Our high frequency network: FAQs

It’s More than Buses has publicly launched our idea for a high-frequency network in the urban core. Download a copy of our proposal here.

Here are answers to some common questions about our network.

1. What are the main ideas in your proposal? 

  • High frequency corridors, with service every 15 minutes or better, all day
  • Transfer hubs that allow safe and convenient transfers between high frequency lines. Transfers let us reduce duplication and provide more flexibility for riders.
  • Transit priority measures (TPMs)  that allow transit vehicles past traffic, especially at chokepoints with the most congestion.
  • Wider stop spacing, allowing faster travel.
  • An easy to understand network, with clearly branded high-frequency lines and named stations.
  • Focusing service in areas that will generate high-ridership.

2. How much will your plan cost? 

The IMTB proposal runs at 75 percent of today’s operating cost for Halifax Transit. Smart bus routes save travel time and cut public expenses at the same time. A transfer-based network in the urban core reduces duplication, and we have reallocated those resources to more frequent service. Faster service is cheaper to run. Additionally, our network provides better service, which will attract new riders and more fare revenue.

The remaining 25% of resources we have not used is available to provide additional coverage service where the community and HRM Council feel it is most appropriate.

3. What transit modes are in your network? 

Our network can work with any transit vehicle that can run on-street: buses; streetcars; or light rail vehicles. The most important ideas don’t depend on the mode. The key ideas of It’s More than Buses network are:

  • high frequency service creating a strong network in the urban core
  • easy transfers at convenient and safe transfer hubs
  • fast service on key regional corridors
  • transit priority measures throughout the network, but especially at key choke points
  • clearly branded lines and stations
  • focusing resources on high-ridership services

Halifax’s transit needs will grow and change, and it will soon be time to explore new transit modes to provide a better rider experience, more speed and more capacity. Before that happens, it’s essential to get our current network right. Because of the high cost of building rapid transit, traditional bus service will still play a major role in any transit system – it is essential to make sure buses are as efficient and attractive as possible.

Doesn’t a transfer-based network require very high frequencies on almost all routes? 

A high-frequency, transfer-based approach requires a network of routes serving key destinations. Each route in that network must provide frequencies of fifteen minutes or better, all day. Higher frequencies are better, but fifteen minute, all-day service is a generally accepted threshold. This allows uncoordinated transfers to be relatively quick, allowing people to change lines easily to reach any destination on the high frequency network.

Low frequency routes may exist in the overall transit system, but they would not be branded as part of the frequent network. These routes may be low frequency branches off the high frequency network, or use timed connections to connect to the high frequency network. These low frequency routes help provide transit service in areas where a high-frequency grid is not feasible or desirable.

5. Isn’t Halifax’s geography wrong for a transfer-based grid?

Halifax’s geography makes it impossible to create a complete transfer-based grid across the entire city. Routes clearly have to twist around the Bedford Basin, Halifax Harbour or the Northwest Arm. Routes heading onto the Halifax peninsula naturally come together at a number of choke points. Places where routes have to overlap are perfect places to transfer. The Bridge Terminal and Mumford Terminal are two locations that take advantage of choke points; unfortunately most routes servicing them don’t offer high enough frequency to make transfers convenient.

6. Why should we walk longer to the next bus stop? 

Our network has focused resources on the key corridors that will give the most riders access to frequent and reliable service. To improve transit speeds on high-frequency lines, we are suggesting wider stop spacing (500 metres). Although riders may have a longer walk or bike ride to stops, the tradeoff is significantly faster travel times and higher frequencies on core routes.

Our network only shows bus routes we feel have the ridership potential to warrant service every half hour or better, all day. The 25% of service that we have not used is available to provide additional coverage service where the community and HRM Council feel it is most appropriate.

7. Many buses are close to empty. Why do we need more frequency?

Many empty buses are duplicating other routes that are very busy, especially on the MacDonald Bridge and streets like Barrington, Robie, Alderney, Portland and Victoria Road. We have used a transfer-based approach in the urban core to reduce the number of overlapping routes and redeploy wasted resources to high-frequency corridors that would attract many new riders. We have targeted resources to the corridors with the highest potential to generate ridership throughout the day.

8. People from Sambro/Lawrencetown/Hammonds Plains are part of HRM and should therefore have good transit access. Why does your proposal not reflect that?

Travel options are very important, but low travel demand make traditional transit services a very expensive option in rural areas. We believe community based, demand responsive options are more appropriate for low demand areas. These services can sometimes provide flexible routing, which is helpful for those with limited mobility.

Our proposal only uses 75% of Metro Transit’s existing resources. The remaining 25% of resources we have not used is available to provide additional coverage service where the community and HRM Council feel it is most appropriate.

9. What happened to the commuter train, light rail and/ or Bedford ferry?

Our proposal is the backbone of a robust transit system for HRM, providing a reliable system to circulate people across key areas on the peninsula and central Dartmouth, where tens of thousands of people live, work and study. Additional elements of the transit system are welcome if funding is available for them. Our network complements a number of potential transit improvements.

10. Your network proposes a significant amount of priority for transit. How would this work on Halifax’s narrow streets without further aggravating traffic congestion?

Transit priority will take many forms, from transit signals and queue jumping lanes to transit lanes and even dedicated transitways. Appropriate Transit Priority Measures (TPM) will be chosen based on the importance of a transit corridor in the network, the level of congestion and the opportunities that exist to introduce TPMs. Some TPMs may only be required during peak commuting periods, but there’s no question that achieving fast, frequent and reliable transit service will require shifting some road capacity from cars to transit vehicles. As transit becomes a more viable option and attracts new riders, the rationale for giving more space to transit becomes stronger. Every driver that chooses transit instead means one less car on the road, reducing overall demand for road capacity. These are the tradeoffs that Halifax citizens and decision-makers need to understand and debate.


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