This Metro Transit launched an ad campaign aimed at increasing ridership.  The campaign entitled “Do it on the bus” is a cheeky double entendre, however in looking at the website I find it dissapointing.   You can see the site here

While I appreciate the fact that Metro Transit is launching this campaign to beef up ridership, I don’t buy into this campaign.   I feel that the campaign while cheeky, has little substance and I am not confident it will increase ridership.  The transit strike did of course affect transit use, coupled with decreased revenue and rising costs—it is a tough spot.  Furthermore, the cost of this ad campaign could reinstate the Alderney ferry service to pre-budget cut levels of 2012.  Cheeky ad campaigns, which lack substance, are not going to change behaviour, and in this case increase ridership.  During the election campaign there was much discussion about how to improve transit, and they were some great ideas.  Now is the time that our local government and we as citizens should be tapping into and exploring some of those ideas. However, across the municipality people are unhappy with the current transit models being used.  If the management of Metro Transit and HRM council feel that this is the best way to address the issues, then they are missing the boat.

There are issues with the Go Time service, route efficiency, employee morale and how the public perceives Metro Transit.   It is a double edge sword where public demand and economies of scale are working in tandem and causing problems for Metro Transit.   While for some people in HRM, Metro Transit may very well meet your commuting needs, but there are many I feel that this is not the case.  I know of many people who are frustrated by the frequencies of buses, the routes and lack of a truly integrated system.

For example let’s look at the new bridge terminal, yes it is shiny, bright and beautiful and we did need a large terminal in the network.  Though, just down the hill at Alderney are ferry and the potential for rail connections: a transit hub you say?  No, not in HRM: this example is but one of many that I feel undermines the confidence residents have in our public transit system.    Having a hub system that is properly integrated between bus, ferry, active transportation and one day rail would go a long way in address concerns and improving mobility for all residents across HRM.    There are three parts that I feel are contributing to our public transit woes: city hall, city infrastructure and human nature.

First, city hall since amalgamation there has been a well known divide between urban, suburban and rural councillors.   This divide is playing into how as a municipality we value public transit.   You have urban and some suburban councillors calling for better transit while rural councillors say not on my watch.  This divide was highlighted last year in the debate to cut back Alderney ferry or not.  There were councillors saying thing such as ‘I’ll cut the ferry because you cut my bus’.   The reality is that even with all the supposed focus on greener transportation, HRM is still from a policy perspective a very car centric place.    It is not merely that regional council must be looking at transportation through a different lens, so must the bureaucrats behind them.

Our city infrastructure plays a lovely piece in the perfect storm that caps transit at the knees.  Look around HRM, and consider how our roads are laid out.  All Across HRM we lack a grid structure, either because of geography or poor planning; couple that with narrow roads in the urban core and providing efficient transit is a challenge and an exercise in patience.   Metro transit made a good move last year in the introduction of a corridor on Portland Street, to increase frequencies of runs and modify the routing.   This is a good move because it takes into consideration of the limitations of geography and municipal infrastructure.  Having separate transit ways, like in other centres, is not a viable solution for Halifax but having corridors and transit hubs I believe is.

Lastly, we should address human behaviour and how that impacts use/non-use of transit.  As humans, we are wired to take the means that provides the least resistance.  If we are en route to a destination and there are two options: one takes say 15 minutes and one takes 1.5 hours—we will take the option that only takes 15 minutes.    All across the city, there are examples that trips on transit simply take too long.  For example if you are in Clayton Park and you need to get to Burnside, you better get comfy it would be roughly an hour and that is without traffic issues.  When I attended culinary school at NSCC Akerley, what was a 15 minute car ride took 1-1.5 hours on the bus.   So, because the city is truly built for cars and to move cars around quickly that is what a lot of people do.

So, to truly improve transit, I feel we need to do the following:

  • Stopping viewing public transit as a burden to municipal coffers and starting viewing it as an asset
  • Use our natural harbour to a greater extent to help move people in our public transit model
  • Develop a stronger hub system, and expanded the corridor model that was introduced last year on Portland St
  • Management and council actually need to sit down with transit users and transit drivers to talk about what will make the system better from their perspective.
  • Don’t spend money on ad campaigns, when they could be better directed to improving actual service.

The last two weeks have been active in our HRM political arena, and in some decisions not for the best.

                                                                                                                                             Solid Waste Issues

Well we have been touted as national and even international leaders in waste diversion…the wheels are coming off the truck.  The report was completed by Stanec and sights cost concerns and service delivery issues.  Presently, the municipality is seeking input from citizens on the Stanec report.   Additionally, in a motion by the Environmental and Sustainability committee, there is a request to the province to allow HRM to collect the 5 cent bottle deposit and reduce the deposit from 10 cents to just 5 cents.   This revenue would go into general HRM coffers, and while on the surface is sounds good—I do not support this motion.

The impact this would have across our municipality to people at or below the poverty level is huge.  Consider people who collect these refundable in your neighbourhood to help supplement their weekly budgets.   Equally important are all the people that enviro-depots now employ, some of these individuals have barriers to employment and programs such as Youth Live help citizens across HRM obtain entry-level employment.   Government should be about making things better for all by providing the framework to do just that, added municipal revenue should not be on the back of the poor.

                                                                                                                                                                                     Crime Mapping

On February 14, the day of love, admit some fanfare Deputy Police Chief Moore debuted HRP’s crime mapping site.  While I believe that information is power, and have concrete factual evidence can help to debunk myths running around our city.  However, alleged comments by Moore about how sexual assaults, between intimate partners are not included on this site, because people are not interested in that is ridiculous.  The max number of days of data is seven days, and you can select which crimes you would like info on.  Furthermore, the potential to marginalize areas is real, and well I overall applaud this project—I hope it will do more good than harm. I do feel overall that our force is doing a good job, and crime stats are down.  However, the HRP needs to continue and build on the community engagement/liaison model.  You can see the crime mapping site here.

Transportation

Winter has been hard on our roads in Dartmouth and across much of the region, daily I observe potholes—some that are true hazards.  As council continues to drag their heels on an improved public transit system, roads will only become worse—more use will result in more wear.  The failure to reinstate full harbour ferry service at Alderney is short-sighted and is sending the wrong message about the value of mass transit.   We are fortunate to have a beautiful harbour, and we must use it as a crucial component of our mass transit system.   Having an integrated land and marine mass transit system in Halifax is the right choice.  It is time council and the bureaucrats at Metro Transit listen to citizens and make a transit system that we so long for.   The Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission has an online petition to bring back late ferry service, see it here

Metro transit is also starting the process for a new 5 year plan.  There will be public consultations, however if they are like other public consultations in HRM… I’m not sure of the value it will hold.   This year’s installment of new buses is almost approved; HRM will purchase 22 new buses to replace aging vehicles, at the cost of $406,422 each.  Finally, public consultations were held last Wednesday about intersection reconfiguration at Rainne/Cogswell and Agricola/Cunard by switching them to roundabouts.  The current configuration of these intersections is at the best of times scary for all who cross them.  I do feel there is merit in this proposal; however my reservation lies in how the changes will impact pedestrians.  The installation of roundabouts must be mindful of the fact these two intersections are heavy in pedestrian traffic as well as vehicular. You can learn more about the project here.

BJV

 

 

After a week hiatus we are back.   There was lots of activity in HRM chambers this week with both the committee of the whole and regional council.   Councillor McCluskey and Councillor Craig were absent to other related obligations.

                                  Sidewalk Taxes are changing

The big debate in the committee of the whole was regarding local improvement charges(LICs) and taxes for sidewalks.   The debate was lengthy and passionate over the course of the several hours.  Prior to this debate, depending on where you lived within our region how funding was collected for sidewalks varied greatly.   It was combinations of LICs for construction, maintenance via urban general rate and snow clearing via another special rate.  The present tax levies, as per the staff report, cited this system was failing the needs of HRM.  As I watched the committee of the whole, the debate become at times bogged down on divisive points.   In the end, it was an amended by Councillor Mason that was approved in both the committee of the whole and regional council sittings.   The new approaching will leave LICs for rural HRM residents to construct sidewalks and maintenance funded by an urban/suburban general rate.  Residents in urban areas will pay for construction and maintenance with suburban areas within 1km of a sidewalk paying the same.  Some of the debate around the sidewalk issues, truly highlights how some of our municipal policy makers are very car centric.   If we are to move forward with active transportation projects, sidewalks need to be part of the puzzle.  Secure funding for sidewalks, mass transit and bike lanes must be a priority in this city.

                                 No Officer Cuts in New Police Budget

Chief Blais presented a budget for HRP that if accepted by the commission would not result in any cuts to front line officers.   The operating budget would increase by 5.51% to roughly $73.7 million, and include conversion of administrative police positions to civilian jobs to help with savings. The budget has not be approved yet by the Board of Police Commissioners, debate will occur on February 25.  If approved, it will then go to regional council for final approval.   Also a report came out, to show violent crime stats are down.  It is good to hear that we will not loose front line officers.  However, as a city and a a police force, how the resources are allotted need to be examined.   There are distinct hot spots across the region, and cultural shifts we should be pushing for.   We should build on the cooperation between police and citizens to strengthen our communities.

 

                                    New Library Budget Increased by $2million

Regional council approved a request by Judith Hare, CEO of Halifax Public Libraries for a higher ceiling to fund-raise.  The funds would be used to help with interior decor of the new central library.  I am excited to see the new central library, and I believe it will be a great addition to our city.   As our cultural capital increases, it is good to keep stock of our recreation capital and how we can make our green spaces interactive.

Till next week: stay connected and talking

BJV

 

 

In the last week of January, regional council has made some interesting choices and there have been some long term projects that are moving forward albeit slowly.

First up, Councillor Steve Craig (District 15- Lower Sackville) purposed a motion around the crosswalk issues.  Over the last year, accidents between motorists and pedestrians in crosswalks have grown exponential.  Specifically, in the last two months there have been at least 10 people struck in crosswalks across HRM.  Ken Reashor, who is the Traffic Authority for HRM and Director of Transportation and Public works, has taken an unpopular stance on crosswalk safety. He believes that less not more crosswalks are the answers, and that motorists should maintain the right of way more often. Working against people such as Norm Collins, who has been a long time crosswalk safety advocate; Reashor has in my opinion helped the foster the car centric policies of HRM.

Councillor Craig’s motion is as follows:

11.3 Councillor Craig

That Halifax Regional Council direct staff to provide a report which:

1. Prior to the end of fiscal 2012-2013, to provide an interim report that:
– Provides the current understanding of how HRM focuses and performs on all factors related to pedestrian safety – HRM engineering, public education, law enforcement, public engagement and evaluation;
– Identifies HRM pedestrian safety statistics and how HRM statistics compare relative to other municipalities; and
– Identifies a short-term HRM action plan to address pedestrian safety and any impacts on the 2013-2014 budget.

2. During fiscal 2013-2014, to develop and present for consideration by Halifax Regional Council, a long-term comprehensive pedestrian safety action plan to help ensure, and to be seen as ensuring, overall pedestrian safety for HRM residents based on:
– The analysis of factors which may be contributing to pedestrian accidents;
– Provides options considering both process and organization structure that focuses on engineering, education, enforcement, public engagement, such as a Crosswalk Safety Advisory Committee, overall evaluation, policy and legislation, inter-agency/departmental coordination and cooperation elements;
– Provides a mechanism for continuous reporting and evaluation of the foregoing; and
– Identifies ongoing budget impacts to the proposed action plan.

In addition, that the Mayor, on behalf of Halifax Regional Council, correspond immediately with the provincial Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal to request an update regarding a recommendation from the 2007 Crosswalk Safety Task Force which stated that “the departments responsible for collecting and analysing collision data do so in a timely, comprehensive, consistent and accurate manner.”  [i]

While, I side with Councillor Craig on this motion.  There is additionally mention of the 2007 Crosswalk Safety Task Force that presented specific recommendations.  I think that the report process has some merit.  However, I feel that if we are to truly move forward on the issue it will need to be at the community level.  Presently, council is not moving to deal with the lack accountability of Reashor to HRM citizens.  While, this would require coordination with the province; I believe it should be a necessary part of this puzzle.   Furthermore, it is my hope that staff does not fully re-invent the wheel and access past reports, updating as required to expedite this process.   On the citizen level, if crosswalk safety is of concern to you I suggest that you contact your councillor and Mayor Savage to communicate such.

Another big, and in my perspective, positive move this week came out of the Audit and Finance Committee.  Eddie Robar, Director of Metro Transit, presented their annual budget but it did not include full late night ferry service.  Councillor Gloria McCluskey (District 5, Dartmouth Centre) motioned for Metro Transit to re-work their annual budget to include re-instatement of full late night ferry service.   The motion passed and sent Metro Transit back to the budgetary drawing board.   This is an important move, last year when regional council cut late night weekday ferry service, it was a horrible decision.   The harbour ferries provide a crucial link between our downtown cores, and if we are ever going to get serious about public transit in this city some of the things we need to:

  1. Restore full Halifax-Dartmouth ferry service to the level of pre-August 2012
  2. Look at expansion for the Woodside – Halifax ferry service.
  3. Explore how we can better use our harbour to move our residents around quickly and economically.

The negative aspect to the Metro Transit budget is the fare increase.   Metro transit has asked for a 0.25 cent increase, to help in funding technological modernization of their operations.  The fare increase was approved by the committee.  However, I do have reservations as to how that increased capital will be utilized.  Citizens have been hearing for years from Metro Transit, of a commitment to improved “real time GoTime” values, but to date that change has not occurred.   I am skeptical of the plan as in the past our public transit department has promised large but come up very short.   If you would like to read, the budget presentation from Metro Transit please click the link under the end notes.[ii]

The city has sold off the last piece of property it owned in Bayers Lake but because of development agreements has had to buy back the streets in this parcel of land to make them public.  Couple this with the expansion of the approved expansion in Burnside, and there is great potential to undermine our downtown core.  This is important because of the challenge we already face to attract retail and office space into our downtown cores.   Finally, council has approved a study to assess the viability of HRM investing in a district energy system.  District energy systems recycle waste heat from primary power generation, and sell it via a grid to customers.  The feasibility study will cost 300, 000.  I believe the investment could in the long term be beneficial to HRM and I approve the feasibility study.  If you would like to read the staff report, please check at the bottom of post.[iii] 

Stay Connected. Be Informed.

Dear Friends,

As we come to the end of the election campaign, I first want to thank Anthony my fiance for all his support. Also, my family, my friends and all the new friends I have made along the way.   All of you have helped support me on this amazing journey.   If you have already voted, I thank you.   If you have not voted, I ask you to please vote.   This election I feel is a turning point for Dartmouth Centre and for our municipality.

I am running because I want to put people first once again at city hall.  It is time to end the secret meetings, the ignored emails and the favouritism for particular groups.  I see the potential that is in our community.  We have amazing, talented people who are so passionate about our community.  I feel it is time that together we bring the vision forward.  We can build a community where no one is left behind and where every voice is heard.   Together, I believe we can unite our community and address that we have residents who’s basic needs are not being met.

We have challenges in Dartmouth Centre, and great opportunities to grow and transform our community.  However, we must be be ever vigilant that as we grow that we do not further push people to the fringes. Gentrification must be kept in check, and that together we build a truly inclusive community.  Let us build sustainable from an environmental, social and economic point of view.  I grew up in North End Dartmouth, and I have a passion for Dartmouth that many of you share.   I want to help make our community better for all.   We can make Dartmouth an even better place to work, live and play.   Together, let’s invest in people:

  1. Let’s have a world class transit system that integrates bus, ferry and active transportation routes.
  2. Support local business in Downtown Dartmouth. Explore the inequity in the commercial tax system.
  3. Protect green space: interactive green space that supports families, youth, seniors and young professionals
  4. Re-build the relationship between Dartmouth Centre and City Hall
  5. Keep gentrification in check: everyone in Dartmouth is important, regardless of your background

Together, with your support I want to move Dartmouth Centre forward.  Our time is now to build the most sustainable, welcoming and inclusive community.  On Election Day vote Bryn Jones-Vaillancourt for Dartmouth Centre – District 5

Dear Friends,

We are so fortunate to live in this beautiful community of Dartmouth.  We have beautiful lakes and parks right in our backyard.  The love for community and care who show for others in Dartmouth is second to none.  We have a proud history of helping people, and providing ways to support people when they need it most.   On this beautiful Thanksgiving weekend, let us pause and give thanks for all we do have.

Let us give thanks that we live in a community that cares about their neighbour.  Let us give thanks that nature has be so kind to provide us with land to grow our food, lakes to quench our thirst; and an ocean that feeds us, protects us and gives us a place to play.   Let us give thanks to living in a country where we can make our voices heard without fear of being silenced.  Let us give thanks to our farmers and fisheries, who harvest the land and sea to nourish us.  Finally, let us give thanks that we live in a democracy where we can choose our path.

On this Thanksgiving weekend, I ask all of us to pause, to connect with people in your life and in your community.  Together, let us speak of what we are thankful for.  Together, let us be proud of our accomplishments and our failures for they are both learning experiences.  On this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for so much: a wonderful fiance, supportive family and friends and for being able to share my hopes and vision for Dartmouth.

To all of you I wish as much happiness, love and community that you can handle.  I wish for everyone that even if hard times arrive in your lives, you will know you have a community of support.  I wish for everyone a dinner to celebrate harvest time and to come together around food with people you care about.  Finally, I wish that if you know of anyone who could use a friendly hand; please reach out and share a meal with them.

Happy Thanksgiving Dartmouth

 

Dear Friends,

As we are now in September and we draw closer to election day: I wish to thank you all for your support and ask for your continued support. I have been working hard all summer to attend community events, and can proudly say that I have knocked on doors in every neighbourhood of our amazing district.

As we enter the last leg of the campaign, I ask for your support both on elect
ion

day and up to election day. To continue to spread my message I kindly ask you to talk to your friends, co-workers and neighbours about me and my campaign. Together, we can put people first and make our city an even better place to live, work and play.

To continue to share my message, I am setting a fund raising goal of $1000. This will be to help cover the costs of brochure printing. Friends, I kindly ask for your support. If you believe that we can put people first again in our local government, I kindly ask for you to make a donation to my campaign.

With 50 people, making a donation of $20 to my campaign, together, we continue spreading the word.

If you would like to make a donation, please contact me at bryndartcentre@bellaliant.net

Thank you for all your support

Bryn Jones-Vaillancourt

Vote Bryn for Dartmouth Centre – District 5
People First Always: Collaboration Communication Compassion