On October 21st, Transport Action Atlantic hosted its second Nova Scotia Members Event. A group of 10 TAA members made their way to Bridgewater NS on what turned out to be a gorgeous fall day, to explore the newest addition to the public transit world in the Maritimes. The Town of Bridgewater recently launched a transit system as a pilot project, with funding support from the Province and a pair of buses generously donated by the city of Halifax.
For most of the attendees, the day began at the VIA Rail station in Halifax – a convenient meeting location, though sadly the last train for Bridgewater departed many, many years ago. The trip to Bridgewater helped to highlight one of the major remaining gaps in the public transportation system in Nova Scotia, as the only option for getting there was by car. Most of the group met up here to carpool, while a few others from the area would arrive in Bridgewater on their own.
Arriving in town, the group made its way to Lanna Thai restaurant on King St., just a few blocks from the bus stop where the main highlight of the trip would begin. Lunch wrapped up with a little while to spare before the hourly bus would arrive, so the group explored the public parks along the waterfront.
The province of Nova Scotia announced earlier this year that it will construct a new 4-lane highway between Burnside, the largely industrial park area on the northwest edge of Dartmouth, and Bedford. The goal of this project is to provide a more rapid traffic flow into Burnside, and theoretically alleviate congestion. However, opponents of the project have pointed to the repeatedly demonstrated fact that such highway projects inevitably lead to worse congestion in future years, as they draw more vehicles into the area and fail to provide any alternatives to more car traffic (i.e. improved transit service).
The Environmental Assessment for this project was recently open to public comment. TAA board member Clark Morris prepared the following comments on that assessment:
The current environmental Assessment for the Burnside Connector is inadequate for the following reasons.
1. The description of alternatives states there are no effective alternative transportation modes to the proposal and does not state what alternatives were considered and rejected. Without this information no judgment can be made as to the validity of the statement. Was Halifax Transit consulted before publishing this? Were advocacy groups such as Transport Action Atlantic or Ecology Action consulted? There also have been changes in public policy regarding the desirability of encouraging the use of transit instead of private vehicles.
2. Making Burnside safe for pedestrians and transit users should have been a higher priority than a connector between the Bedford Commons and Burnside. This could reduce vehicle traffic on Magazine Hill by making transit more feasible. Sidewalk technology is well known and understood.
3. No analysis was done on whether the additional vehicle capacity would cause other problems in the Burnside area.
4. Halifax Regional Municipality is interested in increasing the share of travel by public transportation and decreasing the share by automobile. A 2 lane busway in place of the proposed extension could be a less expensive alternative and serve various public objectives better. More ambitiously, major improvements to the CN line to Burnside so an all day frequent service (every 15 or 30 minutes) could be run between Dartmouth and the Windsor Junction area while allowing for a doubling of current freight traffic could be a better alternative with more far reaching positive effects. This could be combined with a rail line on the proposed right of way from the Bedford Commons area to the Rocky Lake – Dartmouth Line of the CN near Ackerley Boulevard.
As a highway project there are concerns that are unanswered by the document.
1. This project provides no connection to Highway 101 and using a route from Highway 1 East exit 1H to Highway 102 Exit 4C to Duke Street to the connector will increase the problem of traffic from Highway 1, exit 1H crossing traffic from Highway 102 North exiting at exit 4B for Highway 1 and 101 West. This plus the use of Duke Street which currently has traffic lights and in the future traffic circles calls into question the value of this as a route to connect Highways 107 and 101.
2. There are problems reported with Oversize loads using some of the existing traffic circles or roundabouts at exits. Given that exit 4C on Highway 102 is serving the Beford Industrial Area and that all of the exits on this project are serving industrial areas, these plans should clearly state how the maximum permissible size overloads will be accommodated. It also should be clearly stated whether there are any proposals for increasing these limits and whether the proposed traffic circles can accommodate those loads.
3. If the rest of the connector has some form of median barrier, why is a median barrier not of value on Duke Street?
4. Why is there no mention of a possible future connection to Highway 101 such as the Second Lake Connector Highway or a future direct connection to the Bedford Bypass?
This connector highway may no longer be a relevant solution to the transportation problems of the area and the materials available online give no confidence that this has even been considered.
Clark F. Morris Bridgetown, Nova Scotia
Others have also written about their concerns with this project. Two examples:
Transport Action Atlantic hosted a successful Annual General Meeting at the CN Pensioner’s Center in Moncton this past Saturday. Though the turnout was smaller than in some years, no doubt thanks to Saturday being one of the few really beautiful spring days we’ve had so far, the discussion among those who attended was engaging and enjoyable.
Our slate of panelists provided some excellent and thought provoking discussion on the topic of how we get to sustainable transportation, covering a wide range of topics that affect communities throughout the Maritimes. Special thanks to our excellent panelists: David Coon (MLA Fredericton South), Greg Turner (Councillor at-large, Moncton), Erica Butler (journalist, Halifax Examiner), Adrian Hetherington (traffic analyst), and Michael Perry (TAA Board member, involved with RuralLynx/Charlotte County transit initiative).
A correspondent from CTV News was on hand to cover the event. You can read the CTV article below, complete with a short video clip including interviews with TAA President Ted Bartlett, TAA Vice President Ashley Morton, and panelist and New Brunswick Green MLA (Fredericton South) David Coon. The CTV report only touches on a few of the day’s topics, as the conversation also covered passenger rail, ferries, local transit, and general issues about how varying levels of government can work together to meet public transportation needs.