News / Halifax

Census data show more Haligonians driving to work, fewer biking and busing

Poor cycling and transit networks in Halifax are to blame for an increase in people commuting in vehicles, advocates say.

A Halifax Transit bus heads down Barrington Street.

Jeff Harper/Metro / Halifax Staff

A Halifax Transit bus heads down Barrington Street.

New census data shows the number of Haligonians driving to work is increasing as the number taking the bus or cycling is stagnant, and that’s no surprise to advocates in the municipality.

Statistics Canada released its 2016 census data on commuting habits across the country on Wednesday.

Over the last 10 years, the percentage of commuters cycling to work in HRM has stayed at just one per cent.

The number of people getting to work in a car, truck or van went from 75.8 per cent to 77.7 per cent.

Kelsey Lane with the Halifax Cycling Coalition said that’s because Halifax hasn’t invested in the kind of cycling network that gets people out of cars.

“The people that have built the safe bicycle lanes have seen that increase,” Lane said in an interview, citing Victoria, B.C., where the percentage of commuters cycling went from 5.6 in 2006 to 7.1 in 2016.

“We have to make the right choice the easy choice, and we have to do that by investing in some cycling infrastructure that works.”

The percentage of commuters taking transit to work has dropped from 11.9 in 2006 to 11.8 in 2016. Given Halifax Transit’s own declining ridership numbers, Ben Wedge, with It’s More Than Buses, said these numbers show nothing new, and much like cycling, the solution is to make transit the better choice.

“Until we really have buses that are coming all the time and going straight to their destination, we’re not going to encourage people to get out of their cars,” he said.

More cars on the road create more congestion, and so buses need their own lanes to be reliable, Wedge said.

“We need to get the buses out of that traffic and get them to their destinations as quickly as possible and people will make the logical choice: they’ll take the fastest, cheapest, most convenient way to get to work.”

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