By Leslie Flemming
Let me begin by saying that I am not too good for public transportation. I had a bus pass for several years of my life, and I’m as handy with a Halifax Metro Transit map as anyone you know. However, I have had the good fortune to live in cities where public transit allows for the smooth and efficient delivery of individuals from point A to point B with little pain and minimal expense, and Halifax is not one of those cities.
My negative encounters with Halifax Metro Transit have been numerous. I’ve watched drivers pull away from the curb as would-be bus riders runs toward them, arms flailing, only seconds away from the bus door. I’ve been told to switch busses because the brakes on the bus I’ve been on for the last 10 minutes weren’t working. I’ve also had several experiences in which the bus scheduled to arrive simply does not materialize. At all. Ever.
Inefficiencies, missed busses and screwed-up schedules are pretty much par for the course with all public transit systems across the world, but my dissatisfaction with the Halifax Metro Transit services reached ultimate heights this weekend. My boyfriend and I were invited to dinner at a friend’s house, and as we do not have a car, we sometimes use the bus to get to destinations that are not within walking distance. The #20 bus runs up Spring Garden Road (near my apartment), around the rotary, and close to my friend’s house, so it seemed like a reasonable plan to take this bus to and from the dinner.
The journey around the rotary and to my friend’s house went smoothly enough, and I was feeling pretty good about my own mastery of the bus system. But my successful transportation-induced high was not to last. After a lovely dinner, I called Go Time (the primitive dial-in system used to check the Halifax Metro Transit bus schedule) and we made our way to the bus stop. We stood on the side of Herring Cove Road awaiting the #20 bus that would take us back downtown, and after a few minutes we saw it approaching. We moved forward to the absolute edge of the sidewalk, stood in the street light to make ourselves quite visible, got our bus money ready, and then watched the bus DRIVE RIGHT BY US. It didn’t slow down even a little bit… just barreled through, and left us in its wake. The #20 is the only bus on this route, so our choices were to wait another hour for the next bus (which may also blow right by us), or hoof it around the rotary and up the hill to Halifax Shopping Centre, and hope to catch a bus from the terminal there. We opted against spending an indeterminate amount of our Friday night huddled in a bus stop on Herring Cove Road, and after trekking to the mall (in heels that were not make for walking), we ended up taking a different bus and eventually arriving home 1.5 hours later.
Now, fortunately I had a companion on this unfortunate series of events and we were able to figure out a solution (albeit an inconvenient one) to our problem. But what if I had been travelling alone? What if I had a physical limitation that rendered me unable to walk to the Shopping Centre bus terminal? Well, then I would have been shit outta luck, because apparently punctuality, reliability, and the safety of their would-be customers are not things that Metro Transit is too concerned about.
It’s ridiculous that a city like Halifax can’t figure out a way to provide reliable public transportation to its citizens. It’s preposterous that a driver would drive by a stop on its route, where people are clearly waiting, and not even slow down. And it’s INSANE that there is nowhere on the Metro Transit website to complain about this! So here’s my uncensored rant. I am tired of the crappy public transit service available in Halifax. I’m so incensed that I’ve been driven to create a visual representation of my anger (and I am not artistically inclined). Metro Transit, when your service is so unreliable that it puts bus riders in potentially dangerous situations and forces them to create artistic abominations so that they can express their feelings, it’s a problem. This needs to stop.
Follow Leslie on twitter: @ljflemming