It’s time to make transit an essential service.
By that, I don’t—necessarily—mean it’s time to take away bus drivers’ right to strike.
What I do mean is that, however the current labour dispute ends, it’s long past time city council made transit a can’t-live-without service. And not just for those who, because they can’t afford the alternatives, must wait for the bus that doesn’t run when they need it, or doesn’t go where they’re going, or…
Let’s start by banning parking in downtown Halifax, say from Duke Street to Spring Garden, and from the harbour to Citadel Hill. Then couple that with an efficient shuttle service to zip people around within the urban core.
With no parking and less traffic, we could free up space for bike lanes, sidewalk patios and more street-level activities, encouraging a level of urban density that would finally make downtown a living, liveable community.
Next, let’s ribbon the peninsula with bus-only through streets. How about Agricola or Robie running north-south? And Quinpool-Cogswell-Duke or Chebucto-Cornwallis heading east-west.
Such a subway-that-isn’t-quite could feed into bus-only lanes on all the key roadways and bridges leading in and out of the peninsula in the north and west.
To complement that,how about an efficient, high-speed ferry network to transform our magnificent harbour into a way to link rather than divide us. Much like Sydney, Australia, does with its iconic ferry service, ferries would make it easy—even pleasurable—for commuters to travel between downtown Halifax and Dartmouth, Bedford, Burnside, Hammonds Plains, Westphal, even Herring Cove.
Not to forget the possibilities light rail offers from the farther suburbs to downtown.
I know, I know. I’m dreaming. But there are ways—a congestion tax on automobile traffic across the bridges, tacking tolls on major highways—to help fund versions of this.
At a time when gas prices are spiking and carbon emissions are choking the environment, such ideas are far from as far fetched as they may seem.
The upcoming Kelly-free municipal election offers us an opportunity to talk about our future.
Let’s not waste it.