Halifax expands network of transit-only lanes
HALIFAX -- If you are driving through the streets of Halifax, you may notice some more red paint on the roads.
The Halifax Regional Municipality has rolled out an expanded network of transit-only lanes on some busy roadways, and brightened them up with a lot of red paint.
Some say they already noticed an improvement in bussing, and say the changes are long overdue.
“It is faster,” says Shawna Harrison, a regular commuter between Sackville and downtown Halifax. “Before the lanes, a lot of times the buses were late.”
Encased in blocks of bright red paint, the diamond logo indicating a ‘Transit-Only lane’ are hard to miss- which is the whole point.
Transit Only lanes have been in use for a number of years now, as part of the municipality's Integrated Mobility Plan passed by council three years ago.
Adding new lanes would have been preferred, but in a city where space is often at a premium, converting existing ones is the only option.
In some cases, buses have the exclusive right of way, but accomodations are made for other motorists as well.
“Vehicles are permitted to use the bus lanes to make a right turn at an intersection, or into a driveway,” says Mike Connors, HRM transportation engineer.
Ahsan Habib, a transportation professor at Dalhousie University’s school of planning, says the HRM is on the right track, but still lagging behind other cities in getting more residents out of cars and onto public transit.
“We should probably push farther, bringing bus rapid transit to run on those bike lanes,” says Habib. “So we are improving our transportation system and giving more choices to the people, for both drivers and transit riders as well.
The converted lanes also affect motorists, who now encounter sudden lane changes, and one lane where there used to be two.
“I think they’re a terrible idea,” says veteran cab driver Dave Buffett. “Taking lanes away from the majority of motorists can only cause more congestion, more carbon emissions, and if you look at a bus at 6 a.m., 7 a.m., there aren’t massive amounts of people on it, and that’s when traffic is light.”
The city says its studies show transit travel times are down, and ridership is up.
But the work isn’t done, as experts consider additional potential changes including hours of operation, and doing more to educate motorists as they move ahead with the Integrated Mobility Plan.