Halifax Transit’s Response: Ridership and Resources

We recently asked Halifax Transit some questions about their approach to the network redesign. Halifax Transit will release their draft network in January 2015. We appreciate receiving a response from Eddie Robar, Director of Halifax Transit.

We want to understand the philosophy behind this network, in order to help HRM Council and the public have great discussions about transit. The most important question is how resources will be split between high ridership routes and coverage routes (routes which don’t attract many riders but provide basic service to many residents).

This is the first of a series of posts that provide our thoughts on Halifax’s Transit’s response.

Question (IMTB): What percentage of service will be used for high-frequency and other high ridership services? How have high-ridership services been defined? Our proposal devotes 75% of
operating resources to high-ridership services.

Answer (Eddie Robar, Halifax Transit): As we are still in the process of developing and refining the draft transit network, at this time, I am unable to say what percentage of resources will be allocated to high frequency or high ridership services, or how high frequency will be defined. 

We believe that talking about the goal of different services and routes is a critical, public conversation. Halifax Transit has indicated in other reports and communication that ensuring an appropriate allocation of resources will be a key part of upcoming engagement. This is excellent.

High ridership routes are put in place to attract a lot of people: they are fast, frequent and reliable. These services include high-frequency routes and peak hour express services. Ridership routes connect important destinations on main corridors, where many people live and work. They are expensive to operate but attract many riders and lots of fare revenue. Because they have many riders and generate lots of revenue, they require low subsidies. Coverage routes provide lower quality service to areas with less transit demand. They do not attract many riders and generate little fare revenue. The primary role of coverage routes is to provide a basic level of service to many people.

All transit systems have a mixture of both types of routes. Transit consultant Jarrett Walker advocates that transit providers, like Halifax Transit, should clearly state the percentage of resources they devote to ridership routes versus coverage routes. This allows politicians – the people who decide how to allocate resources – to decide how much service to provide to different areas, without getting into the nitty-gritty of routing: the details should be left to staff.

We have provided two examples below (not costed, simply to illustrate the point). The first example shows 75% of service devoted to high ridership routes and 25% of service devoted to coverage routes. In the second example 60% of service is devoted to ridership routes and 40% is devoted to coverage routes. The second example has more service to outlying areas, but there are fewer resources on some key corridors that could attract many riders. The second example provides service to more areas, but would require a higher subsidy as those coverage routes generate lower fare revenue.

75% Ridership

75% of service is devoted to ridership routes (red) and 25% to coverage routes (green).

60% Ridership

60% of service devoted to high ridership routes (red) and 40% to coverage routes (green).

The above examples are simply examples. They are not costed and are not necessarily great routes, just rough guesses as to how much resources we have. The point is that if Council didn’t like one option, they could change the goals of the network (i.e. the percentage of resources devoted to coverage versus ridership) and ask Halifax Transit to show them how that would affect services. Based on the new goal, Halifax Transit would adjust the frequency, length and service hours across the network and show Council the results. This is preferable to each Councillor presenting a ‘wish-list’ for their district without considering the effects on the whole network, or for Councillor’s publicly debating individual routes that should be cut, added or changed.

In January, Halifax Transit needs to provide the public and HRM Council with clear performance standards for high ridership services and clearly explain how much resources will go to high ridership services. It’s More than Buses is advocating for 75% of resources to be dedicated to high ridership services, as shown in our network proposal.

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