- It doesn’t seem like that many people cycle in Halifax. Why are we spending money on bicycle lanes?
We know from Stats Canada data and municipal data collection initiatives that many people use cycling as a form of transportation to get to work, school, and other important destinations. When it comes to commuting for work, the overall rate of cycling across the entire Halifax region is 1%. However, in several neighbourhoods in the Regional Centre, the rate of commuter cycling is 5-10%. This data does not capture the people who use cycling for non-commute trips like running errands, meeting up with friends and family, or visiting local parks and beaches.
Regardless of the number of people who cycle in Halifax now, we are not building infrastructure only for them. Several studies indicate that, by building better cycling infrastructure, we can grow the number of people cycling. In fact, a recent survey of Halifax residents revealed 48% of residents that safer, more comfortable, and more connected infrastructure is the number one thing that would encourage them to cycle more often. Investing in bikeways makes it easier and more efficient for people to bicycle in Halifax and allows us to provide safer infrastructure for people using our roads who are the most vulnerable.
- How is the public consulted on IMP projects?
During the process of developing the Integrated Mobility Plan, Halifax Regional Municipality conducted several rounds of engagement in 2017. This helped us identify and prioritize corridors that we want to connect using active transportation and transit.
As we work to turn those proposed corridors into on-the-ground infrastructure, municipal staff often engage with residents and community groups on individual projects to get their input on these projects and to determine how the infrastructure can best support their needs.
- I participated in some public engagement for an IMP project but that seemed like years ago and it still hasn’t been built. Why does it take so long for projects to happen?
Typically, any new infrastructure project like a new sidewalk connection, protected bicycle lane or transit priority lane, goes through four major phases:
1. Functional Planning: This stage is where we do the background work to verify potential routes and design options for what the new infrastructure could look like on the street. A major component of the functional planning process includes stakeholder and public engagement. Based on feedback received from stakeholders and the public, municipal staff will evaluate and refine initial concepts and report back to Regional Council for further direction.
2. Preliminary Design: This stage helps to refine the designs from the functional planning process and get them ready for the detailed design phase. This is also the stage where municipal staff begin to coordinate with internal and external groups to determine how to make the new infrastructure possible. This may mean negotiating with land owners, determining how drainage will work, or coordinating with utilities like NS Power or Halifax Water.
3. Detailed Design: This stage is about getting ready for construction. This includes preparing final designs for drainage, intersections, traffic signals and pavement markings. Several municipal departments and utilities must review the designs to ensure that they are able to be constructed and meet the needs of each department. The final drawings, supporting documents, and cost estimates are then prepared.
4. Construction: Based on the detailed design, the municipality will issue a tender for construction in order to select which company will build the new facility. Depending on weather, construction can happen from May to December. The construction company builds the new facility according to the detailed design. When it’s done, the new facility is open and ready to use!
There are several factors in each of these stages that could speed up or delay a project including coordinating with other municipal departments or external utility and service providers, municipal budgets, external funding sources, level of public engagement needed, and more. Based on this, a project can take anywhere from 6 months to several years to move through the various phases.
- Why are we building bus lanes? How do they help manage congestion?
Bus lanes and other transit priority measures allow buses to move freely through congested vehicle conditions during busy times of the day, improving transit travel time and reliability. This is important because buses can move more people much more efficiently than cars (40-60 versus 5-8 people), and bus lanes provide them dedicated space to do so.
Congestion is created because our roads only have so much space for vehicles, with or without bus lanes. During busy periods such as morning and afternoon rush hours, when lots of people want to travel at the same time, vehicles can often take up more space than is available on the road, which results in congestion. With bus lanes, transit then becomes a much more attractive option for people who are able to use it and allows them to leave their car behind, resulting in fewer cars on the road and less congestion.
These changes don’t happen overnight and don’t always change people’s behaviour. However, over time, better mobility options will help more people reduce their reliance on driving to get around in the Halifax Regional Municipality. For a variety of reasons (e.g. job requirements, family needs, mobility issues), some people need to drive to get around. By promoting a shift away from driving for people who don’t need to drive, we can free up more space on the road for those people who do.
- I don’t take the bus or ride a bike. How does the IMP benefit me?
The Integrated Mobility Plan is the vision for building transportation networks that are as reliable, connected, and comfortable as possible, no matter how people move. The goal is to increase the number of people who walk, cycle, and take transit as part of their daily trips. This allows HRM to provide and support mobility options that reduce transportation costs for residents, limit greenhouse gas emissions, encourage healthy and active lifestyles, and result in more complete communities.
If you do not use these options for getting around, the IMP still benefits you. The actions we are taking to increase the number of people who walk, cycle, and take transit will likely mean fewer cars on the road in the future, resulting in less congestion for people who do have to drive. Most vehicle trips also include a walk / roll at some point – improving the pedestrian experience means that the walk from your parked vehicle to your destination is more convenient and comfortable.
And who knows? Just because you don’t take the bus or ride a bike now, doesn’t mean that you or members of your family won’t in the future. Maybe some of the infrastructure improvements being made through the IMP will make the difference between you driving and using other options for some of your daily trips.
• As we work to make transit faster and more frequent to some of our key transit terminals, it may be possible for you to drive for part of your commute to one of our terminals, park your car, and ride transit the rest of the way. Parking at our Park & Rides is often free and the cost of a monthly bus pass can be much lower than a parking pass downtown.
• Similarly, more cycling infrastructure can make it more comfortable and convenient for people to get around on bicycle for shorter trips under 10km. Compared to driving, cycling can often be a quicker and more efficient way to get somewhere as you are often not stuck in traffic.
Both options can save you money and time and they’re not the only ones. Learn more about your mobility options.
- How can the municipality spend money on the IMP during a pandemic?
Transportation is crucial for accessing employment, services, and businesses and this in turn is important for economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this, we developed and implemented the Mobility Response Plan in 2020 to respond to the impacts of COVID-19 on our streets and public spaces. Some of the temporary measures we implemented as part of this plan highlighted how important maintaining and supporting these systems were.
Continuing to invest in the IMP and more permanent changes to the streets allows us to continue to improve all mobility options to make it easier for our residents to get to where they need to go in an affordable and sustainable way.
- Is investment focused only on the Regional Centre?
The Integrated Mobility Plan is the vision for improving mobility options across the municipality and is not focused solely on the Regional Centre. While the approach may look different in an urban, suburban, and rural context, the Halifax Regional Municipality is investing in infrastructure that supports mobility across the region.
Much of our focus on the Rapid Transit Strategy and adding transit priority measures and active transportation connections to transit terminals is part of our plan for connecting communities outside of the Regional Centre with transit. For rural communities, we recognize the fact that sometimes, conventional transit as provided by Halifax Transit, may not be the most efficient way to provide transit. The Rural Transit Program, adopted in 2014, supports not-for-profit organizations operating rural transit services through grants that subsidize the cost of operating their service in rural communities in Halifax unserved by Halifax Transit. Our Regional Greenway Network also guides investment in our growing network of multi-use pathways throughout suburban and rural communities across the region.
- Why don’t we add more driving lanes to reduce congestion?
The traditional approach to transportation planning aimed to reduce congestion by building more roads and widening existing ones to meet demand. However, as road capacity is increased to accommodate more vehicles, additional drivers choose to use the road, creating more congestion. This is commonly referred to as induced demand. Additionally, as our communities to grow, there is less and less space available for building and widening roads.
The municipality’s new approach, as outlined in the IMP, emphasizes improving mobility through more sustainable travel modes such as transit and active transportation. This approach helps manage congestion, limits spending on costly road projects, and more importantly provides residents with more options to move around. The IMP also attempts to manage congestion by using tactics such as:
• Enabling people to walk, cycle, use transit, or carpool by making these options more comfortable and convenient
• Encouraging people to shift their work hours so not everyone is on the road during peak hours (7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m.)
• Encouraging people to work from home – or telework – to reduce their need to be on the roadway network.
If 1 out of 10 people stopped driving alone during peak hours, we would see an estimated 30% decrease in congestion in the region. The strategies we use to encourage people to travel at different times and using different mobility options help us to use the transportation network more efficiently and reduce the need for new roads or traffic lanes. They also help to reduce municipal spending on roads, limit greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, and mean less time spent in traffic for our residents.
- What is Halifax Transit doing to reduce the potential for COVID-19 exposure on the bus or ferry?
With Halifax Transit service back up to 100%, we have introduced measures like enhanced cleaning, mandatory masks, and physical separation for Transit operators to reduce risks related to COVID-19 transmission.
As with any public space, level of risk will always depend on the number of active cases and the presence of community spread at any time. If you’re thinking about returning to Halifax Transit, make sure to monitor Public Health updates and directives to help you decide whether or not you feel comfortable hopping on a bus or ferry again.
- I pay for the roads I drive on. Why don’t we have people who cycle pay for the bicycle lanes?
Most of the money for the construction and maintenance of our municipal transportation infrastructure, including roads, sidewalks, and bicycle lanes, is paid for by general taxes. Everyone who owns or rents housing pays into the general tax base and therefore pays for this infrastructure.
Active Transportation infrastructure (e.g. sidewalks, bikeways, or multi-use pathways) is often much less expensive to construct and requires a lot less maintenance than roadways. Since the people who primarily walk, roll, or cycle generally pay the same amount of taxes as people who primarily drive, they pay a disproportionately high cost for transportation infrastructure compared to those people that primarily drive.
Currently, and as we grow our networks, people are also using multiple forms of transportation depending on what kind of trip they are taking. It is rare that someone only ever walks, cycles, or drives. Often, people are using a mix of options. In this way, it makes sense that our general tax base supports improvements for the range of options that people use in their daily lives. The IMP guides how we invest that money in infrastructure that provides options for everyone using our streets in Halifax.
- Why don’t we have people register their bicycle like they have to register a vehicle?
Several cities, including Halifax, have used bicycle licensing in the past to try and regulate bicycle use like vehicle use. However, these programs were and are not effective because:
• The level of administration needed for these programs often means they cost more to run than the revenue taken in for licensing fees
• They do not have a demonstrated impact on cycling safety
• They can be inequitable and impose additional financial barriers to transportation for people who may rely on lower-cost transportation options
• We want to encourage and enable people to cycle more often and additional fees may act as a deterrent
Instead, Halifax is focused on supporting safety and skills education for people interested in cycling to help them understand how to navigate our city by bicycle and to people driving to help them understand how to share the road. For example, we recently partnered with the Ecology Action Centre on a series of videos to help people Get There By Bike.
- Why are you taking away on-street parking for bus and bicycle lanes?
The planning process that is used when considering active transportation and transit improvements for a street requires consideration of a variety of criteria. The process should identify the improvements provided for active transportation and transit users and balance them with any trade-offs that may be necessary such as impacts to traffic flow, on-street parking / loading, and mature trees. All of this and more is taken into account and staff prepare options that balance these trade-offs in different ways for public feedback. For example, one option may provide for a more direct bicycle route but require the removal of more on-street parking spaces than another option which diverts the bikeway for a couple of blocks to retain some parking spaces.
While some projects result in the loss of on-street parking, by replacing some on-street parking with infrastructure for bicycles and buses, we are providing direct access for more people to destinations on that street, like local businesses. Studies have found that improving access for active transportation and transit users can actually be beneficial for businesses – for example, a study from London showed that people accessing businesses via walking, cycling, and transit spent 40% more than those accessing them by vehicle. Where possible, we also work to find creative solutions like allowing for parking in bus lanes outside of peak hours. This allows for the space to prioritize bus movement when traffic is highest but provides for parking the rest of the time.