BRT and. . . electric buses!?!?!

It’s not often that Halifax Transit surprises us with bigger plans than anyone was expecting, but that’s what’s happening this week.

Tomorrow (May 26), Regional Council will be discussing Halifax Transit’s latest report on their Rapid Transit Strategy — the plan for a high-frequency bus rapid transit (BRT) network and a fast ferry from Bedford. You’ll remember that plan from back in March. It’s an excellent plan. We talked about why it’s excellent in March. It would mean a network of four BRT routes connecting Spryfield, Lacewood, Kearney Lake, Burnside, and Portland St to downtown Halifax and downtown Dartmouth. Those routes would have buses coming every 10 minutes all day, seven days a week, and would have a lot of transit priority to make sure don’t get stuck in traffic. That network, plus the fast ferry from Bedford, would be a huge leap forward for transit in HRM.

So if we saw this plan back in March, what are the surprises? One is just how aggressive Halifax Transit wants to be in building this network. Their report to Council (which you can read here, but warning! it’s a giant pdf) talks about having the first BRT lines operational within four years, and then continuing to build the rest of the network, including a lot of transit priority infrastructure, until it’s complete by 2030. (Compare that to how Halifax Transit is handling the Moving Forward Together Plan, where they’re taking close to 15 years to. . . sort of tweak the existing network.)

But the real surprise is something way bigger. Halifax Transit is — finally! — recommending that they start the transition to an electric bus fleet. If you’ve followed this issue, you know from Erica Butler’s reporting in the Halifax Examiner that just last year Halifax Transit said they weren’t going to pursue electric buses. Apparently, that’s changed. Halifax Transit is now asking HRM to start doing the prep work to unlock funding from the Federal government to pay for electric buses.

So here’s the tl;dr. Halifax Transit is saying that, within a decade, HRM should have a high-frequency BRT network that runs clean, quiet electric buses. If Councillors are smart, they’ll approve this plan without any hesitation.

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