Overloads and Crowding – First Steps
Crowding and overloads (buses too full for anymore passengers) are now an everyday problem. Riders are being left behind regularly. While there is no single, easy solution, Halifax Transit must take action now. Here are some quick, preliminary steps to tackle overcrowding. We’ll come back with bigger projects in future posts. As always, you can help – see the bottom of this post for how.
This is Halifax Transit and Council’s responsibility. So far, Halifax Transit hasn’t offered any ideas or even a sense of urgency. Council must provide Halifax Transit with explicit direction to make overloads and crowding a priority. Make sure planning and action starts now and hold Halifax Transit accountable.
Show the Data
The latest public numbers only cover until the spring. Overloads got much worse in the fall when university students returned to classes. Transit must quickly release newer, more detailed information on overloads and ridership.
Only add buses to routes that are consistently crowded. This should be obvious, but on November 20th Halifax Transit will reinstate cancelled trips, including trips on routes that don’t meet the minimum service standard for riders per trip. They will also reinstate trips on other routes that average less than a full seated load in rush hour. Any new drivers and buses should go instead on routes like the 9, 90, and 4 that are routinely overloaded.
Beef up Dispatch
Busy routes are running severly late and sometimes running in bunches. These are two root causes of overloads. Fixing this will take new dispatch approaches and more staff to respond to problems.
Work on Rider Etiquette
Every bit of space on a crowded bus is valuable. Riders often don’t move back until told, meaning boarding is slow and space is wasted. Rarely, a driver or automated announcement tells riders to move to the back. On crowded routes, automated announcements should play loudly at every stop: “please move all the way to the back of the bus”. Will it help a lot? We don’t know – but the effort seems minimal. When a bus is packed, every extra rider that can fit on is a win. Similarly, social media and other promotions should promote good etiquette, like 1) taking off backpacks when the bus is full; and 2) taking coats and bags off seats so they are free to use.
Look into Buying Articulated Buses (Bendy Buses)
Councilor Mason has stated HRM is planning to buy only electric buses from this point, but no all-electric articulated buses are able to complete our routes. Electric buses are great, but the need for larger buses is clear and immediate. The Route 4 runs every 8 minutes in peak hours, peak direction, and still overloads. Since we are short on drivers, we need bigger buses soon. We should seriously consider buying used, diesel articulated buses or consider buying new hybrids. The environmental costs of people giving up on the bus because of crowding are huge, on top of the headaches for current riders.
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, contact your local HRM Councillor, or contact the Mayor. And finally, feel free to reach out to [email protected]. We’re happy to welcome new volunteers and new ideas!