Features / Halifax / City Matters Halifax: 2013

Metro Transit scores rise in survey ahead of major overhaul of technology, service

The head of Metro Transit says an improved grade for public transportation on the 2013 City Matters survey is welcome news – and he’s cautiously optimistic the numbers will continue to improve.

“I think we're moving in the right direction for transit and the city of Halifax…and I think we'll get there with little gains like this,” said Metro Transit director Eddie Robar. “But I’ve got much loftier goals in mind.”

Respondents to the survey, conducted for Metro Halifax and the Greater Halifax Partnership by MQO Research, gave public transportation in HRM an average score of 6.3 out of 10 – just above last year’s 6.0.

However, the number of respondents who gave it a score of 8 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10 climbed from 24 to 33 per cent.

“The story is not so much where the numbers are as the direction where they're heading,” said MQO Research senior counsel Rick Emberley.

Robar said there’s been “positive changes” for transit over the last year, which included rebounding from the 2012 strike by Metro Transit drivers.

“We spent most of our money on service reliability changes, so really trying to get some delinquent routes back to rights,” he said.

In the bigger picture, Robar said Metro Transit in the middle of a major transformation. It’s investing $50 million in technology upgrades over the next five years that include everything from new fare box technology to the potential for smartphone apps.

“In five years' time, people will not recognize the way that we interact with our vehicles,” he said.

Perhaps most significantly, Robar noted Transit embarked on a major public consultation exercise to shape the next five years, an “aggressive” enterprise he said could lead to long overdue changes in HRM’s public transportation options.

“You've got to have a council that's ready to change, you've got to have a mayor that's ready to change …The other part is to have a public that's ready for it, and a transit management that's willing to go down that road,” he said.  “For us the stars are really aligning like that and we've got a great opportunity here to do some really big things.”

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