Transit Staff: We can’t do much about overloads
The Transportation Standing Committee discussed the problem of overloaded bus routes at their October 26th meeting. There was a lot of back and forth, but the response from Halifax Transit staff at the 2:34 mark of the meeting was beyond disappointing. From the Executive Director:
“ … so a bit of expectation management maybe, so this is actually not a new issue. It’s an issue that didn’t really happen through COVID, and I think there’s been a bit of institutional memory on the part of our riders and all of us that that is a bit of an unfortunate reality of a transit system that you are going to have overloads from time to time. So it is an issue that occurred for years, it’s something you track, it’s something you try to address, but just to kind of lay it out what’s possible in the near term, frankly there’s not a lot, because we don’t have extra buses that can be put into service”.
Wow. So charitably this is an attempt to reassure us this is not new, this is not unique, and this is not really all that bad. Point by point though:
- “… a bit of expectation management …” Council should be providing the expectations for staff, not the other way around.
- “… this is actually not a new issue …” That’s not reassuring. The problem is ongoing and Halifax Transit hasn’t dealt with overloads (have they tried?).
- “ … there’s been a bit of institutional memory on the part of our riders and all of us …” So it’s riders fault because we forgot about the overloads that happened pre-COVID?
- “ … a bit of an unfortunate reality of a transit system that you are going to have overloads from time to time …” So utter mismanagement of the system has lead us here. Yes, overloads happen. But the 90 overloading a few times a day for weeks is hardly from time to time. And the overloads on the #1 and #9 go back years. This “unfortunate reality” means students miss classes and people are late for work, or worse lose their jobs.
- “ … what’s possible in the near term, frankly there’s not a lot …” Really encouraging. Halifax Transit is stating that they cannot or will not do much.
A small first step might be for Halifax Transit to acknowledge overloads are a major, systemic problem, not one-offs. Perhaps they could even take some responsibility for the situation, since they run the bus network. Perhaps they could even offer a timeline and some potential improvements, even small improvements. But no: overloads are unfortunate, but riders’ expectations are the real problem. Not much we can do but track the situation.
Is there a silver bullet solution here? No – the routes, the operations, the staffing, and the service levels are a mess. We are still short on drivers. But, there are things we can do to make it better. We’ll take time over the next few weeks and months to suggest some options. Some are small, some take work, but we’re not nearly as helpless as Halifax Transit suggests.
Want to help? You can do small things – like sharing our blog posts and our tweets (@morethanbuses). You can fill out our Transit Feedback survey, which we compile and send to Councillors. As always, you can contact 311, your local HRM Councillor, or the Mayor. And finally, feel free to reach out to [email protected]. We’re happy to welcome new volunteers and new ideas!