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  #61  
Old Posted Feb 15, 2009, 2:09 AM
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I would also agree LRT is the best choice.

The one thing I think would be cool would be to create a "Super-terminal" in Bedford around Mill Cove. Along with the ferry terminal a train terminal and a bus terminal could easily be installed. Trains could run the rail-cut up the Basin with stops at Birch Cove and Mill Cove then cut up into Fall River.

If a stop were created at Sunnyside I'd defenitely use it. The train tracks are closer then a bus stop to my house.
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  #62  
Old Posted Feb 15, 2009, 2:20 AM
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The Toronto streetcar system actually has stretches with dedicate ROWs and even underground sections.

The cars look different from modern LRT but that is partly just because they are dated. In practice, the distinction between light rail and streetcars is pretty meaningless, and it makes sense to tailor different parts of a light rail system to the surroundings - frequent stops downtown and less in lower density areas.
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  #63  
Old Posted Feb 15, 2009, 4:44 PM
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The Toronto streetcar system actually has stretches with dedicate ROWs and even underground sections.
Oh I know, but for the most part streetcars travel exclusively on city streets. Even Halifax's tramcar system had a couple of exclusive rights of way. No underground sections, mind you

Quote:
The cars look different from modern LRT but that is partly just because they are dated. In practice, the distinction between light rail and streetcars is pretty meaningless, and it makes sense to tailor different parts of a light rail system to the surroundings - frequent stops downtown and less in lower density areas.
I agree the line between streetcar and LRT is more blurred than any of the other modes I mentioned, and that any system would have to be tailored to the specific needs of the city. That's why what I wrote was just typical of those modes of transit.
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  #64  
Old Posted Feb 15, 2009, 6:57 PM
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Originally Posted by hfx_chris View Post
The problem though, is that HRM is completely anti-rail when it comes to transit. They even produced an anti-rail piece of propaganda on their website, calling it an "information sheet"
http://www.halifax.ca/metrotransit/CommuterRail2.html
In their propaganda sheet they state that no city under 1,000,000 has been able to justify an LRT line. But Edmonton opened their LRT when they had well under a million. It was opened along with the Commonwealth Games... Seems a lot of improvements can come in a city when they host a major event like that.

Didn't Halifax have a Commonwealth Games bid? Oh right.... Now I remember....
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  #65  
Old Posted Feb 15, 2009, 7:04 PM
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Hey, maybe we can get something with the Canada Winter Games! Like a couple extra buses...
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  #66  
Old Posted Feb 15, 2009, 8:08 PM
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Originally Posted by hfx_chris View Post
The problem though, is that HRM is completely anti-rail when it comes to transit. They even produced an anti-rail piece of propaganda on their website, calling it an "information sheet"
http://www.halifax.ca/metrotransit/CommuterRail2.html
lol,this "information sheet" sounds like it came straight off the desk of the bus manufacturers
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  #67  
Old Posted Mar 19, 2009, 4:53 PM
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An article from this week's coast... it's good to hear people starting to talk seriously about this, and if the tracks are just paved over why not dig them up? It's also interesting that the planning department has spoken out so much against "rail transit" and yet admit to have not even really looked at streetcars. What a city we live in.



Streetcar desires
We used to have trams in Halifax. We used to make them here, too. Who wouldn't want to ride the rails again?
by Chris Benjamin

"We can't do the same things and use the same excuses that cars and roads work well," says Patrick Klassen, a graduate student at Dalhousie's School of Planning. He's one of several students making an old idea new again: a Halifax Tram system.

"We haven't considered streetcars here per se," HRM transit planning specialist Brian Taylor acknowledges. Trams, or streetcars, are outside Halifax's box. It wasn't always so.

"We had trams here until the 1960s," notes Larry Hughes, an engineering professor at Dal. "They were fairly extensive; they went all the way to West End Mall."

Kathy Yeats, a Haligonian studying planning in Vancouver, offers another explanation for the streetcar's demise. "We used to make them locally, but General Motors muscled their way onto the scene in the '50s." She is referring to the Great American streetcar scandal, in which National Lines bought out transit systems across the continent, replacing streetcars with General Motors' buses and paving the way for car dependency.

We've relied on petroleum-powered buses and cars ever since. They have major disadvantages to the electric trolley. Yeats observes, "In Vancouver I can predict where the streetcars go by way of the wires overhead. There's a sense of permanence that comes with this level of built infrastructure. It encourages people to rely on it." The streetcars themselves last twice as long as buses.

Their permanence makes trams a starting point for sound urban development. In an independent research report, Klassen writes, "By providing an efficient, high capacity and reliable form of transit, with a sense of permanence, a streetcar system has the potential to attract residents and investment, increase transit ridership and stimulate core area business and pedestrian activity."

He examined modern streetcar systems in mid-sized cities in France, Germany and the United States, and concludes that the peninsula's population can support a tram, and that such a system would encourage the kind of development city planners are aiming for.

"The benefits are mostly economic," he argues. "A tram system catalyzes development along routes. It targets investment downtown." This combats sprawl and reinvigorates urban cores. Klassen notes that Portland's tram system has spun-off more than $3 billion in private investment.

A permanent, predictable streetcar infrastructure replaces complicated destination-based bus routes with a hub-and-spoke model. The hub is where streetcars begin their routes. In every city where this is the case, development is focused on the hub. In the process, bus congestion and emissions are eliminated.

"The buses themselves cause congestion," says Troy Scott, a Dartmouth architect, but once a starry-eyed Dalhousie grad student himself. His thesis focused on using existing and new rail infrastructure in and around Halifax. His study indicates that creating a streetcar loop on the peninsula could "reduce the number of buses from 33 to 11, alleviate congestion, and increase ridership."

Scott adds heritage to the list of streetcar advantages. "Why not bring back a historic aspect of Halifax right in Historic Properties?" he wonders. "I worked out what all the old routing was. The tracks are still in the road, paved over." New routes could also be added using ultra-light tracks, which don't require overhead wires and avoid disturbing pipes.

"Streetcars the world over are celebrated icons of city life," Yeats adds. "They are the town clocks and cathedrals of the transportation world and evoke warm feelings of community and home."

Despite the arguments for a Halifax tram system, it may be an idea ahead of its time, for two reasons: power and size.

"Streetcars aren't much good if Nova Scotia has to burn coal from South America to power them," Yeats says. "This technology would have to come with more renewable---and ethical---energy sources." Yet, she argues, electric vehicles allow a greater flexibility for power sources. In time, the power can come from wind, hydro, maybe even tidal or geothermal. "Buses only take petrol. If that fails us we're screwed," she says.

Should Halifax get trollified? Let me know at chrisb@thecoast.ca.
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  #68  
Old Posted Mar 19, 2009, 6:11 PM
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As much as I would love to see street cars in Halifax, I don't think funding would ever come through for it. Streetcars, if running with traffic, would face the same congestion and would not improve travel time. Therefore I think council would say it was not a worth while investment and that would be that. And just because the tracks are buried under the pavement doesn't mean they are in usable condition. It would require so much money to get a useful system put in place.

While I think that would be a very good investment, somehow I don't think council would see it that way. Fact of the matter is people like trains more than buses, and people would want to ride them. But council can't see the big picture. All they see is how much it will cost, and they don't think about the long term benefits.

The only way I can see this improving travel time is if they did something like run a southbound track on Hollis St and eliminate on street parking so that they wouldn't have to share the road with vehicle traffic, and did the same with a northbound track on Lower Water St. When they built the third bridge, they could even include tracks and extend the system into Dartmouth.

But if they were going to eliminate parking and make a transit only lane, they would probably just do it for buses and call it a day. It's a shame we can't have nice things here. Maybe with the next council.
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  #69  
Old Posted Mar 19, 2009, 10:15 PM
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We all know the real reason council is against rail...

I just read that propaganda and it is the biggest b/s I have ever heard. We could definitely do LRT within 15 years if it was well planned and thought out... hence this could never be accomplished by the current leadership and their response is that it isn't feasible.
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  #70  
Old Posted Mar 19, 2009, 10:30 PM
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There are a few inaccuracies in that article. We didn't have tramcars here until the 1960s. The last rail-based tramcars ran here until 1949, when they were replaced with Brill electric coaches or trolleys, which were rubber-tired -- essentially electric buses. Those ran until 1969, when the system was taken over by the city and they began using GM diesel buses.

I don't know where the old tramcars (called Birneys) were made, but I do know that the Brill coaches were not made locally.

The problem with the trolley/tram concept is that they are by necessity limited in their range since you need lines to let them go anywhere. If you are limiting them to a relatively small area then perhaps they would be OK, but people would always need to transfer to a bus or other mode to get them to their final destination. Not insurmountable, but limiting. I just don't see much advantage to them.
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  #71  
Old Posted Mar 19, 2009, 10:50 PM
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Originally Posted by spryscraper View Post
...if the tracks are just paved over why not dig them up?
IF they were still there, which I know they were removed in most places (however I have no doubt they may still exist in others), they would be beyond usable condition. Keep in mind they would not only be over 60 years old, but would have been buried that whole time. They were already in rough shape when the tram car system was retired, that was one of the deciding factors to move away from rail towards trolley coaches.

Quote:
"We can't do the same things and use the same excuses that cars and roads work well," says Patrick Klassen, a graduate student at Dalhousie's School of Planning. He's one of several students making an old idea new again: a Halifax Tram system.

"We haven't considered streetcars here per se," HRM transit planning specialist Brian Taylor acknowledges.
Halifax doesn't need a tram system. Trolley coaches yes, more maneuverable, but being fixed to a set of rails on today's downtown streets just isn't practical. I know it works in other cities, but Halifax isn't other cities. Trolley coaches can drop off and pickup at the curb, with trams you have to walk into the street to get on/off.

Quote:
"We had trams here until the 1960s," notes Larry Hughes, an engineering professor at Dal. "They were fairly extensive; they went all the way to West End Mall."
Probably just being picky here.. but we had tram cars until 1949, trolley coaches until 1969...

Quote:
Kathy Yeats, a Haligonian studying planning in Vancouver, offers another explanation for the streetcar's demise. "We used to make them locally, but General Motors muscled their way onto the scene in the '50s." She is referring to the Great American streetcar scandal, in which National Lines bought out transit systems across the continent, replacing streetcars with General Motors' buses and paving the way for car dependency.
I was wondering how long it would be before the GM streetcar conspiracy was brought up... Personally I never bought into that, buses were already rising in popularity, and with cities' streetcar/trolley systems aging, it seemed the practical thing to do at the time.

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A permanent, predictable streetcar infrastructure replaces complicated destination-based bus routes with a hub-and-spoke model. The hub is where streetcars begin their routes. In every city where this is the case, development is focused on the hub. In the process, bus congestion and emissions are eliminated.
All comes down to planning, a bus system can be planned in a similar fashion, this isn't something unique to electrified systems. The only real benefit I agree with him on is street-level pollution and appeal.

Quote:
"The buses themselves cause congestion," says Troy Scott, a Dartmouth architect, but once a starry-eyed Dalhousie grad student himself. His thesis focused on using existing and new rail infrastructure in and around Halifax. His study indicates that creating a streetcar loop on the peninsula could "reduce the number of buses from 33 to 11, alleviate congestion, and increase ridership."
The buses cause congestion? Anything that shares the road is going to contribute to (not cause) congestion. I'm also curious to know where he got these figures (33 and 11) from...

Quote:
"Streetcars the world over are celebrated icons of city life," Yeats adds. "They are the town clocks and cathedrals of the transportation world and evoke warm feelings of community and home."
Agreed with him there, it all comes down to perception, and streetcars/trolley coaches to some people just look better and more appealing. A system like that would become the centerpiece of transportation on the peninsula.

Quote:
"Buses only take petrol. If that fails us we're screwed," she says.
I assume "petrol" means petroleum products... and not just gas or diesel. They make hybrid diesel/electric buses, they've got ones that burn compressed natural gas, hell Halifax used to have a couple buses running on propane as part of a pilot project.
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  #72  
Old Posted Mar 19, 2009, 10:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Keith P. View Post
There are a few inaccuracies in that article. We didn't have tramcars here until the 1960s. The last rail-based tramcars ran here until 1949, when they were replaced with Brill electric coaches or trolleys, which were rubber-tired -- essentially electric buses. Those ran until 1969, when the system was taken over by the city and they began using GM diesel buses.

I don't know where the old tramcars (called Birneys) were made, but I do know that the Brill coaches were not made locally.
Good points. The Brill/CanCar trolleys were manufactured in Thunder Bay. I can't remember exactly where the Birneys were manufactured, but definitely not local. They may be referring to the tram cars that the Birneys replaced, they were produced in the province.
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  #73  
Old Posted Mar 20, 2009, 2:09 PM
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I can't remember exactly where the Birneys were manufactured, but definitely not local.
Of the 86 Birneys that Halifax had, 62 of them were purchased second hand, as most cities didn't like them. The original order of 24 Birneys was in 1923 from the American Car Company. So yes, not local.
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  #74  
Old Posted Mar 20, 2009, 2:48 PM
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Yes I know that, but I don't remember where they were manufactured. As in, city... and I can't find any of my reference books, they're in storage somewhere

And it's not that most cities didn't like them, the Birney was one of the most popular tram car on the market, but cities/companies were abandoning their systems in favor of trolleys or buses. Halifax/NSLP didn't have the money to buy new ones, the war more than doubled ridership, so they sought out as many second hand units as they could get their hands on.
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  #75  
Old Posted Mar 20, 2009, 6:57 PM
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Yeah, a lot of the arguments in the article just don't make much sense. NSP burns coal, so it's no better than diesel buses? What?! The coal is cheaper and more stable in terms of supply, it is easy to add any kind of power plant to the electric grid, the big power plants are much more efficient and much cleaner than small engines (so coal is not worse..), and emissions aren't produced at ground level on busy city streets.

Even with the current power situation in NS, from an energy/cost/cleanliness perspective it is a huge win to have electric buses or trams.

I agree with what others are saying about congestion and problems with loading. The benefit of streetcars over trolleybuses is fairly minimal - they are a little more comfortable.

It makes sense to go with rail if you have a dedicated ROW for a big part of a route, but not if it is just mixed in with traffic.

I would argue that it makes a lot of sense for the city to install some electric bus routes NOW in core areas. It would save them on fuel as prices go up in the future, create some permanent infrastructure to shape development patterns, and increase desirability of both the buses themselves and nearby areas since electrics are (dramatically) cleaner and quieter. They should start working on ways for transit vehicles to avoid traffic bottlenecks in the cities with an aim to assemble a meaningful dedicated transit right of way through the city, at which point they can start to look at light rail.
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  #76  
Old Posted Jul 27, 2009, 1:58 AM
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I'm definitely a supporter of electric trolley buses, and it seems the article is including them as interchangeable with streetcars judging from the way it mentions Vancouver.
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  #77  
Old Posted Sep 23, 2009, 6:36 AM
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Who needs a million stops downtown for light rail? The core isn't immense but it has much density to it. Say 3-4 stops downtown. One @ Purdys (or a rail terminal in place of the Cogswell) as mentioned above, another say on Sackville St. and the third ending at the Via Station. Seeing as much of downtown's built on a hill, run it along Barrington or Lower Water. It'd be hard to go underground and would make traffic downtown a bloody nightmare but it'd make the best sense IMO. As for metro, Dartmouth, Bedford and Sackville I'd imagine would be easy to map out for a line. For the record, I've never been to Halifax (except the airport) but I've studied the area enough as of late so planning/pipe-dreaming looks fun to do for the HRM.
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  #78  
Old Posted Sep 23, 2009, 6:44 AM
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I'm definitely a supporter of electric trolley buses, and it seems the article is including them as interchangeable with streetcars judging from the way it mentions Vancouver.
When I think of trolleybusses, I think of Vancouver lol...we used to have them in Hamilton but our one-way streets weren't good for the overhead wires
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  #79  
Old Posted Dec 6, 2009, 6:04 AM
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Hate to bring up an old thread but, Any talk of this lately?
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  #80  
Old Posted Jan 4, 2010, 11:58 AM
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The case for commuter rail in Halifax

Take some vision, add a bit of political will, throw in a dash of common sense, and you might solve some traffic woes

The Chronicle Herald / By MURRAY METHERALL
Sun. Jan 3 - 4:45 AM


IMAGINE a commuter train from Windsor Junction gliding through Halifax’s south-end rail cut on its way to the downtown Via station.

Or a fast ferry from Bedford sliding into a new terminal next to the waterfront casino.

Or an express bus travelling a lane of its own.

How best to get to work: Commuters in all cities ask that question every day. It’s also being asked by municipal leaders trying to figure out how to spend federal infrastructure dollars on transit.

Vancouver plans to build new light rail lines and buy 1,500 buses by 2012, and Ottawa is considering citywide rail. Halifax once had dayliner trains running into town from Sydney and the Annapolis Valley. The city now is looking to more buses and fast ferries to ease congestion.

Halifax could use the help. Its heart is a busy peninsula that takes in traffic from two bridges and a few main arteries every morning and pumps it out again before sundown. Each day commuters take about 20,000 cars and other vehicles to jobs downtown, to universities, hospitals or DND. Getting them out of their cars and onto mass transit will be vital as employment downtown and elsewhere continues to grow.

At first glance, establishing a commuter rail service seems to be a long shot. Metro Transit’s website has a graph plunging convincingly down the page showing Halifax to be the 143rd largest city in North America. The smallest city to have commuter rail — Edmonton — is 80 spots above us on the graph.

A fast ferry to Halifax is an exciting idea — 15 minutes from Bedford to downtown across the world’s second-largest natural harbour. Mayor Peter Kelly, on board for a demonstration ride in 2005, had a less romantic view.

"Look out there," he said. "We don’t have to pave it; we don’t have to salt it; we don’t have to plow it."

Yet the fast-ferry proposal for Halifax has been shelved for another year. Why?

Is it price? First proposed at $30 million, it’s been trimmed to $20 million with smaller vessels.

Is it who will pay? Thirteen million dollars may come from Ottawa. Perhaps the newly elected, ostensibly greener provincial government may step up.

Is the project too Bedford-centric? In fact, city planners say high-speed ferry service could eventually be expanded to Purcells Cove, Eastern Passage, and Burnside.

BUSINESS SENSE
What about the business case?

Potential shipbuilding jobs are part of the answer, says Brian Taylor, HRM fast-ferry project co-ordinator. Expressions of interest have been solicited for the construction of two vessels that if built here could see offshore know-how partnered with local shipbuilding skills, giving local industry a market niche in fast-ferry technology.

Corporate Research Associates surveyed HRM commuters in 2009 about what public transit improvements they’d like to see. More than half wanted improved bus service, one in 10 wanted a fast ferry and two in 10 wanted to see a light rail service.

If projected ridership for the fast ferry can be achieved with the fares proposed (perhaps $4), operating expenses will be covered. Buses operate at a deficit.

What about the business case for rail?

In theory commuter rail would carry more people, covering a broader area with more pickup points. Instead of boarding at a single ferry terminal in Mill Cove, rail commuters could choose from as many as five stations — at Beaverbank Road, Cobequid Road, Bedford Industrial Park, Mill Cove and Rockingham. While the ferry serves two employment destinations — downtown and the south end of the Dockyard — the train could stop at Armdale/Mumford Road, serving the northwest peninsula shopping centres, Dalhousie/Saint Mary’s, serving peninsula-south universities, and the train station on Hollis Street, with a link to the downtown core via shuttle bus.

But getting people to ditch the car will take more than a sound business case. Any alternative will have to be convenient.

For rail passengers heading downtown, there would have to be a shuttle service, adding about 10 minutes to the commute. This is on top of the 26 minutes of travel time from Cobequid Road to the Hollis Street Via Rail station, including stops, according to a 1996 commuter rail feasibility study done for the Metropolitan Authority.

One problem: Neither ferry nor train would directly reach the other big employment destination on the peninsula — the hospitals. Would commuters coming into town be willing to transfer and jump on a shuttle bus? That would add more time to their commute, but how long do they sit in cars now at the five big chokepoints — Bedford Highway, Bayers Road, Armdale Rotary, and MacKay and Macdonald bridges?

Even if it takes longer, it may be worth passing over the driving to someone else. Getting to work by either mode — ferry or rail — could even save you money.

One study in 2006 looked at costs for two types of commuters — by car and fast ferry. Driving from Bedford’s Mill Cove to Purdy’s Wharf, including gas and parking, costs $226 per month. Taking the ferry with a $4 fare would cost about $160. With the same fare for the train, you’d save a few more dollars travelling from stations farther out like Cobequid Road, nearly twice the distance to downtown as from Mill Cove.

As other modes of transit expand, what’s in it for the economy?

One selling point is economic development, as stations are built for rail or terminals for bus or ferry. With stations springing up along the line, rail would attract private investment and the creation of commercial and retail space.

INFRASTRUCTURE IN PLACE
Commuter rail proponents have argued for years that it makes sense for Halifax because the infrastructure in an underused rail line is already in place.

Though down to one track along the south-end rail cut and beyond, there is both room and time to share this CN line with a commuter service. Unlike the waterway, to use it would not be free. It’s surprising a bottom-line company like CN, with the potential to make a dollar through track rental, has not thought of this before.

Well, it turns out they have.

The 1996 commuter rail study was commissioned by the Metropolitan Authority in response to a CN/Via proposal to the town and then-mayor Kelly of Bedford to establish a commuter rail service. One reason the proposal did not fly was the fee CN wanted to use their line and the amount Via Rail was charging to operate rail liners was considered too high.

But there’s another, more direct route to downtown Halifax. You’d have to replace a line that used to run along the harbour side of the peninsula.

Today the tracks stop at the CN intermodal yard under the MacKay bridge, but they used to run south along the waterfront below Barrington Street, past the shipyard to the south gate of the Dockyard. Getting off a train here, opposite the sewage treatment plant today, would make for a short walk to Purdy’s Wharf or Scotia Square. Mostly used now for parking, much of this right-of-way still exists, minus the rails.

TRAINS ARE AVAILABLE
What about equipment?

On a siding at Industrial Rail Services in Moncton sit 27 relics of the past: self-propelled Dayliners. IRS has a $1-million contract to refurbish rail cars for Via Rail and has plans to market these remanufactured rail liners to North American cities as light rail commuter vehicles.

They may not be the latest Bombardier design, but IRS vice-president Chris Evers points out that remanufacturing makes economic sense. It means gutting the stainless steel body and replacing the insides with a rebuilt truck, high-efficient diesel or hybrid engines, with new interiors and wheelchair access. This self-propelled train, unlike purely light-rail vehicles, is built to safety standards that allow it to mingle with freight traffic on main lines. Evers says the technology is available in our own region for a fraction of the cost of new equipment.

While two to three trains with three cars each might be needed to move the same number of commuters as two fast ferries, they would be less expensive to buy and run. Interest in using rail liners to haul commuters has come from cities in the U.S.

A long-proposed service from downtown Toronto to Pearson Airport calls for using recycled rail liners.

For a town like Halifax, imprisoned by geography and struggling to form a sustainable transportation strategy and get people out of their cars, these options complement each other. Will population growth be able to support them all?

If the city had an agency in charge of overall transportation strategy, it might go a long way toward solving our traffic headaches.

Don Mills of Corporate Research advocates something he calls an HRM Transportation Authority, which he thinks would prevent piecemeal thinking on the issue, but will only come about through public pressure.

Murray Metherall lives and teaches in HRM and is interested insustainable transportation issues.
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