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Missed Metro Transit


When it comes to transit, Haligonians overwhelmingly support it---for somebody else.

A GPI Atlantic transportation study released Wednesday shows that 90 percent of Halifax urbanites and suburbanites live within 500 metres of a bus stop, but only 12 percent actually ride the bus. Private vehicles travel three billion kilometres a year in Halifax---8,000 km per person---while transit use accounts for just 26 km per person annually.

The cost of this driving is enormous: GPI pegs it at $2.7 billion a year. Traffic congestion alone costs $7 million, almost all of it in time lost. Then there’s the 2.2 tonnes of greenhouse gases emitted by each of us each year through our cars.

The absurdity of the situation is brought home to me at city council meetings. Councillors and staff swear their support for transit measures, and promise to build transit Nirvana. To cite just one example, the lengthy “community visioning” planning process incorporates transit as a policy “driver.” 

This is good stuff, truly. But so far as I can tell through casual discussion, after praising transit all evening long, every individual council member, and each city employee, gets in a car to drive home, alone.

Here’s the thing: we won’t get decent, well-funded and well-run bus service until political and business leaders, and bureaucrats and technocrats (including reporters) themselves use the bus. 

If people with political clout would start riding the bus, we’d soon find schedules sensical, rude drivers reprimanded, dangerous stations better patrolled and so forth. But as it is now, riding the bus is for other people, you know, poor people, so no one with the power to make change gives a damn.


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