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Halifax Transit needs to aim higher

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Halifax Transit has been making grand promises about how it’s going to change to better serve the needs of its users. “I can tell you one thing, the transit [system] won’t ever be the same and it won’t ever look the same. It’s a big transformation we’re going through,” Eddie Robar, the director of Halifax Transit, told me in January 2014.

Part of Halifax Transit’s plans included a complete system redesign where it would move to a simplified transfer-based network, which would mean that while people might have to take more buses to get to their destination, they would get there sooner.

By August 2014, cracks were showing in this desire to revamp the system. A report for the city’s transportation committee said Halifax’s population needed to be bigger and “the funnel-like nature of the road network” (code words meaning we aren’t on a grid)meant an entirely transfer-based system wasn’t Halifax’s best option.

Shouldn’t transit officials have known this?

This pretty much sums up the transit system: even those running it don’t know what to do with it outside of maintaining the status quo.

Other upgrades are moving forward, but they are largely infrastructure-based. There will be changes to the routes, but not as drastic as once envisioned.

The people running the transit system need to be held more accountable and challenged to do a better job. One way of doing this would be to implement something similar to the Customer Charter used by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), the agency overseeing public transit in Toronto.

Since 2013, TTC has come out with an annual list of promises of what it plans to do to improve transit service. The progress of these promises is reported on TTC’s website and it lists what quarter of the year they will be achieved. On a quarterly basis, it reports on what has been accomplished.

The money for these promises comes out of transit’s general budget as these improvements aren’t major ones. Some of this year’s promises include installing bike repair stands at 10 stations to encourage cycling as part of one’s commute, and making all collector booths accept debit and credit payment for a single ride.

The charter is also a motivational tool for TTC employees. With about 13,000 of them, the charter helps ensure the transit authority sticks to its vision. “It keeps us focused on delivering these things,” says Chris Upfold, TTC’s deputy CEO and chief customer officer.

As well, every couple of weeks, TTC holds Meet the Manager sessions where Upfold and other members of the senior management team go out, put up a banner and stand in stations talking to customers for a couple of hours. While people can contact TTC to provide feedback, Upfold says it’s important for transit officials to speak with the users where they are.

These initiatives display a real level of respect for transit users and show off a genuine desire to improve the system for them. It also makes it easier for both transit users and the media to hold TTC accountable.

The charter itself might sound like a politician making election promises, but TTC is actually keeping them. According to a January 23, 2015 CBC News article, for the 2014 charter, there were 39 items on the list. By the end of the year, seven of those weren’t completed. Upfold says promises not kept either get taken care of or put on the next year’s list.

Upfold says he would be worried if TTC kept every promise. “Maybe we weren’t challenging ourselves [enough],” he says.

It’s time for Halifax Transit to start challenging itself.

  • Why did Management get raises after that last Halifax Transit strike that held the city hostage , until they got the money? Sure, give the drivers a raise, they deserve it, but there would not BE A STRIKE if the Managers had seen it coming, acted proactively and began changes necessary without a strike.
    There isn’t a single transit-only road in HRM. So, no matter how expensive and hospitable the bus terminals get, or how bike-carrying, kneel to the curb, the buses get, we still have a pre-strike 50 year old transit plan, with only expansion to new subdivisions, but still driving the routes that NSLP Buses did before them, less the electric wires.

  • Hugh Jorgan

    Management at Transit are just a clique of criminals, literally! Search some names of management and then go to the courthouse on Spring Garden Road and see what they have been to court for! They are not hired for their leadership or management skills, they are hired mainly from the pool of drivers (or former crooked shop stewards or union executives, Darrell Dexter’s brother is a prime example…) because they are friends with others already in management.

    They all know that they can continue to run transit in the ground, get a higher salary, fire good drivers and protect shitty drivers (everyone knows who the crash sisters are if you work at transit!) and you the HRM taxpayer will continue to pay higher property taxes to cover their budget. The only thing for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing: That’s HRM to a tee unfortunately. I’m glad I don’t live there any more…

    The overtime expense at Transit isn’t because of scheduling or expansion, its because the drivers fear tyrannical management and are always calling in sick or on stress leave. Look at a driver’s pay stub for the LTD deduction and you will not find more expensive deductions for Disability or even the medical benefits as well. And whether you ride the bus or not, you all pay for the dysfunction at transit one way or another.

    It’s only been six years and already people forget about the suicides that were caused by tyrannical management. Management and sadly even the union (who are in bed with management trust me) blame the drivers for suicide when it’s management that drove them too it. Toxic work environments can kill, and cost a fortune to maintain compared to a good work environment that is efficient.

    I’ve never seen so much corruption with so little response from the population. I’ve been told Montreal city politics are corrupt but at least the people are aware of it and complain about it. HRM residents don’t even know or demand change and they attack the tiny minority that are trying to wake people up.

    Lets see if they take this comment down. The last comment I posted on another story was so real they erased ALL comments on the story LOL.

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