Halifax Transit’s network redesign can finally shift into high gear.
On Tuesday city council accepted—for the most part—staff’s recommendations on the Moving Forward Together (MFT) plan, while asking for an exterior consultant to report back in a year’s time on further refinements to planned route changes.
The full redesign was already approved by council back in April. At that meeting councillors tacked on 23 requests for amendments, mostly all related to preserving individual routes that transit staff felt were inefficient as is. Staff studied those amendment requests, and came back with a report recommending only one be implemented.
Foreseeing a lengthy debate on each individual amendment, councillor Waye Mason quickly brought forward a motion Tuesday asking for a staff report to hire a consultant and review MFT’s corridor routes in one year’s time.
The consultant would also incorporate outcomes from the upcoming Integrated Mobility Plan, commuter rail project and several other expected advancements like realtime ridership data and travel-time mapping in the final report that’s brought back to council.
“There are some concerns…that [MFT]’s not sufficiently bold or doesn’t have enough transfer-based network connectivity,” Mason told reporters after the meeting. “Having an outsider set of eyes come at it fresh…I think that’s totally worthwhile.”
The staff report request cut short what likely would have been several hours of debate dissecting each individual route change. It didn’t eliminate that discussion entirely, though. Councillors David Hendsbee and Stephen Adams both put forward amendments to the recommendations on the floor.
Hendsbee asked for and received a six-month trial period running Route 370 to Mic Mac Mall.
Adams made two amendments in an effort to save Routes 15 and 402. The Spryfield–Sambro Loop–Prospect Road councillor argued that even if those buses didn’t have high ridership numbers, they were of vital importance to the small amount of people who did ride them every day.
Putting the few before the many in this case irked some of Adams’ fellow councillors.
“With all do respect to the residents of your district, councillor Adams, I believe this is wrong,” said Tony Mancini.
“I am consumed, Mr. Mayor, with despair,” said Mason, lamenting that after three years spent upgrading service standards “when the rubber hits the road” councillors were choosing politics over principles.
“Either we’re going to have a principled, policy-based decision system or we should just go straight Dukes of Hazzard and we should all do whatever we want, whenever we want and see if we can convince nine people to vote for it,” said Mason after the meeting.
“Council voted to move to a set of policies that include ridership over coverage and we need to defend those policies or all the money we spent on Moving Forward and all the time we spent on Moving Forward is useless.”
Adams’ motion to keep Route 15 as is and review it in a year passed 11 to six (with Lisa Blackburn, Steve Craig, Mason, Mancini, Sam Austin and Bill Karsten against). His motion to preserve Route 402 was defeated 12-5 (with only Adams, Richard Zurawski, Matt Whitman, Hendsbee and Steve Streatch in its favour).
The entire MFT report was approved, as amended, 15-2 with Adams and Whitman the only nay votes.