City’s pedestrian infrastructure hostile to people with sight issues

Student bus pass pilot expanded

Transportation Standing Committee, March 25, 2021

Meeting recap (the important stuff):

The Transportation Standing Committee received a presentation from Milena Khazanavicius and Bernard Bessette who are blind and partially sighted respectively. Even though the presentation included good things the city was doing for equity and accessibility, there were some particularly damning bits. For example, Khazanavicius highlighted 21 accessible push buttons (the ones that make noise) were reported to the city as not working. A year later, in March 2021, 19 of them were still not working.

For their part councillors were receptive to her complaints and passed a motion to bring this to tomorrow’s budget meeting with Transportation and Public Works to try and address these issues directly. 

They also passed a motion expanding the free transit for students pilot program. On the assumption this passes through council, where it’s headed next, all the students of Dartmouth High School, Prince Andrew High School, École Mosaïque, and École du Sommet will get free transit passes next year. 

The Herring Cove Road improvements have been kicked to the next meeting. The report detailing the planned improvements to Herring Cove Road is a whopping 600 pages, so the deferral was to give the councillors for the area and the public time to read through it over the next month. For more details on what the plan is Ctrl + F “McGrath” or keep scrolling. But the project is massive and it’s one of many massive multi-phase projects the city is undertaking and needs completed as soon as possible. Councillors Cleary, Mason and Outhit all expressed concern about the city’s ability to adequately get everything done with current staffing resources. We’ll hear this again, likely with dollar amounts attached, at tomorrow’s budget meeting, and at the planning and development budget meeting on April 7.

Devonshire Avenue will be getting a staff report on how to turn it into a ‘complete street.’ And Mason gave notice that he’ll be putting forward a motion to try and make drivers turning left safer for pedestrians. The text of the motion is as follows: The Transportation Standing Committee request a staff report, to be completed prior to the start of 2022/23 budget discussion, that outlines options for a program for establishing protected left-turn movements and protected right-turn movements at signal-controlled intersections. The program should prioritize high traffic and pedestrian volume intersections and high conflict intersections

Who said what (paraphrased): 

Mason: We have a busy meeting today and a hard end time of 3 p.m., so we need to move quickly, and we’re also going to try and get more Transportation Standing Committee meetings to deal with the clog of issues. Clerk, can you outline the additions to the agenda?

Clerk: Pedestrian infrastructure, Highway 101 Exit 2.

Mason: We probably won’t get to this today, but if we don’t add it to the agenda it won’t be added for another month. 

Russell: It’s a longstanding report that the community’s been looking for, and I want to be able to tell them about it. If we add it to the agenda it’s public starting now, instead of a month from now. 

Mason: Should we just defer it now? 

Russell: We can do that. 

Mason: Any other requests or additions to this meeting? 

*Procedurally adding the additional item and immediately deferring it 2x* 



Mason: Expanded transit pass pilot.

Staff: We made changes to include all the students of the four identified schools instead of specific grades at the schools. It’s 500 students to about 2500 students. 

Mason: Do we need to put this on the floor? 

Clerk: Yes. 

Mancini: *Reads the motion for agenda item 8.1 as written* Does this have to go to council after it leaves here? You mentioned overcrowding and loss of revenue, but I think it’s a loss leader. If we get young people using the bus to the point where it’s overcrowding then we’re probably setting up higher transit ridership in the future. 

Staff: It does have to go to council because there’s a bylaw amendment. 


Mason: Presentation from Bernard Bessette and Milena Khazanavicius called Equitable Provision and Maintenance of Traffic Control Devices for Blind and Partially Sighted Persons. 

Milena Khazanavicius: If you hear my screen reader it’s because I’m blind. And the clerk’s going to help me out with slides, but it may take me a bit longer to get through this, like it takes me longer to get across five lanes of traffic. Thank you for having us here to talk about accessible pedestrian signals that are consistently inconsistent. I like that council passed a motion to make push buttons 1 second for audible signals. Those of us who are blind have to find the button, which makes a sound, and then hold it for three seconds. It’s not safe, equitable or fair, so thank you for that change. It’s great if they’re working properly, which they don’t always. Sir Frederick Fraser, who started the Halifax School for the Blind, wanted to make sure people who were blind or partially sighted could have their independence and freedom. There are roughly 1800-2000 people who are blind or partially sighted in the HRM. Some of the accessible push buttons aren’t working.  

Khazanavicius: And here’s the progress they’ve made in a year:

Khazanavicius: It hasn’t changed. That’s a problem. Sometimes the push buttons are too far away from the intersections.

Khazanavicius: The max standard is two meters because otherwise we can’t line up properly. There also needs to be colour contrast. Robie and Cunard push buttons haven’t been re-implemented after four to six months. Bayers, Young, and Windsor, there are buttons for sighted people, but no one else. 

Khazanavicius: (This is super dangerous, YIKES) The list of APS device locations online isn’t being updated online. Crosswalk painting isn’t important for me, but it’s important for partially sighted people. It’s essential safety. We’re told painting can only be done above certain temps, but it needs to happen more frequently.

Khazanavicius: Here’s what we’re asking for:

Mancini: Is there a municipality anywhere that’s considered best practice for what you’ve shared with us today? 

Khazanavicius: Winnipeg is a leader because all of its intersections make a sound without having to push anything. Winnipeg has deemed itself to be doing universal, not accessible crosswalks. 

Mancini: How do we make sure buttons are working? You recommend up the inspections. When you first come to a city how do you know how to navigate it? 

Bernard Bessette: The acoustic indicators of APS is a good indication.  

Russell: How does APS indicate you should cross if there are electric vehicles?  

Bessette: If we can’t hear EVs we can hear the signal and assume they’re following the signals (dangerous assumption).

Outhit: How do we best support this?

Mason: We can forward this to the Budget Committee tomorrow? 

Kent: If we’re going to move it to the Budget Committee, it’s going to be a briefing note of some sort, can we do something to move forward more effectively? 

Russell: Even if it’s meeting on Friday, we can get a briefing note at any time.

Mason: I think we need to do that tomorrow to get it on the ‘parking lot’, or fast enough for tomorrow. 

Russell: TPW will have a heads up it’s coming because they’re here.


Mason: Herring Cove functional plan, we have a presentation.

Harrison McGrath: We’re trying to update streets like Herring Cove road to be inline with the IMP. Here are the objectives of this plan: 

McGrath: This plan started in 2019, and we’re at 60 per cent design for the part between Armdale Roundabout and Glenora Avenue. Here’s the situation on Herring Cove Road right now:

McGrath: There’s potential for 2300 units to be developed on Herring Cove Road, and widening roads for vehicle capacity will lead to induced demand for congestion. 

*Internet is down at Alderney, so everything’s down

McGrath: Here’s what we want to fix:

McGrath: We did two public engagements to figure out how they currently use the road, and what people want to see change. Most people use the road to drive, but people want to be able to walk, cycle and take transit within their community and to get downtown. Most people supported the proposed changes. Vehicle congestion is a concern, but people said that if we put the infrastructure in they’ll use it. The rapid transit plan would service Herring Cove Road better, being high service all day and be competitive with travel times of private vehicles. We had to do a secondary preliminary design to incorporate the additional bus lanes of the BRT. We’d be widening the road for active transit, not cars. Phase one didn’t reduce vehicle capacity, but phase two probably will in favour of active transit. Here are the numbers:

McGrath: Next steps are to issue a tender for the phase two design (Glenora and Greystone) which is in the budget this year and do detailed design for the next five years. 

Outhit: *Reads the motion for agenda item 12.1.1 as written* I want to have this discussion today, but then defer this decision so one of our new colleagues can do the research on this.

Cuttell: These 600 pages landed in my inbox and has a lot of information, and started in 2018 and a lot of work has been done on it. I’m just hoping that the committee will vote to defer this so people in the community can see this presentation. 

Cleary: Phase one is entirely in district 9, and it’s been a huge improvement. Given the restrictions of the road going to the rotary, I’m fine with changing the bike lane to an active transit corridor and I’m excited for the BRT changes. It’s going to make transit competitive with vehicles. The number 9 is the most ridden line in the HRM. Phase one is in the budget, if there’s a delay for a month, what impact would that have? Does this have to be passed by this committee by a certain date to get it in the budget? 

McGrath: Phase two is capital budget so it could roll into following years, but it would be delayed by a month. 

Mason: My read is that capital budget is there once passed until used. 

Cleary: We have a lot of projects on the go and there’s a lot of work that needs to be done here, and I’m concerned about horsepower. Do we have the capacity for all of this? Will be able to get this done in the proposed timeframe? 

Peter Duncan: I concede the point that there’s a challenge with resources, we’re aware we have to integrate our work with TPW, but this may be a better convo for our budget presentation. 

Stoddard: When were the consultations done? Townhouses and survey?

McGrath: Open houses were February and March or April of 2019. There was additional consultation with the BRT. We’d go back out for public engagement for phase two. 

Stoddard: Were online surveys done? 

McGrath: Yes in conjunction with the open houses. 

Mason: Is the money required $21 million or $12 million?  

McGrath: The $12 million is included in the $21 million. 

Mason: I don’t think we’re moving fast enough, I don’t think you have enough people to do what you need to get stuff done. I don’t think we should be getting Herring Cove Road done in 2027. I think we should look at how we can expedite these, they can’t all wait until Cogswell is done. Talking about capacity and speed, is the $21.6 million to do the complete solution? What are our options for speeding this up? 

McGrath: We’ve ruled out the interim plan, and just going for the ultimate solution. The doing it faster, we’d have to take it away and come back to you. 

Mason: I think this is doing to be coming up a lot in budget. 

Kent: This is the biggest report I’ve ever seen, 600 pages! My big concern is that our new councillors have opportunities to have meaningful feedback/impact on this. I feel like I’m lost. 

Mason: If we defer it’s public for a month and we debate it here and then still send it to council. We all have an interest in seeing this come forward, but it’ll give us two more months of discussion. 

Cuttell: I do realize that this is the report that is trying to advance more work on this. We’re talking about 30 per cent, 60 per cent, where does this fit into the bigger picture of work being done? 

McGrath: In terms of what work’s been done to get to construction? 

Cuttell: Can you tell me about the process? Where are we at in this? 

McGrath: The process is started with a 30 per cent design which is a preliminary estimate of what we can do. 60 per cent is more detail than the 30, which includes things like acquiring the property required, which we do for larger projects. 

Cuttell: Is this report for the 60 per cent design then? 

McGrath: The 60 per cent design itself is design drawings, so we don’t attach it to the report itself. 

Cuttell: Can we have some of those design boards from the 60 per cent design available to the public? 

McGrath: The 60 per cent design is basically the 30 per cent design.

Cuttell: Where are they? 

McGrath: Attachment B.

Cleary: Just for terminology, the 30, 60 and 90 per cent design is an indicator of level of accuracy and completeness/granularity of information. Phase one is 60 per cent design, the designs for phase two aren’t super accurate. The big things to pay attention to are the big graphics for things like bike lanes leading to active transit lanes. When you get to something like that, transitioning from a two way active transit trail to a bike lane, how do you do that?

McGrath: In the 60 per cent design we moved it, but it’ll be a similar situation, there’ll be a crosswalk in the worst case scenario, but it’s hard to say at this stage of the design process.  

Cleary: The transition happens at the crosswalk in the current design? 

McGrath: Yes.

Mason: Seeing as this isn’t a full 60 per cent plan, the phase one would still come back and have more engagement even if we passed it today? 

McGrath: Correct, we’d come back with the 60 per cent design. 

Mason: And that’s the last we see it? It’d go out to tender after approving a 60? 

McGrath: Yes. 

Mason: We’ll see this again, then. 

Outhit: I’d like to strongly support the horsepower/capacity argument. There are a lot of projects. I’m also scared of class D estimates (low accuracy, like getting a grade of D on a math test). Move to defer!

Mason: To the next regularly scheduled meeting?

Outhit: Sure, to the next regularly schedule meeting.


Mason: Devonshire Avenue improvements!

Stoddard: *Reads the motion for agenda item 12.1.2 as written*


Mason: Next potential amendments to traffic calming amendments, can… should we defer this to the next not regularly scheduled meeting? How long is your presentation/do you want to wait?

Anguish: We can defer ‘cause you have a hard stop and the next meeting is important to us too. 

Outhit: *Makes the motion to defer*

M/S/CVoteAye Unanimous 

Mason: Anyone have notices of motion? I do *reads protected left turn motion*.   

*Meeting adjourned*


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)





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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