwell, means. I’m happy to see changes to Heritage Hills. Any time a district loses service it’s a big deal.
Reage: Did this conversation get into the weeds initially? Yes, we had a lot of conversations with councillors down the route level at the time the Moving Forward Together plan was first made, as well as route specific reports. Everette Street, most of the people who would use that bus are within walking distance of Pleasant Street, the busiest connection is the bridge terminal to Woodside ferry. What we’re doing on Shore Road routes is during off-peak hours we’re taking Shore Road busses to put them in Heritage Hills.
Patricia Hughes: Heritage Hills was only peak hours initially, but now it’ll get day long service, and so will Shore Road.
Kent: Shore Road will have all day service, but not as frequent? I can take this offline for that. I don’t know if I got an answer on Irving?
Reage: That’d be a budget item, so briefing note to ‘parking lot’.
Russell: Sorry, what for?
Kent: Reinstatement of the Irving loop.
Russell: Any comments on the briefing note/motion? Can we get the street names in the chat? Everette Street, Irving Street, Franklyn Street (Route 63).
M/S/C – Vote – Aye – Unanimous (Some Councillors didn’t vote out loud)
Cuttell: The 415, there was a scheduling change made in November where an earlier route was added and a later route was removed, and I’ve been getting a lot of comments about people not being able to use the bus coming from school or work that ends at six o’clock. I was told there was a lot of talk of consultation, but I haven’t seen any. There was conversation to add an earlier bus for junior high students, but there was no conversation about removing the later one to do that. So I’m asking for a briefing note to get: the details of the consultation that was done to decide to do the scheduling change, how the change was communicated and how much it would cost to add the late bus back.
Russell: *Reads the motion out loud* Route 415?
Cuttell: Yes, and in relation to that route, why is it classified as a rural service?
Russell: We need a seconder first!
Kent: I’ll second it.
Cuttell: Can you explain why it’s classified as a rural route? Porters Lake and Tantallon are the other two and they’re much further from the city than Purcell’s Cove, it’s surrounded by transit, it’s suburban. The only document that describes it as rural is the transit document, how does that work?
Russell: The regional plan!
Reage: The 415 under Moving Forward Together was approved as a rural route because it’s mostly outside of the transit area and primarily serves a community zoned as rural.
Cuttell: Can you share the criteria for what qualifies it as a rural route? That’d be great.
Reage: We can do that.
Cleary: I put the transit service boundary in the chat. Can the briefing notes include ridership data? No one’s asking for it, but I think it’s important (it’s only important if transit isn’t considered a public service and is considered a business).
Lovelace: Just for clarification what I’m seeing here is rural issues. It’s rural because it’s a rural tax designation, but rural communities need transit for growth. I understand that previous councils have made the decision that got us here today, we do need to address the needs of rural communities, and we need to think outside the box and find creative solutions. So we can create more economic opportunities for our rural areas.
Russell: We have the urban transit service boundary, which has been regularly looked at and changed. Blackburn and I have similar issues with Beaver Bank and Lucasville.
Stoddard: I’d like to put a motion on the floor.
Russell: Cuttell’s motion is still on the floor.
Cuttell: Lovelace, Purcell’s Cove is not in the rural tax rate, it’s in the urban tax boundary. That’s what I mean when I say the only place it’s considered rural is Halifax Transit. Its density might be low but it’s clearly in the city’s boundaries.
M/S/C – Vote – Aye – Unanimous (Again, I think, some councillors aren’t voting out loud)
Stoddard: I’d like a briefing note to improve the transit service to district 12 as it relates to the park’n’ride. District 12 is fortunate to have a park’n’ride, but there’s no bus that can get people to the location, you need a car to get to the park’n’ride. Can we extend a bus to get people to the park’n’ride? I think more people would leave their cars at home if they could.
Reage: For my clarification is this the rural express park’n’ride at Exit 4?
Reage: We haven’t had any council direction to do that, so there’s no plan, no consultations done, so it’s not in our budget or business plan.
Stoddard: Can you do something about it?
Reage: I can’t answer that on the fly.
Austin: There’s no planning work done for this, so I don’t know that it’s something we can just tack on to the budget this year. This, to me, needs a staff report, so I think we should send it to council. I don’t see how we could tack it on this year. It’s one thing to say ‘can we make this bus slightly better,’ but this is different.
Traves: Austin raises a good point on whether or not we can do this in the current budget. It might make sense to bring all these notes to council to amend the Moving Forward Together plan as a whole. It seems like all of these requests are changing the direction council has given as a whole. If we could have those out today, I would suggest it needs a larger discussion at council.
Hendsbee: I think it’s reasonable to request the service extend up Timberlea to go terminal to terminal. There’s no alternative connection other than a car. I think it’s a great idea.
Russell: I don’t see any other speakers in the chat, should we bring this to transit committee or have a vote on it here.
Stoddard: Vote on it here.
Clerk: Can I request the motion be read again?
Russell: *Reads it again*
M/S/C – Vote – Nay – Cleary – Aye – Morse, Cuttell, Stoddard, Lovelace, Blackburn, Russell, Outhit, Deagle-Gammon, Hensdbee, Kent, Purdy, Austin, Mason, Savage (Mancini also voted, I assume. Smith was absent from the vote.)
Russell: We’re back to the main motion, no speakers. Kent has requested to speak again.
Kent: Just some clarity on route 57 Portland Estates, to discontinue off-peak service. You are confident that the route being decreased, there area will still be covered?
Reage: Route 57 currently operates between Portland and Penhorn and then Penhorn to the ferry terminal. The bus from Penhorn to the terminal will be a different bus now. 57 outside of peak hours has very low ridership, but high ridership in rush hour. Baker Drive will continue to be covered by route 67 will continue to operate between Penhorn and the Woodside Ferry Terminal. The seniors on Baker Drive gave feedback that they’d rather have access to the shopping and medical services on the route.
Kent: I’m glad you also get confused by the bus route numbers. I’m excited to hear the changes were made for the right reasons. Route changes on Spring Avenue route 58, why did you have to take any part of route 58 out?
Reage: It doesn’t do a loop at the end anymore, it’ll go to Portland Hills terminal. The part that’s losing service is about 150 metres total.
Kent: Communication with the public is key, please take advantage of us, they will come to us before they come to you for more information. So please, give us lots of information, not just posting it on Facebook the night before.
Lovelace: The 433, there are some changes coming to it, I understand where it isn’t going to go, it’s going to the park’n’ride. Are we going to lose the service on Bluewater Road?
Reage: No, it’s just adding a bit of a dogleg.
Lovelace: The park’n’ride is just being added?
Lovelace: Are the plans to add Broad and Brookline?
Reage: We’re not changing routes, we’re adding busses, and we’ll move them around to accommodate demand.
Lovelace: For when?
Cuttell: My comments about the university students, I know they aren’t in classes now but this isn’t permanent, and if COVID means we cut a route now we should cut a lot of routes (yeah Cleary, eat it). Does information exist now for ridership for all routes current and pre-COVID? I think it’s good that we’ve increased ridership, where does the low income transit pass factor in? How much increased ridership is attributed to route changes vs access to the bus in removing financial barriers?
Reage: It’s a good question about the impact of the transit pass, the community services pass is probably a greater impact. We can make some inferences, but we don’t know for sure because there’s so many factors. We have the ridership information available publicly.
Kent: I’m taking a page out of Hendsbee’s book and not missing an opportunity to speak! I believe strongly we’re missing the boat on services between Cow Bay and Mount Hope. Connecting communities is just as important as getting downtown. Getting into Cole Harbour is just as important for people to get to as downtown.
M/S/C – Vote – Aye – Unanimous
Councillor Paul Russell, Chair (District 15)
Deputy Mayor Tim Outhit (District 16)
Councillor Kathy Deagle-Gammon (District 1)
Councillor David Hendsbee (District 2)
Councillor Becky Kent (District 3)
Councillor Trish Purdy (District 4)
Councillor Sam Austin (District 5)
Councillor Tony Mancini (District 6)
Councillor Waye Mason (District 7)
Councillor Lindell Smith (District 8)
Councillor Shawn Cleary (District 9)
Councillor Kathryn Morse (District 10)
Councillor Patty Cuttell (District 11)
Councillor Iona Stoddard (District 12)
Councillor Pam Lovelace (District 13)
Councillor Lisa Blackburn (District 14)
N/A – COVID
Previous meeting minutes and 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.
Let’s cut to the chase: The Committee Trawler wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the support of our readers, like yourself. Sign up now – and with your monthly contribution (or one-time contribution) you can help us stay afloat. In return, we will give you a say on the content you want to see on The Trawler.