Mount Saint Vincent University students are calling for the return of Halifax Transit’s Route 18.
Students such as Kenya Thompson are complaining that the loss of the university-bound route has affected them “in a huge way.”
“I used to live off-campus in Clayton Park and I ended up moving onto campus largely because of the changes, the loss of 18 in particular,” said Thompson. “Last year when the 18 was in place, it only took me 15 minutes on the bus ride down to campus, but now it takes two buses and over 45 minutes to get to my old place.”
On Aug. 20, Halifax Transit enacted changes from The Moving Forward Together Plan, getting rid of a variety of routes including 23, 2, 34 and – perhaps most controversially – 18.
According to the plan, the changes were meant to increase the proportion of resources allocated towards high ridership routes, build a simplified transfer based system, invest in service quality and reliability and give transit increased priority in the transportation network.
For many MSVU students, however, the plan has not stood by its promises.
“These changes have not made things easier,” said Thompson. “Even to get to the Mount from Clayton Park, or to the mall or even just to get groceries it is now a huge ordeal, it is actually quicker to walk up the hill than it is to take the bus and transfer onto two buses.”
Mike Mason, another MSVU student, has also been feeling the brunt of the changes. “I used to be able to get all the way downtown on one single bus, now I have to take two or three buses to get anywhere I’m trying to get to,” said Mason. “The less consistent schedule makes it harder for me to get home at night and unless I want to walk 3km uphill, I need to take the bus.”
In an email statement, Halifax Regional Municipality spokesperson Erin DiCarlo said that “during this consultation [of the changes], feedback indicated that demand for ridership between MSVU and SMU was lower than other connections on the peninsula, therefore we placed emphasis on connections between MSVU and Robie St.”
The new Route 39, said DiCarlo, has replaced elements of both Route 16 and Route 18. Meanwhile, “other trips can be accommodated with a single transfer.”
”We expect these changes will take time to settle as new students make different accommodation choices.”
Despite these claims, students aren’t feeling the intended positive effects of these changes.
“Public transportation is meant for low-income folks, it is meant for folks that aren’t able to afford a car and a lot of people who need to access Halifax. It’s very basic,” said Thompson “The fact that MSVU students were clearly not included in that, I think that’s really problematic.”
Through efforts from the MSVU students’ union, changes could be on the horizon: “We received a report and petition from the Mount Saint Vincent University student union with suggestions for change,” said DiCarlo. “We are working with the student union on plans for future service changes on the Bedford Highway. We value and welcome feedback from all Transit users – we’re always looking at ways to improve service.”
That said, it appears that route adjustments – if any – won’t be happening in the immediate future. In the statement, DiCarlo noted “the current plan is not to reinstate Route 18. All significant changes made by Halifax Transit are approved and/or directed by Regional Council. It is therefore not impossible but it is more likely that alterations will be considered to the new routes or routes planned for the future. Halifax Transit will also be monitoring ridership on the new routes to consider adjustments where required.”
This means students such as Thompson and Mason will be out of luck for now.
“Bring the 18 back as it was or amend the 4 route schedule so that it services the Mount,” said Mason, speaking the mindset of many MSVU students.
As for Thompson, she’s more focused on the overall landscape of Halifax Transit: “They need to listen to the folks that they serve and ensure that the bus is a service that folks can depend on.”
Are you a Dal student who is struggling to commute since the elimination of Route 18 or other routes? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.