City traffic plan proposes road tolls

After much debate, HRM Councillors gave the Transportation Standing Committee the okay to move forward with a plan that could reduce traffic in the peninsula.

The plan recommends increasing parking fees, implementing road tolls to enter the peninsula, and designating lanes for multiple-passenger vehicles.

By Catherine McIntyre

The Scotia Square bus terminal (Catherine McIntyre photo).
After much debate, HRM Councillors gave the Transportation Standing Committee the okay to move forward with a plan that could reduce traffic in the peninsula.

The plan recommends increasing parking fees, implementing road tolls to enter the peninsula, and designating lanes for multiple-passenger vehicles.

“There are some very drastic suggestions here,” said Coun. Mary Wile. She said one of them is monthly parking fees would be more expensive than public transportation costs.

Coun. Steve Streatch said the plan limits the abilities of people “to carry on activities they see fit.” He said, “A lot of people in this room maybe want to stuff 20 people in a Volkswagen and drive to work, and that’s fine. But I drive to work in a half-ton truck and I have no intention of changing.”

Director of Transportation and Public Works, Ken Reashor said, “Not all of us are going to be in favour of the same things.”

Coun. Jennifer Watts of the Transportation Standing Committee said the plan offers enough options so people can find an alternative to single occupancy vehicles that is practical for them. “Making the transit system more accessible and better-working is important,” she said.

Coun. David Hendsbee received media attention last month after advocating for road tolls into the peninsula.

“Some people thought I was a visionary, some thought I was a lunatic.”

Coun. Hendsbee said public education is needed to clarify the plan and change attitudes about transportation. “I’m glad this report is finally in the public domain.”

Coun. Watts said the cost of road tolls or a better transit system might discourage people from supporting the the plan. But she says the money and infrastructure needed to implement it would be far less than would be needed for everyone to drive a car.

“It’s hard to make the translation that spending money on improving public transit is much more economical for the city than spending money to improve roads,” said Coun. Watts.

External links
Staff Report
Transportation Demand Management
Halifax Cycling Coalition
CBC News

Councillors expressed concern that approving the plan would mean approving every item listed in the report.

“I’m a little leery to support this in principle,” said Coun. Reg Rankin. “Because when you support in principle you’re saying, ‘yes, let’s go do that’.”

But Reashor  and Coun. Watts said not every idea will come into effect. The plan requires budget support and anything requiring budget needs to be approved by Council.

Coun. Watts said ideas will be considered on a case-by-case basis. “For example, if we wanted to put in high occupancy lanes, then that idea would have to be approved by Council.”

“It certainly is not a perfect plan,” she admitted. “But I think many members of the public will support it. This is a long awaited recognition of the desires of many people.”

 

Listen to Councillor Jennifer Watts discuss the public’s attitude about transportationWatts