Good transfers mean opportunities

 Good transfers mean opportunities

In an earlier post we laid out how the Halifax Transit network fails as a useful, transfer-based network based on Halifax Transit’s own criteria. But Halifax Transit also fails at something bigger. It fails to make bus routes that work together to provide easy travel to many locations.

One of Halifax Transit’s criteria for a good transfer is it makes a trip faster. Good criteria. But what trips? Halifax Transit doesn’t define what trips, but they likely mean existing trips, trips that riders took before the Moving Forward Together Plan was implanted (MFTP is still not finished).

But a good transfer-based network opens up new opportunities. It lets riders change buses to travel to new locations. Good transfers are connections, opportunities. Travelers understand this. A flight from Halifax to Toronto means the opportunity to connect to major cities around the world. Halifax is unlikely to ever have direct flights to San Francisco, Houston, Warsaw, Santiago, Sao Paulo, New Delhi and Tokyo.  But there are frequent flights from Halifax to Toronto and from there, direct flights to all those locations and more. Your flight to Toronto is useful to get to Toronto AND beyond.

Good transfers open up possibilities. Without big detours and loops, a single bus can only go so many places. But with a transfer, a connection, opportunities multiply.

Let’s look at some examples in and around Halifax. First, a frustrating example from Cole Harbour. Outside of rush hour, local routes come into the Portland Hills Terminal from Cole Harbour and beyond, including routes 59, 61, 65 and 68. Routes 5 and 72 travel inbound to downtown Dartmouth and beyond. But no route travels through Portland Hills terminal. To get past the Terminal you have to transfer at Portland Hills. This is a linear or forced transfer – you need to change buses get to locations beyond Portland Hills like Cole Harbour High, Walmart, or Cole Harbour Place. Bummer. There are much better options here, like branching bus routes beyond Portland Hills.

An example of a missing connection is at the Windsor Street Exchange. Routes 2,3 and 4 serving Fairview and Clayton Park don’t connect to Route 39, which goes across the MacKay Bridge to Highfield Park. To get from Fairview and Clayton Park to all the jobs in Burnside you have to travel into the centre of town to Bridge Terminal, using the 3. That’s a slow and roundabout way to go. There’s a good chance the direct route would be faster, even changing buses. 

These are just two examples, but Halifax Transit’s network is full of them. A good connection opens up a new opportunity. A bad connection means the bus you were on stopped short of lots of useful destinations. A good network maximizes the number of good connections, so more people can travel easily to lots of places. This usually results in some type of grid structure, with buses running often. Building a grid, or a modified grid, has the added bonus of cutting down on overlapping routes, which is a massive waste of resources in Halifax (check out Barrington Street on the network map).

So using connections, there are huge opportunities to improve our network. The last network review network (Moving Forward Together Plan) was approved in 2016. A lot has changed since then – the population has exploded, university ridership is up, and because of COVID fewer workers are downtown every day working 9-5. Rethinking how we use transfers could bring big wins for riders, for Halifax Transit, and for drivers. Remember to help us out by contacting your Councillor or the Mayor and asking them to demand better from Halifax Transit. Transfers don’t have to be a pain – they can be an opportunity, a connection.