Part 6: Measuring Success

Disclaimer: Legacy Content

The information on this page is derived from Moving Forward Together Plan, approved by Halifax Regional Council in 2016. Minor adjustments to route numbering and route planning have since been made and approved in Halifax Transit Annual Service Plans. 

6    Performance Measures

The guidelines and measures outlined in this section are intended to provide direction related to the level of ridership expected, and measuring the success of the routes described in this plan. These are intended to be guidelines rather than strict standards, as any service changes will be considered on a case by case basis. The application of these guidelines is subject to budget and resource availability.

6.1    Ridership Guidelines

The following table summarizes ridership guidelines by service type. These metrics represent the minimum expectations for ridership as it relates to the amount of service provided by Halifax Transit.

Minimum Ridership Guidelines

Minimum Ridership Guidelines

Corridor Routes, Local Routes, and Rural Routes are measured by the average number of passengers per service hour provided in each time period. Express Routes, Regional Express Routes and School Routes are measured by the average number of passengers per trip by period.

6.1.1    Services Exempt from Ridership Standards
The ferry represents a high capacity link connecting Downtown Dartmouth, Downtown Halifax, and Woodside. Due to critical importance of the ferry to the regional transportation network, and its historic and cultural heritage value, this plan does not propose any minimum ridership standards for either ferry route.

In much the same way, the Route 320 Airport/Fall River provides an important connection between Downtown Halifax and the Halifax Stanfield International Airport. Due to the regional significance of this connection from a tourism and economic development perspective, service to the Halifax International Airport is also exempt from minimum ridership guidelines.

6.1.2    Low Ridership Periods
During the midday, evenings, and late at night, it is possible that the minimum guidelines outlined above will not be achieved. Although ridership is typically lower during these periods, Halifax Transit recognizes that the availability of transit service is still important during these periods in order to provide access to employment, and for meeting the recreational, social, and cultural needs of the city. If several trips within a specific time period are underperforming, they will be retained so long as the collective performance of all trips in the specific time period is achieving the ridership guideline outlined above.

If it is determined that service will not attain the target outlined above in a particular period, service spans could be reduced. Underperforming trips, in isolation, will not be removed as this makes for irregular, unpredictable service. However, should the first or last trips of the day underperform continually and cause the service to fall below the guidelines above, those individual trips could be considered for removal.

6.2    Operations below Ridership Guidelines

When a route is not meeting the ridership guidelines as outlined above, Halifax Transit will consider taking one or more of the following actions:

•    Modify the schedule where possible, and where it is anticipated that schedule changes could result in increased ridership;
•    Reduce or eliminate off-peak service or reduce service span so the level of transit service provided is more closely aligned with ridership demand;
•    Investigate planned developments or public amenities adjacent to the route and consider changes to routing to achieve greater ridership;
•    Lead a promotional campaign to raise awareness about the route; or
•    If ridership is low over all periods of the day, consider service elimination.

6.2.1    Warrant for Expanding Service Day or Increasing Service Frequency
Any increase to service spans or increase to service frequency will be identified through evaluation of ridership trends and overloads, and may be implemented as budget permits. The introduction of any new service is dependent on the availability of staff and vehicle resources.

6.2.2    Evaluating New, Expanded or Increased Service
When a new route is introduced, it often takes time for ridership to grow to expected levels. Similarly, when a route is subject to significant modifications, or service is introduced in a time period when it was not offered before, there is often a transition period when ridership may decline before increasing, or otherwise increase slowly.

As such, new or highly modified routes should be monitored for a minimum of two years, with interim monitoring at 12 months and 18 months. At the 12 month term, a minimum of 33% of the ridership guideline should be attained, and by 18 months, a minimum of 66% of the ridership guideline should be attained. If the service change is substantial, or if significant adjacent development is anticipated, staff may recommend a longer trial period at the introduction stage of the service. Routes displaying ridership below the guidelines during this timeframe may be modified in an attempt to attract new riders, but should not be significantly altered or discontinued.

 6.3   Bus Stop Locations

Halifax Transit considers a resident to be served by transit if they are within 500 metres of a transit stop, or within 1000 metres of a transit terminal. Within the area served by transit, bus stops will be spaced to ensure that a minimum of 90% of all residences will be within 500 metres of at least one transit stop.

6.3.1    Bus Stop Placement
Where possible, bus stops should be placed near intersections, adjacent to passenger generators or at popular destinations. Generally speaking, stops should not be closer together than 250 metres, except in downtown Halifax and within major trip generators where closer spacings may be warranted. Stops may be further than 250 metres apart, provided that larger stops spacings still allow the majority of origins and destinations to be within a 500 metre walk. In areas of lower density, stops should be approximately 500 metres apart. Where possible, stops should be sited adjacent to pedestrian infrastructure like sidewalks and crosswalks.

6.4    Route Directness Guideline

Halifax Transit strives to balance access to transit service with short travel times to help make transit more competitive and attractive.

For the most part, Halifax Transit routes have been designed to operate on major, arterial streets. However, there may be some situations in which a route deviates from the shortest, most direct alignment. Such situations include a mid-route deviation to serve a particular trip generator or end of line terminal loops.

When a deviation exists or is being considered, the gain in convenience to those passengers who are boarding or alighting during the deviation must be balanced against the additional travel time for the passengers travelling through. The following guidelines shall be applied to all route deviations and/or terminal loops:

•    To the extent possible, two-way service shall be provided on the same street;
•    To the extent possible, mid-route loops will be avoided;
•    Express services shall be routed in the most direct manner possible once they depart the local service area;
•    For safety reasons, route deviations through parking lots will not be considered; and
•    Deviations from the basic route alignment to serve activity centres will be made only when the potential net increase in travel time for riders is less than the net reduction in travel time for those who would benefit from the deviation.

 6.5    Route Variation Guideline

In some cases it is more efficient to serve an area with one route having several branches, rather than to operate several different routes. In addition, some trips on a route may not travel the full length of the route. These trips are called short turns. Short turns and branches are examples of variations, which can make the network more difficult for current and potential transit users to understand and use. Therefore, to provide as user-friendly a service as possible, the following guidelines for variations will apply:

•    Variations (short turns or branches) will be limited and only used when required for operational purposes; and
•    All short turns, branches, or significant variations will be designated with a letter identifier (ex. the route 6A)

6.6    Quality of Service Guidelines

The intent of service quality guidelines is to establish a level of customer convenience that Halifax Transit users can expect from the transit network. These are a commitment to Halifax Transit passengers to improve the quality of service over the life of this plan. The Moving Forward Together Plan’s Quality of Service Guidelines include on-time performance, loading guidelines, and span of service.

6.6.1    On-Time Performance
While it is impossible to achieve and maintain 100% on-time performance due to traffic and weather conditions, every effort will be made to ensure all Halifax Transit buses and ferries operate on time. To ensure transit users have confidence that service will perform in accordance with public timetables, the following on-time performance guidelines have been established:

•    No trips will depart from a published time point more than one minute ahead of schedule. A transit vehicle is considered “on-time” when it departs its published time point at the advertised time or up to three minutes after scheduled departure.
•    A vehicle is considered “late” when it departs more than three minutes after the scheduled departure time.

Many transit agencies strive to meet a target of 90% schedule adherence, meaning that buses should be “on time” 90% of the time. Through the introduction of new AVL technology in the next year, Halifax Transit will analyze existing on-time performance across the network and establish a benchmark and target for the minimum percentage of trips to depart on time.
6.6.2    Vehicle Load Guidelines
The intent of a vehicle load guideline is to balance passenger comfort with Halifax Transit’s operating costs. Vehicle loading is a significant comfort factor for passengers, and affects the availability of transit service when there is no room on the vehicle for additional passengers to board. It can also negatively impact the travel time of a trip because it takes longer for passengers to board and alight from an overcrowded vehicle.

A vehicle load is calculated by taking the total number of passengers on a bus at a particular location on a route and dividing it by the number of seats available on the transit vehicle. Therefore, the higher the percentage, the more efficient the service. Once the ratio exceeds 100%, however, more and more people have to stand, compromising passenger comfort. For example, if there are 40 seats on a bus, and there are 30 passengers on the bus at that particular location, the vehicle load factor at that spot is 30/40 or 75%. When there are 55 people on the bus a little further along the route, the vehicle load is 137% because there are more passengers than there are seats.

On routes with a high rate of passenger turnover (i.e. lots of passengers get on and off over the course of the trip), the vehicle load guideline is typically higher, and more standees are acceptable. This is because standing passengers will likely not be standing long on these types of routes as seats are vacated by passengers getting off the bus. On the other hand, Express and Regional Express routes have lower passenger turnover; most people will board the bus on one end of the route and get off the bus on the other end. Therefore, it is less likely that a passenger who is standing near the beginning of the trip would stand for the entire trip. In addition, trips on Regional Express Routes are typically longer than those on Express Routes, and for these long journeys, even minimal crowding begins to compromise passenger comfort. As such, the load guidelines for Regional Express Routes are lower than for Express Routes.

To these ends, Halifax Transit’s vehicle load guidelines are as follows:

Vehicle Load Guidelines by Service Type

Corridor Routes - 150%

Local Routes - 150%

Express Routes - 125%

Regional Express Routes - 115%

These load guidelines are intended to be calculated based on the average ridership over a 30 minute period.

If the vehicle load guidelines are consistently exceeded, consideration will be given to reducing overcrowding, although options may vary depending on circumstance and resource availability. This could mean assigning a larger vehicle to the route or trip as needed, adjusting schedule times to better disperse ridership demand, or adding more service to the route.

6.6.3    Span of Service Guidelines
Providing a basic level of service on all Local Routes where possible is the best way to ensure that a route can meet passenger needs over the course of the day. With this in mind, this section identifies a Base Level of service, or a minimum span of service for each service type. Contingent on funding and resource availability, all new service will be introduced with at least a Base Level of service. However, when routes display consistently low ridership, span of service can be reduced to align the service with ridership demand.
The minimum span of service on Local Routes is between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., Monday to Saturday, and 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. on Sunday. Additional service can be provided, depending on demand, outside of this span, including earlier morning trips and trips after 10:00 p.m. All additional service hours are monitored for economic performance and may be adjusted when demand does not meet ridership guidelines.

Base level service on Express Routes and Regional Express Routes include no fewer than two round trips per day (two in the a.m. peak and two in the p.m. peak) designed to arrive at their destination no later than 7:30 a.m. in the morning, and the last trip to leave its origin no earlier than 5:15 p.m. Rural Routes are not subject to the Base Level service as service increases are not possible.

6.6.4    Service Frequency Guidelines
The table below outlines the service frequency guidelines which Halifax Transit will strive to meet, based on customer demand and subject to budget availability:

Peak Off-Peak Saturday Sunday
Peak Off-Peak Saturday Sunday
Corridor Routes 5 -15 minutes 10-30 minutes 10-30 minutes 10-30 minutes
Local Routes 15-30 minutes 30-60 minutes 30-60 minutes 30-60 minutes
Express Routes 10-30 minutes N/A N/A N/A
Regional Express Routes 10-30 minutes N/A N/A N/A
Rural Routes Rural routes do not have minimum service frequency guidelines