Call for more metro bus connections
Lack of service to Quinpool Rd., workshop hears
By AMY PUGSLEY FRASER City Hall Reporter
Fri. May 16 - 6:08 AM
There aren’t enough bus connections linking Halifax’s downtown to Quinpool Road or the south end, a transit workshop heard Thursday.
Providing a connecting service to those areas would persuade commuters to leave their cars at home, Sandra Hamm said.
The Saint Mary’s University librarian usually carpools daily from Musquodoboit Harbour and finds it much faster than taking the bus.
"I don’t want to take a MetroLink bus to Scotia Square and then spend 10 minutes waiting for another bus (to go the rest of the way to SMU)," she said.
"That doesn’t really reduce my time."
Ms. Hamm was one of about 30 people who took part Thursday in three planning sessions hosted by the municipality.
A new downtown shuttle service is in the works for 2010 but the city wanted rider input before putting the buses out on the street.
During 90-minute sessions in a downtown hotel boardroom, participants were given a table-sized map, a jar full of push pins and string. Their task: to link as many bus stops — including pickups at Scotia Square and the Halifax ferry terminal — as possible.
A lot of the talk during a mid-morning session centred on the lack of service to Quinpool Road.
It’s especially important for Sarah MacDonald, the student services representative for the Centre for Arts and Technology on Barrington Street.
"Although our campus is downtown, not everybody can afford to live downtown," she explained in an interview.
As a result, students often choose to live on Quinpool Road, but "figuring out the transfer system can be a little complicated."
However, the trek downtown is also a little too long to regularly do on foot, Ms. MacDonald said.
The councillor for downtown Halifax says the new service would be a boon to the residents, tourists and commuters who frequent the downtown.
For any of them, parking issues and lack of transit connections can make it challenging and time-consuming to get around, Coun. Dawn Sloane said.
"Often, people are downtown and they need to get to Spring Garden Road to do an errand and they take their car. And I just cringe at that thought," she said.
"This (service) will allow people to say, ‘I’m not going to take my car’ . . . so I’m definitely a cheerleader for it."
The concept also appeals to Laena Garrison, co-ordinator of TRAX, the transportation wing of the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax.
"Not taking your car is really fundamental to what TRAX is all about," she said, noting the group also encourages cycling as well as public transit.
Its own research shows that increased frequency and reliability are key to getting more people on the bus, so she’s glad the city is working from the same premise.
"Definitely two thumbs up!" she said.
She’s also impressed that the city took the time to invite people to the workshop before the service was introduced.
"It’s a great way to get people involved and to teach people that it’s not an easy task to figure this out," Ms. Garrison said.
Even Halifax’s manager of transportation admitted that was an unexpected benefit of the exercise.
"We get an appreciation of what priorities are for people, and the participants, I think, get an appreciation for the job we have to do," David McCusker said in an interview.
"And they start to understand why we can’t do everything for everybody."
Some of the comments on the Herald website are actually smart for this particular article. One person mentioned banning parking on SGR and Barrington (downtown only). I do agree they should ban parking on these roads and to help buses get there easier they should make Robie (south of Cunard) three lanes with no-parking all the way down to at least South maybe even Inglis.