Reducing service on the Route 15 is the right thing to do


This Tuesday, Council is set to vote on what to do with the Route 15, the bus that currently heads out Purcells Cove Road to York Redoubt. As part of the Moving Forward Together process, Halifax Transit proposed cutting the route, because so few people take it. Residents in Purcells Cove have objected, and Halifax Transit has a done a lot of work to figure out how to address as many of their concerns as possible.

Reducing service on the Route 15 is the right thing to do. Here’s why.

First, we need to get straight on exactly what the proposal is. Halifax Transit’s plan is actually going to increase service on part of Purcells Cove Road, west of Williams Lake Road (by the Frog Pond). That part of Purcells Cove Road is set to be serviced by the Route 25, which is going to run at higher frequencies than the 15, giving that part of Purcells Cove Road better service than it has now.

So the part of Purcells Cove Road that’s going to see reduced service is the stretch from the Frog Pond to York Redoubt.

But what’s more, that part of Purcells Cove Road isn’t having its service cut entirely. It’s just being reduced to peak-only weekday service.

So why is Halifax Transit proposing to cut off-peak service? Because weekday off-peak service has an average of 2.5 passengers per hour. (See pp. 2-3 of this giant PDF for details.) To put that in perspective, Halifax Transit’s guidelines for minimum ridership call for at least 15 passengers per hour on midday (i.e., weekday off-peak) service. So the service that’s being cut would have to increase by 600% before it met the minimum guidelines.

Halifax Transit is committed to increasing ridership. That’s a goal of the Moving Forward Together Plan. The public asked for it in the extensive engagements that Halifax Transit held in the fall of 2013. Increasing ridership means more people taking the bus and fewer people driving cars. It means families save more money, because they’re spending less on cars. It means lower carbon emissions and cleaner air. It means less congested roads.

But for Halifax Transit to increase ridership, it has to spend less money on buses that very few people take, and more money on buses that lots of people take. It’s got to spend its money where that money actually results in people taking the bus.

And off-peak on the Route 15 is never going to fit that bill.

Still, cutting transit that people have come to depend on is difficult and painful, even when the number of people affected is small. We shouldn’t minimize the hardship that Halifax Transit’s proposal will impose on a small number of people on part of Purcells Cove Road.

But at the same time, the decision to reduce service on Purcells Cove Road is the decision to reallocate that service elsewhere. Right now, on Purcells Cove Road, midday service is benefitting about 2 or 3 people per hour. If that service was put elsewhere, could it be useful to more people than that?

Yes, unquestionably.

So if we want transit in HRM to benefit more people — instead of benefitting fewer people — reducing service on the Route 15 looks like a good plan. We hope Council approves it on Thursday.

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