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Safer and accessible seating needed on Halifax Transit buses

Municipality says it will only order fabric seats for new vehicles after rider complaints about slipping off.


Be careful where you sit. - IAN SELIG
  • Be careful where you sit.

When I see those blue plastic bus seats, I know I’m in for a stressful ride.

Ever since Halifax Transit introduced them last year, they’ve added yet another awkward complication I’m forced to confront en route to my destination. The seats are extremely slippery and difficult to stay on, and I’ve fallen off them more than once. To prevent this, I’ve had to strain muscles clinging to the poles, and I’ve seen able-bodied individuals experience discomfort as well.

Carrie Gilbert is a freelance writer and social media assistant - whose work focuses on disability and mental health issues. - SUBMITTED
  • Carrie Gilbert is a freelance writer and social media assistant whose work focuses on disability and mental health issues.
While I realize as a material the plastic seats may be more hygienic, I’d argue that safety is much more important—especially where mobility issues are present and more concentration is required to maintain steadiness. After a ride on these buses, I find myself worn out and not as alert as I hoped to be to resume my activities. This can be rather discouraging, sometimes to the point that I wish I had stayed at home or been able to arrange alternate transportation.

Nick Ritcey, spokesperson for Halifax Transit, confirms I’m not the only one who has raised concerns about the bus seats.

“The switch from fabric to plastic was initially an effort to reduce maintenance time and costs, as they are more durable and easier to clean,” he says. “Since making the switch, many customers have told us that they prefer the comfort of fabric seats.”

Halifax Transit has listened to those concerns, Ritcey explains, and will be ordering the fabric option moving forward.

While this positive step is encouraging, it’s currently limited only to new seat orders. There are no options available to feel more secure on the remaining plastic seats. Those of us who rely on accessible transportation will have to remain cautiously optimistic when planning our daily routes.

Ritcey says the municipality is also looking at replacing some of the side-facing seats on current busses with fabric seats, “but a final decision hasn’t been made at this time.”

These efforts are certainly appreciated, though with nothing set in stone, there still isn’t an ideal solution. Why not encourage passengers to bring their own removable seat cushions, or even make these available on the buses for those who feel uneasy? Seatbelts could easily be added to the existing plastic seats as well, and would likely prevent the risk of fall and potential injury.

Ritcey says passengers with disabilities are welcome to request help from the driver. “If possible, the driver will find the most suitable seating option for that passenger to help ensure comfort,” he explains.

My experiences, however, have taught me that accessibility isn’t always a guarantee. It all depends on the patience of the driver and their understanding of a particular disability. There isn’t always time to explain why something is a barrier. I have tried moving to a seat a few rows back, where a fall is less likely because there is another seat directly in front of you.

Most days, though, the bus is too full, and since the driver usually pulls away as soon as passengers board, it’s much easier to grab a seat in front.

Each one of us, especially those who must take more creative approaches to plan our schedules, deserve transportation that ensures comfortably arriving from point A to point B. Saving time and money are important these days, but they’re factors which shouldn’t cause unnecessary unease or come at the expense of inclusivity.


Opinionated is a rotating column by Halifax writers featured regularly in The Coast. The views published are those of the author.

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