An overdue overhaul

Halifax Transit recently released Moving  Forward Together, its draft plan to revamp the city’s transit service. This is an important project for our future. To understand why, consider Halifax Transit’s current form.

Dating back to the first harbour ferries in 1816, public transit has a 200-year-old history in Halifax. And that’s not hard to believe, when you look at Halifax Transit’s current system. With some 66 different routes, 319 buses and four ferries, it sounds impressive, but the network is painfully dated. Transit planners call it a “radial grid,” with routes converging at local focal points and prioritizing the downtown.

“Many routes on the road today have remained largely unchanged for decades,” the draft plan says. “The transit network today reflects the thinking of a number of different transit planning ideologies… The network does not operate as a cohesive system, but rather as a complex web of routes which do not always complement one another or integrate well. The existing network is difficult to learn, and its complexity has become a barrier to many potential transit users.”

During peak hours, buses from multiple routes jockey for space on congested Spring Garden Road. A ride from downtown Halifax to Bedford on the 80, which seems like it should be a straight shot down the Bedford Highway, meanders like a Sunday drive through the West End. Every regular user has stories about waiting 45 minutes for a bus that’s supposed to run every 20.

Halifax Transit’s new draft plan promises to ease those frustrations by “increasing frequency of service, extending the service day and enhancing reliability of service in key high transit ridership corridors.”

Essentially, that means making routes shorter and simpler, reducing overlapping service and relying more on connections. Route 1, for instance, will no longer bog down in Bayer’s Road traffic, instead taking a more direct path down Chebucto to Oxford and on to Coburg and Spring Garden. Route 80 (affectionately known as “the shady 80”) will be no more, replaced by a new Route 8 with connections to Spring Garden.

There are lots of those sorts of changes, all aiming to hit that goal of simplifying service. When Halifax Transit first started talking about revamping, the idea was a bold reinvention of the city’s system. Over time, officials decided that wasn’t possible, and instead produced this plan. Like most transit users, I wanted to see the total reinvention we were initially promised. But since we’re not getting that, I’m warily optimistic about this plan. It seems to address some of my biggest frustrations and it’s a lot better than just sticking with our current system.

Great cities have great transit systems—that’s practically a law of nature. Halifax deserves a fast, efficient, reliable system. This is our chance to get it. Have you reviewed the plan yet? Do you think it can deliver what it promises? Check it out at There are also information sessions around the city, continuing this month.

•Saturday March 7, 10 a.m.–12 p.m., Tantallon Sobeys
•Sunday March 8, 9 a.m.–11 a.m., Captain William Spry Community Centre
•Wednesday March 10, 6 p.m.–8 p.m., Cole Harbour Public Library
•Friday March 13, 4 p.m.–6 p.m., Woodside Ferry Terminal
•Sunday March 15, 12 p.m.–2 p.m., Westphal Sobeys
•Wednesday March 18, 3:30 p.m.–5:30 p.m., Keshen Goodman Public Library
•Saturday March 21, 10 a.m.–12 p.m., Sackville Sport Stadium  

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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