News / Halifax

'Way behind everybody else:' Report says Halifax Transit buses break down more than other cities

A manager at Halifax Transit said it wasn't fair to compare the numbers, but a local advocacy group says they show Halifax is 'way behind.'

A Halifax Transit bus is shown 'out of service' in a file photo. On average, 17 Halifax Transit buses break down every day.

Jeff Harper / Metro

A Halifax Transit bus is shown 'out of service' in a file photo. On average, 17 Halifax Transit buses break down every day.

A report by a local advocacy group says Halifax buses break down more than twice as often as those in some other cities, and more than five times as often as buses in Toronto.

But a manager at Halifax Transit says the numbers are incomparable.

The findings come from analysis by It’s More Than Buses (IMTB), which compared the most recent numbers from Halifax Transit to those in cities like Toronto, Atlanta, and New York.

In September 2017, the Mean Distance Between Failures (MDBF) – how far buses travelled on average before breaking down – was 3,447 km in Halifax.

The MDBF for the whole second quarter of fiscal 2017 was 3,402 – meaning an average of 17 buses broke down every day, leaving passengers late, waiting for a replacement bus.

Last year, Altanta and New York City both posted MDBFs of about 10,000 km.

And in November 2017, Toronto’s MDBF was 20,009 km.

Back in 2014, before it launched a new preventative maintenance program, Toronto’s MDBF was closer to 5,000 km. 

“People can’t trust Halifax Transit to get them to work or to whatever they need to do in a reliable manner due to the mechanical aspects of the fleet, which are entirely within their control,” IMTB spokesperson Ben Wedge said in an interview.

Halifax Transit said the number has “improved conservatively” from 2,950 km in the second quarter of 2016. The improvement is attributed to enhanced preventative maintenance and a “reduction in average fleet age” – replacing old buses with new ones.

Wedge and IMTB are pushing Halifax Transit to start setting targets, like Toronto does for the monthly MDBF, and to report to council and the public with the reasons for the breakdowns and what they’re doing in terms of preventative maintenance.

“We don’t have the insight to know exactly what they’re not doing, but what we can say is that Toronto, using the same buses, is having a quarter of the failures,” Wedge said.

IMTB’s report also said Halifax Transit’s maintenance manager should immediately be sent to Toronto “to understand the best practices in the maintenance industry.”

Wendy Lines, Halifax Transit’s maintenance manager, said they have an “extensive” preventative maintenance program - and comparing Halifax’s MDBF to Toronto’s is unfair because the Canadian Urban Transit Association doesn’t have a standard method for reporting MDBF.

Halifax Transit’s numbers include the regular bus fleet and Access-A-Buses. Toronto’s overall number excludes their version of Access-A-Buses, which had an MDBF of 12,704 km.

Lines said Halifax Transit’s number also includes both incidents where buses break down and have to be towed, and service calls where mechanics work on the buses wherever they break down.

“I don’t know what Calgary is doing, or what Toronto is reporting, but certainly you’d have to compare apples to apples I would think,” Lines said.

“I’d just need to know what’s in their number, and I’d like to find out what they’re doing, what magic.”

Lines said Metro would be printing a “false statement” by running this story.

“I’d like to know what angle you’re going with this because it’s inaccurate to say that our mean distance between failures is worse than others when we don’t know what others are reporting,” she said.

“You can’t print that.”

When asked to reply to Lines’ comments, Wedge said IMTB stands by its report, “100 per cent.”

Wedge said each city IMTB looked at defines its numbers by counting “buses that couldn’t complete the route due to a mechanical issue” – and that’s no different than what Halifax Transit is counting.

He also said there are not enough Access-A-Buses to “skew the numbers by that much.”

“Regardless of how they define it and how they cut it, they have had an increase in reliability that can be entirely explained by replacing the oldest vehicles in the fleet, and they are way behind everybody else,” Wedge said.

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