What Happens When Halifax Transit Decides to Send Buses Through Your Neighbourhood?

Halifax Transit plans to permanently detour the Route 1 Spring Garden to bypass busy Bayers Road into an adjoining residential neighbourhood. (Google Maps)


From her front window, Tanya Kavelaars-DiPenta can see the intersection of Connolly Street and Roslyn Road, an intersection she’s become increasingly worried about.

After moving to Roslyn last year, Kavelaars-DiPenta noticed an increase of traffic on the “quiet residential street.” This included Halifax Transit’s Route 1 bus and other vehicle traffic looking to avoid road construction and traffic congestion.

When the bus stops to let passengers off, she’s seen other drivers swerve around the stopped vehicle, almost hitting pedestrians at that intersection.

“I used to commute, and I understand people wanting to take shortcuts to get around a congested area,” says Kavelaars-DiPenta. “I totally get that, but my issue is with the cars coming down our street, driving fast.”

Along with her own, which includes a three year old and a nine month old, the area is home to many families, including fellow neighbour Don Doiron, who also has a nine month old.

“You watch (drivers) and they’re very aggressive,” he says. “I really don’t think it’s safe.”

Along with families, Roslyn Road has a daycare and  the street is close to St. Catherine’s Elementary and the Halifax Independent School.

Residents have expressed these and other concerns to various departments and individuals with Halifax Regional Municipality. They’ve made calls to 311, the non-emergency police line, Halifax Transit and contacted local councillors.

Municipal staff have done traffic calming studies on Roslyn, but Taso Koutroulakis, HRM’s Manager of Traffic Management, says the street isn’t a top priority. Traffic volume, proximity to schools and the amount of sidewalks are some areas the studies look at.

[Click to enlarge] Halifax Transit plans to permanently detour the Route 1 Spring Garden to bypass busy Bayers Road into an adjoining residential neighbourhood. (Google Maps)
“It is on our radar,” says Koutroulakis. “Based on that assessment, we did find that Roslyn qualified, under policy, for traffic calming measures. Although, it did rank lower compared to other streets we looked over the last year.”

According to the HRM’s website, traffic calming measures can include traffic circles, curb extensions and speed humps.

Kavelaars-DiPenta says a four way stop at the Connolly and Roslyn intersection would improve street safety.

“It would slow people down and make people aware of their surroundings,” she says. “It would also give kids a safe way to cross to St. Catherine’s and the Halifax Independent School.”

While Roslyn may get traffic calming measures in the future, the transit issue might not be solved by these changes.  As mentioned, buses were rerouted last summer due to construction and continued to be so throughout the last year.

According to Halifax’s Transit’s Twitter, during the month of March, over a dozen Route 1 buses used Roslyn Road due to “congestion.” However, Kavelaars-DiPenta can see Bayers Road from her backyard. She says she’s seen buses use Roslyn when there aren’t traffic issues.

Halifax Transit’s Planning and Scheduling Manager, Patricia Hughes, says changes are done as issues arise.

“Congestion will be so bad and you’ll be stuck there for so long, that you’ll have three or four or five buses in a row,” she says. “They’ll be so clogged up that the rest of the route won’t be service or is really delayed.

For unplanned rerouting, not much notice given, but Transit does post updates to Twitter and buses will say on detour when travelling.

“Transit is very much an active spot, where we constantly reacting and adapting to what’s on the street,” says Hughes. “Generally, whoever finds the issue first is writing into operation centre and we’re dealing with the best way we can.”

Hughes says that sometimes drivers report these route disruptions; with mobile supervisors checking the scene once congestion has cleared. If it’s related to construction, they are advised in advance and buses detour accordingly.

In a March 2016 staff report on the Draft Moving Forward Together Plan, Roslyn is specifically identified as an alternate route to Bayers Road during the PM Peak Outbound times. The plan aims to improve transit services in the municipality.

In a November 2016 staff report, it was acknowledged Roslyn was not a “desirable solution” to the Bayers Road problem and a better solution would be explored.

“The way it’s written in the Moving Forward Together Plan is it would be an interim solution, with the ultimate goal being service to Bayers Road,” says Hughes.

Eventually, a more permanent solution, a transit lane on Bayers, was proposed. The HRM issued a call for street widening tenders for Bayers Road, which will include two bus lanes, on March 27. The application deadline was April 24 and work for the project is to be completed by 2020.

Hughes says they are in the early design stages of the Bayers Road project and aren’t sure what detours would be required.

Due to the ongoing congestion, a temporary change will also be added to Route 1’s schedule this summer, allowing buses to officially use Roslyn from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m . A bus stop will also be set up on the street.

An official announcement regarding the route change hasn’t been made yet. Hughes says most of the service changes will be made in August, so they hope to do it around that time. Transit has also been in contact with area residents about their concerns and will be talking with them as the change progresses.

“It’s not ideal for sure, so we want to engage with those residents, but I don’t have any specifics I can share right now,” she says adding that they are working on a communication strategy for these changes.”

While Doiron understands an alternate route is sometimes needed, he says there are “artery” streets, like Windsor Street and Bayers Road, which are designed for those travelling to and from downtown. He feels other streets should be protected from this type of traffic.

“Why can’t you put some deterrent on your residential streets, to allow and foster a neighbourhood?,” he says. “People who live on the peninsula choose their neighbourhoods, so why should they be impacted when you have these arteries?

Kavelaars-DiPenta has a similar view.

“I don’t think the number one has a place on quiet, residential street like ours,” she says. “If we wanted to live on a busy route, like Bayers Road, we would have bought a home there.”

For the foreseeable future, Route 1 will continue to use Roslyn Road and residents will continue to speak up about traffic issues.

“It’s impacting us, so we’re making our voices heard,” says Doiron.

[Editor’s note: Municipal staff have since scheduled a traffic study for later this month.]

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