News / Halifax

Bus lane bargaining: Gottingen Street lane moves ahead with changes

Business owners, advocates speak up on need for parking and loading abilities in committee meeting.

A Halifax Transit Route 7 bus travels down Gottingen Street on July 20, 2017.

Zane Woodford / Metro

A Halifax Transit Route 7 bus travels down Gottingen Street on July 20, 2017.

After hearing concerns from the local business community, Halifax regional councillors voted in favour of a modified version of a proposed bus lane for Gottingen Street on Thursday.

In a report to council’s Transportation Standing Committee, municipal staff recommended moving ahead with a detailed design for a northbound (outbound) bus lane on the street that would’ve meant the loss of parking and loading space all day.

The business community is vehemently opposed to the proposal, and the idea, approved as part of the Moving Forward Together Plan in 2016, of making Gottingen Street a transit corridor.

“It asks the Gottingen Street community to become a transit corridor that is primarily being put in place for residents not from the area, and gives nothing in return,” North End Business Association executive director Patricia Cuttell told the committee on Thursday.

Cuttell said the $250,000 budget is like a “slap in the face” to the community.

The business owners were also concerned about taking away the 51 parking spots on the street, and leaving no time for loading goods into their shops and restaurants.

The committee voted down the staff recommendation, and voted in favour of a revised one from Coun. Lindell Smith that would allow short-term (30 to 90 minute) parking and loading in the bus lane during off-peak hours – any time other than 7 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m.

The revised motion also asked staff to come back with reports on a parking loss mitigation plan; a review one year after implementation; and a report on “the potential for moving northbound express buses (as planned) to a different route and moving Dartmouth bound express buses to Barrington via the bridge ramp.”

The last report aims to address a complaint from the business community, and transit advocacy group It’s More Than Buses (IMTB), that dozens of bus routes travel north down Gottingen Street and either stop once or don’t stop at all.

“Gottingen Street needs this bus lane because the 1 and the 7 are the most important routes in the entire network,” IMTB executive director Ben Wedge told the committee.

“They need a bus lane, but they also need to not be held up in traffic by 70 other buses, buses that aren’t stopping on the street and buses that aren’t serving the street.”

Halifax Transit uses Gottingen Street for these routes because buses can’t use the ramp from Barrington Street to the Macdonald Bridge. Using three buses, Halifax Transit tested the ramp last fall, and found buses can’t make the turn, but it hasn’t said what it would cost to fix the issue.

But, IMTB also points out that many of the buses are empty. It advocated for a corridor capacity study – something not captured in council’s request.

Regional council still needs to ratify the committee’s motion. After that happens, potentially next week, HRM will issue a tender for the project’s detailed design.

If the design is approved, the bus lane could be installed by the end of 2018.

More on