Halifax’s bus maintenance needs an overhaul

Halifax’s bus maintenance needs an overhaul

A new report from It’s More Than Buses shows that Halifax Transit’s buses are far less reliable than other transit agencies in North America. In Chicago, buses travel nearly 9,000km before breakdown while on route. In New York City and Atlanta, buses travel just over 10,000km between such failures. In Toronto, buses manage a whopping 20,009km between failures. In Halifax, our buses come in at just 3,447km, meaning that a passenger commuting from Bedford to Downtown everyday will experience a bus failure every year. Riders deserve better.

Halifax Transit's mean distance between failures compared to other bus systems shows that Halifax lags far behind its peers

Halifax Transit’s mean distance between failures compared to other bus systems in New York (MTA), Toronto (TTC), Atlanta (MARTA), and Chicago (CTA).

Over the last two years, the mean distance between failures, defined as the distance the average bus travels before experiencing a failure that takes it out of service, has gone up from 2,815km to 3,447km, a 22% increase. However, the average age of the fleet has decreased slightly in that time – it is possible that the new buses are simply more reliable than the ones they replaced, without Halifax Transit taking any action. While this is good, Toronto shows that we can be doing much better.

Halifax's mean distance between failures chart shows random fluctuation over the last two years

Halifax’s mean distance between failures


Every time a bus breaks down, a new bus has to be sent to pick up the passengers, and a tow truck is dispatched to haul the first bus away. Every day, Halifax Transit does this 17 times. That means they need to keep 17 buses standing by, with drivers in them, waiting to be used, instead of using those buses to add service where it is warranted. Halifax Transit is throwing away thousands of dollars per day that could be used to improve service.

Passengers have no faith that Halifax Transit can get them to their destination on time. If passengers experience too many incidents, they may opt to stop taking transit, or they may take an earlier trip, meaning they have less time to spend with their families and more time waiting downtown to start working. Matching our peers in reliability would increase the public’s confidence in Halifax Transit’s ability to do its job.


In developing this report, over a dozen agency websites were searched for the term “mean distance between failure,” “reliability,” and a few related sentences. Only four agencies had easily-findable data for our comparison. No reports that we could find were excluded from this research.


We are calling on Halifax Council to hold Halifax Transit to account. The following changes are needed:

  • Require Halifax Transit to set a target reliability for each quarter
  • Require Halifax Transit to disclose major causes of failure and plans to address them
  • Conduct a full cost-benefit analysis to determine the costs and savings that can be expected from a greater investment in preventive maintenance
  • Specify the required mean distance between failures when purchasing new buses and take action against vendors whose buses fail to meet the standards


Read our full report here

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