Converting back to a green life, one week (and nap time) at a time

In Transit

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March/April 2015

I am defying mother nature and have clothes on the clothesline. Yes I had to track through several inches of fresh snow to do it but the sun is shining, the birds are singing and I don’t care any more. It is April after all and despite the several feet of snow remaining in the ground (yes, you read correctly, feet, or meters if you’d rather) I am determined to use the power of the sun and air to dry and freshen at least a few items of clothing. I tried yesterday with some success, but mid afternoon had to remove said items whilst an impromptu snow squall blew in. Take two today. The remainder of the clothes are in the dryer with a microfiber cloth, which I am quite liking as a substitute to dryer sheets (Week 48).

I also took part of this morning to review Halifax Transit’s proposed new transit plan. I’ve been involved in some of the public consultation (Week 34) and am rather opinionated on the issue (Week 3 and 16). As the late April deadline looms I figured it was high-time I had a look.

I was initially excited at the prospects of some major changes. The transit system hasn’t had a major overhaul in years (routes were just patched on, on an as needed basis) and was in desperate need of a systematic review.

My first look at the website was disheartening. I was greeted by the usual rainbow of colour that characterizes the current transit map. Initially I could see the routes were going to be no less complicated. I’m all for colour-coding, but it looses its meaning if too many are used. I wasn’t going to let that stop me. Sleeves of my Frenchy’s sweater rolled up, I got down to business.

I decided the easiest way to review the changes and provide constructive feedback would be to look at the various commutes I’ve taken in the last eight or so years. I rated each commute as either “better”, “no change” or “worse” depending on the ease with which I could determine the route changes, the frequency of service, number of transfers, and estimated commute time.

First up, downtown to MSVU: my previous commute took the # 80 directly from Spring Garden to MSVU, in about 30 minutes and ran on 20 minute frequency, on average. With the change, it looks like I would have to take the # 28 as far as somewhere and then switch to the # 8. With only 15-30 min service on each route, and no indication of the length of the commute or where I would actually make the transfer, I ranked this change as “worse”.

Next, Fairview to downtown: currently I could make the commute in about 20 minutes using a variety of buses that run every 15-30 minutes. With the new system, i still have some variety, and one route running quite near our house which would run every 15 minutes. I ranked this change as “better”, but really, this was not the routing that needed the most work in my mind.

Fairview to Bedford (Sunnyside): Currently can take # 80 every half hour with a 20 to 30 minute commute time depending on time of day. New system, # 8 every 15 minutes during rush hour and every 30 minutes midday. The increased service is definitely an improvement, but it was not clear where I would be able to pick up the # 8 (as it doesn’t stop at Bayer’s Road) and whether I would have to transfer. There was also no indication of how long it would take to reach the destination. So I rated this change as “no change” but potentially “worse” if I have to go from a direct route to a transfer.

Fairview to Burnside: Currently take the #52 every 15-30 minutes, takes about 1 ½ hours. New system would take the # 3 running every 10 minutes during rush hour, which is a definite improvement (and 20 minute service the rest of the day isn’t bad either). However it still does not go to the part of Burnside that I needed access to so I would still need to transfer somewhere or walk, and there was no indication of how long the commute would take (but still looks like a milkrun). Another option is the # 237 on Main Avenue, running only every 30 minutes and only during rush hour, and again does not service the part of Burnside I worked in.

Finally, Fairview to Dartmouth: currently # 52 every 20-30 minutes with a 20-30 minute commute time. New system – # 3 every 10 minutes and with a stop on Joe Howe, but no indication of how long the commute would be – I rated this as “better” to “no change”.

While I don’t expect direct routes from point A to point B just for me, I do expect ease of use to be a major factor in the design. It took me over an hour to review each of these routes, and not without some frustration. The map tool looked easy enough, but was actually cumbersome for looking at individual routes. Also, it wasn’t clear where the transfer points would be (e.g. terminals were listed pictographically but did not list the name of the terminals or what buses stopped there).

I’ll admit I’m rather spatially challenged, and upon discussing the new system with my husband, he was actually quite pleased with it and saw some advantages that I hadn’t seen –but not for lack of looking. Which is basically my point – part of the reason folks don’t use transit now, besides lack of frequency, is that it’s too hard to figure out. Stop times are random (e.g. 8:37 departure) and there are just too many routes. But that’s just my two cents. I expect I will continue to use transit regardless of the routes, because I just believe in it that much. Or at least as long as my pregnant body will cooperate.

I’m glad I had the brainpower today to do this activity, thanks to a great night’s sleep (the first in many months – thank you daughter of mine!), though I was woken at 6am with a mouth full of blood (thank you pregnancy tumor – so glad you decided to make an appearance this pregnancy as well). Otherwise feeling pretty good these days (though I was a bit worried I was prematurely loosing my mucous plug this weekend after, well, I won’t go into the romantic details but suffice to say I think everything is ok now), and further comforted by the in utero kickboxing classes and homemade Easter chocolate (a tradition we started last year to avoid packaging – Week  15). Dr’s appointment this Friday. Ultrasound results. No news is good news?


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