Indifference: The Biggest Challenge for Halifax Transit

Indifference: The Biggest Challenge for Halifax Transit

Leaders need to care or things won’t improve.

Not enough people care about Halifax Transit. Not enough people at City Hall. Not enough people working at Halifax Transit. Not enough Councillors. Not enough business leaders, advocates or everyday citizens. It is time to start caring and to demand better from Halifax Transit.

Halifax Transit is in crisis. We’ve heard lots of excuses: COVID, recruitment, funding, work-from-home. But so far no one cares enough to step up and take responsibility for rapidly deteriorating service. No one cares enough to apologize to stranded and frustrated riders. No one cares enough to demand better or to look into dramatic, ongoing failures.

These failures are abundant and clear to see, if anyone cares to look. Here’s a short list of some obvious problems:

  • Falling on-time performance
  • Falling reliability of transit vehicles
  • Ad-hoc service cuts and poor communication
  • Embarrassing delays to major projects, -especially the electronic fare project

A full run-down of Halifax Transit’s failings will take many posts. For now, let’s stick with a few big examples to highlight some of these problems. Halifax Transit’s own data shows system wide on-time performance was just 82%, 7% lower than last year. The distance travelled between buses breaking down decreased 37% in just nine months. Worse, on-time performance and break downs were poor to begin with. It’s not like Halifax Transit was known for reliability.

Service cuts due to driver shortages are frustrating, but understandable. But ad-hoc, poorly communicated cuts are much worse. Communication has been awful. For some of the temporary cuts, the official online and print schedules weren’t updated. Riders had to rely on a confusing mess of information periodically updated on the website. It was (and is) literally a list of departures cut! Halifax Transit didn’t care enough to update their PDF schedules and upload them to the web. No wonder during the summer folks showed up at the ferry terminal unaware the boat they wanted was cancelled. Thankfully, the latest round of cuts made it into the official schedule, but that’s an awfully low bar. But what happens if there’s another round of ‘temporary’ cuts?

Finally, electronic fare options have been delayed over and over. First, Halifax Transit wasted years on a dead-end (Willie Wonka tickets). In 2020, Council approved a new approach. At the time, Transit promised that phase one would roll out soon. In July 2022, we were told four months till phase one, which would have been November. This February we were told … soon. Four months. For real this time. Phase one is evidently on track for June 2023. New fareboxes and later phases will still be months after that. Or never. Who knows.