Part 1: Background

Disclaimer: Legacy Content

The information on this page is derived from Moving Forward Together Plan, approved by Halifax Regional Council in 2016. Minor adjustments to route numbering and route planning have since been made and approved in Halifax Transit Annual Service Plans. 


Public transit has been a part of the Halifax landscape since the early 1800s, when The Sherbrooke, a horse powered ferry, entered into service with the Halifax Steam Boat Company. For almost 200 years, transit vehicles have provided a cost effective, efficient means to get around for generations of residents and visitors.

Recent investment in transit services has had a large impact  on the quality, accessibility, and availability of transit in Halifax. In the past 10 years, total service hours have increased by 63%, and today, Halifax Transit provides more service hours per capita than any other Canadian transit property serving a similar population size.

Halifax Transit provides an integrated public transit system for over 300,000 residents living in communities  within  the  Halifax  Regional  Municipality,  using  65 routes and a fleet of 325 vehicles, 100% of which will be low floor accessible by the end of 2016. Transit is recognized as a key element in addressing economic, environmental, land use,  and transportation objectives of the Municipality, in the face of both a changing landscape and dynamic population.

The 2016 Halifax Transit 

  • 65 Fixed Routes
  • 325 Buses
  • 5 Ferries
  • 13 Terminals
  • 2 Garages
  • 16 Terminals and Park & Ride Lots
  • Over 26.2 million boardings per year

The overall structure of the existing transit network is a radial grid, with the primary focus of most routes on either downtown Halifax or downtown Dartmouth. In the more rural parts of the Region, routes tend to converge at the nearest terminal, where passengers can transfer to routes which travel downtown. Some routes are notable exceptions, and provide direct trips across town, not directly serving the downtown core.

Although there has been substantial growth and expansion in recent years, the underlying transit network has not seen significant changes since the early 1990s. Many routes on the road today have remained largely unchanged for decades, despite the fact that in the intervening years, there have been significant changes to adjacent land uses and travel patterns.

The transit network today reflects the thinking of a number of different transit planning ideologies, and as a result the network does not operate as a cohesive system, but rather as a complex web of routes which do not always complement one another or integrate well. The existing network is difficult to learn, and its complexity has become a barrier to many potential transit users.

1.1   Halifax Transit Mission Statement

Halifax Transit’s Mission Statement is as follows:

Working together to provide a safe, reliable and sustainable transit system for all.”

This mission statement is applicable to all facets of Halifax Transit’s organization, including the development of this plan. This plan has been prepared through collaboration with Halifax Transit staff, other municipal departments, and the public. Implementation of the Moving Forward Together Plan will assist in achieving this mission statement by increasing the reliability and sustainability of the transit network.

1.2    About The Moving Forward Together Plan

The Moving Forward Together Plan is intended to initiate the restructuring of the transit network, and guide the implementation of service improvements. It proposes new service types, service guidelines, and performance measures, along with a network redesign.

In alignment with the Halifax Transit Mission Statement, changes outlined in this plan will recognize the strengths in the existing network by increasing frequency of service, extending the service day and enhancing reliability of service in key high transit ridership corridors. It will also build on the success of the existing MetroLink and Urban Express services, which offer limited stop service for commuters during peak periods. These changes are intended to improve the overall attractiveness of the Halifax Transit network, improve the experience for existing users and make transit more competitive with private vehicles.

1.3    Related Initiatives

The Moving Forward Together Plan is part of a bigger picture for growth and development in Halifax. In addition to this plan, there are a number of other plans and programs being undertaken by Halifax Transit and other Municipal Business Units to make transit and active transportation more attractive and accessible.

Some of these plans and programs are described below:

The Regional Municipal Planning Strategy: As noted above, The Regional Plan for Halifax establishes a long-range, region-wide strategy which outlines where, when, and how future growth and development should take place. Regional Council began research associated with the development of a regional plan in the fall of 2001 to ensure future growth is both fiscally and environmentally sustainable.  The Regional Municipal Planning Strategy (or The Regional Plan) was approved in 2006, and the first five year review concluded when the 2014 Regional Plan was adopted on October 18th, 2014. Among the themes and actions underlying the first five year review is a focus on growth centres and corridors, appropriately designed transit service, improvements in the experience of transit users, the enhancement of transit service in appropriate areas, and increasing transit ridership while reducing single-occupant vehicle trips.

The Integrated Mobility Plan: This plan, currently under development, is intended to be a strategic plan specifically aimed at increasing the modal split of sustainable forms of transportation as per the Regional Plan. The Integrated Mobility Plan will help to direct our future investment in transportation demand management, transit and the active transportation and roadway network. The plan will also strive to identify the two-way inter-relationship between growth patterns and investment in mobility. The plan will examine a variety of scenarios and will test the ability of each to address the need to link people and communities with each other and with the goods, services and employment opportunities which they seek, in an environmentally sensitive, socially beneficial and fiscally responsible manner. A choice of interconnected travel modes can form a powerful tool for shaping future development. For this to occur, new investments in infrastructure or services should be strategically planned in conjunction with land use and coordinated with all levels of government. The scope of the project will include factors that influence demand, sway mode choice, affect life cycle costs and contribute to the economy of the region. The plan will clearly state Council’s priorities for investment and their relationship to growth patterns: regional centre, in-fill within the urban service boundary and extension of the urban service boundary.

The Halifax Transit Technology Plan: In 2012, Halifax Transit partnered with Halifax’s Finance and Information, Communication and Technology department to develop a five year strategy to adopt new technology in Halifax Transit’s operations and customer  service platforms. This ambitious plan represents an approximately $44 million dollar commitment by Regional Council to improve the efficiency of the transit operations and ridership experience. The final strategy, titled A Transit Technical Solutions Roadmap, includes approximately 30 new projects.

While some of the proposed projects will not impact customer service directly, the replacement of Halifax Transit’s current Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) and Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) systems will set the groundwork for customer service-related projects such as public interfaces, stop annunciation and a fare management system.

Bicycle repair facility at Lacewood Terminal

Bicycle repair facility at Lacewood Terminal

Halifax Active Transportation Priorities Plan (2014): The Halifax Regional Municipality Active Transportation Functional Plan identifies the approach that the municipality will take to meet the modal share objectives to double the number of residents who choose to walk or bicycle. The 2014- 2019 Halifax Active Transportation Priorities Plan provides an update of the 2006 plan and identifies the candidate routes and facility types for urban, suburban and rural areas of the municipality for both on and off-road facilities and identifies priority initiatives for the next five years. Many of the key projects recommended in the Active Transportation Priorities Plan provide improved active transportation connections to key transit facilities.

Rural Transit Funding Program: Recognizing that the Halifax Transit service model may not be the most appropriate service in rural communities, Regional Council has approved the Rural Transit Funding Program, which provides funding support to community organizations offering transit services to residents. Approved in August 2014, as of December 2015, two rural transit service providers receive funding through this program.

Metro Transit Universal Accessibility Plan: The intent of the Universal Accessibility Plan prepared in 2011 is to improve the overall accessibility of the Halifax Transit fixed route bus and ferry system. This plan is used to inform development of Halifax Transit infrastructure  and communication materials.

1.4    Development of The Moving Forward Together Plan

On February 26, 2013, Regional Council initiated the development of the new five year strategic planning framework for Halifax Transit. At this time, it was anticipated that the planning process would take approximately one year to complete, and would include two rounds of public consultation.

A multifaceted public and stakeholder engagement plan for the first round of consultation  was developed and presented to the Transportation Standing Committee in July of 2013. The formal public and stakeholder engagement process began in August of 2013, and continued until October15th, 2013.

1.5    Values Based Consultation

1.5.1    First Round of Consultation
The initial round of public consultation was values based and was intended to provide an overall direction for the plan’s development. Participants were asked to think big and to tell Halifax Transit how it should grow, expand, and prioritize resource investment for the next five years.

In order to engage as many people as possible, a diverse public engagement strategy was developed and heavily promoted in print ads, over the radio, through social media, bus advertisements, and through a direct mail-out.

The public engagement strategy included the following elements:

• Stakeholder meetings;
• Public meetings;
• Online engagement; and
• Online and paper-based surveys.

Due to the diversity of engagement opportunities, participants represented all districts in the Municipality, and approximately one quarter of survey participants were not regular transit users.

The following summarizes participation in the engagement process:
• 25 stakeholder groups participated in three stakeholder meetings;
• 135 individuals participated in six public meetings;
• 2,115 registered site users on the project website;
         • 1,600 online surveys were completed;
• Approximately 60 paper surveys were completed;
• Over 130 email submissions were received.

1.5.2    Consultation Summary

All participants were asked to provide feedback on four key themes. The following summarizes the overall findings of the public engagement activities in the first round of public consultation, organized by theme.

What should the Goal of the network be?

This discussion demonstrated that diverse opinions exist about why public transit is important to the Municipality. Overall, participants indicated that a shift towards higher ridership services should be the priority in the next five years, however there was some recognition of the importance of services that have lower ridership. While there was some discussion about the importance of low ridership routes in less dense areas, the majority of participants who felt low ridership services were important were focused on maintaining or increasing key services in the off-peak periods.

What role should transfers play in the Halifax Transit network?

Across all public engagement activities, participants indicated strong support for increasing the role of transfers in the Halifax Transit network if it resulted in shorter, more reliable and frequent routes. This support was contingent on the following conditions being met:

• The frequency of connecting transit services is high;
• The use of transfers make the total trip time faster;
• There is appropriate infrastructure so that passengers are comfortable while waiting for their transfer; and
• Service is reliable so that connections are not missed.

How should resources be split between maintaining the existing network and increasing service?

Participants consistently indicated that both the maintenance of existing service and the introduction of new service were important, although many agreed that there should be slightly more emphasis on improving the reliability of the existing service.

Public Consultation Fall 2014

Public Consultation Fall 2014

What role should Transit Priority Measures play in the Halifax Transit network?

Overall, there was strong support for the implementation of Transit Priority Measures (TPMs), but many noted that each situation must be carefully considered to ensure that the right measure is implemented in the right location. Both regular transit users and non- transit users agreed that TPMs play a key role in increasing the reliability of transit, and in making it more attractive and user-friendly.

1.6    Developing the Moving Forward Principles

The results of the values based consultation were used to develop the Moving Forward Principles, the foundation on which the plan is designed. The Moving Forward Principles were developed to reflect the findings of the consultation, and were endorsed by Regional Council in January 2014. These are intended to be general, values based statements to help direct the development of the plan, and also to provide guidance to decision making over the life of the plan. They are explored further in this document.

These principles are:

1. Increase the proportion of resources allocated towards high ridership services.
2. Build a simplified transfer based system.
3. Invest in service quality and reliability.
4. Give transit increased priority in the transportation network.

In order to ensure that the transit network best meets the intent of the Moving Forward Principles, Regional Council approved an expansion in the initial scope of work proposed as part of the Moving Forward Together Plan to include a comprehensive review of the entire transit network, and an increase in the life of the plan beyond the five year horizon.

1.7    Drafting the Plan

Following direction from Regional Council in January 2014, Halifax Transit began the process of conducting a comprehensive review of the transit network in order to propose a draft plan and network design that has a consistent, cohesive, approach to transit planning, reconciling the inconsistencies in the existing network.

The development of the Plan was informed by a variety of data sources including census Journey to Work data, the National Household Survey, ridership counts, terminal surveys, the regional VISUM traffic model, MetroLink origin-destination surveys, and proposed developments across the region. Also reviewed were a number of surveys and other documentation prepared by other organizations related to transit needs, including Capital Health, the Greater Burnside Business Association, Dalhousie University, and the Main Street Business Improvement District.

The drafting process was iterative, and focused on finding the right balance of transfer based and single seat trips for Halifax. As the network evolved, staff tested the system by comparing typical trips which are made on the Halifax Transit network today, with trips that would be made in the proposed conceptual network.

The draft Moving Forward Together Plan used the elements of a transfer based model that are best adapted to the geography and road network in Halifax, and built on some of the most successful services and routes currently operating in the network. It attempted to accommodate the most significant travel patterns with minimal transfers, but used transfers strategically to simplify the system and create efficiencies.

1.8    Consultation on the Draft Plan

Public engagement on the draft Moving Forward Together Plan was carried out over a period of ten weeks from February 17 – April 24, 2015. In order to ensure a robust consultation with as many Halifax residents as possible, Halifax Transit developed a program which focused on bringing the engagement opportunity directly to people, where they spend their time in person and online. The engagement strategy acknowledged that people have busy lives, and aimed to make it as easy as possible to learn about the proposed transit network redesign and to provide specific feedback on how it would impact residents’ transit use.

The biggest challenge through this process was to clearly articulate complex information about the proposed transit network that would allow residents to provide specific, informed feedback. To these ends, the website was developed to provide both high level and very detailed information about the changes and strategic direction proposed in the draft Moving Forward Together Plan.

The following snapshot of the program and participation levels demonstrates the significant interest and commitment of residents and stakeholders to engage in this process.

1.9    Engagement Activities The primary means of gathering public feedback was an online survey on the project website, Resources on the website included an introductory video, interactive map, and the proposed changes to individual routes and communities. This allowed residents to access as much information as required to understand the impact of the proposed network on their use of transit prior to responding to the survey.


• The survey was available from February 17–April 24, 2015 on the Make Transit Better website
• Also available by mail upon request
• 50,000+ unique website visitors
• 15,370 survey responses, 11,607 of which were completed surveys
• Nearly 2,400 surveys were completed within the first 24 hours
• Respondents provided the first three digits of their postal codes Survey Submissions Survey Submissions

Pop–Up Engagement Events: These were hosted in high traffic locations throughout the transit service area to create awareness and encourage online participation. Transit staff were on-hand to answer questions directly and people were encouraged to provide their feedback online at A number of pop-up locations were added to the schedule based on feedback from communities and members of Regional Council.


• 20 events
• 2,480 individual interactions

Stakeholder Consultation Sessions: The purpose of the stakeholder sessions was to provide a thorough briefing on the draft Moving Forward Together Plan, answer questions, and gather valuable feedback from key transit stakeholders on the strengths of the plan and possible gaps.


• Four events
• 37 organizations participated The municipal online engagement portal site served as a comprehensive information resource and provided the opportunity for deeper engagement through discussion forums.


• 2,190 unique visitors
• 605 engaged visitors (e.g. took the quick poll, contributed to a discussion forum)

Public  Opinion  Research:  Two  telephone  surveys  were  conducted  by  Corporate  Research Associates  (Halifax  Urban  Report)  in  February  and May 2015 tomeasure the impact of the engagement program on public awareness of the changes and to assess the level of public support for the proposed network redesign.


• 800 residents surveyed
• 65%  awareness  of  proposed  network  changes  (an  increase  of  14%  over  the 10-week engagement period)

Twitter Town Halls: Twitter Town Halls are informal consultation sessions which allow interested members  of  the  public  to  engage  in  a  Town  Hall-style  meeting  online.  Using  the  hashtag #MakeTransitBetter, participants could “tweet” questions about the draft plan and have their questions answered in real time by Halifax Transit staff. As part of the consultation strategy, two Twitter Town halls were held in April 2015. These events facilitated direct engagement with residents and allowed significant distribution of information to, and through, Halifax Transit’s more than 23,000 Twitter followers.


• 173 participants
• 486 tweets
• 550,000+ impressions

Written submissions: Stakeholder organizations were invited to make formal submissions on behalf of their organizations, providing their detailed feedback on the draft plan.


• Nine organizations made submissions by email at
    • Canada Revenue Agency
    • CentreCorp Management Services
    • Halifax Chamber of Commerce
    • Halifax Cycling Coalition
    • It’s More than Buses
    • Main Street Business Improvement District
    • Point Pleasant Child Care Centre
    • Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron
    • St. Vladimir’s Christian Orthodox Church
    • Nearly one thousand emails were received from the general public

 1.10    Feedback Summary

The most common theme of public feedback during the engagement process was that the proposed network would mean a lot of change, for a lot of people. The potential impacts of the proposed changes on individuals’ use of transit drove much of the specific feedback offered on the Plan.

Overall, there was strong support for the strategic direction of the Plan among stakeholders and the broader public. Stakeholders’ support was qualified with specific feedback regarding opportunities for refinement of the Plan.

In addition, proposed service enhancements were very well received. Arguably best received was the proposed introduction of 10 corridors routes forming the spine of the network, and expanded Express (commuter-focused) service which were viewed as strengths.

The proposed reduction or elimination of service and the realignment of particular routes generated considerable negative response among existing riders. While there were a number of changes that generated this feedback, changes to Routes 1, 80 and 90 were mentioned most frequently.

1.10.1    Stakeholder Consultation

Stakeholder were asked to share their thoughts on how the draft Moving Forward Together Plan aligned with the four Moving Forward Principles, arising from the 2013 consultation process and endorsed by Regional Council. Approximately 72% indicated they felt the draft Plan was aligned with the Moving Forward Principles.

The key strengths and gaps of the draft Moving Forward Together Plan were identified by stakeholders as follows:

What Stakeholders Like About the Plan What's Missing
What Stakeholders Like About the Plan What's Missing
- Simpler and more understandable
- Eliminates redundancies
- Corridor Routes as the backbone of the network
- Priority given to high ridership areas
- Transfer-based system
- Expanded Express service
- Infrastructure improvements & new terminal
Doesn't go far enough
- Doesn't outline specific TPM measures
- Should have higher off-peak frequency on Corridor routes
- Should have longer hours of service
- Should have more efficient transfers
- Shorter implementation timeframe
- Opposition to service reductions/elimination
- No opportunity to see the updated Plan before it goes to Regional Council

1.10.2    Overview of Survey Findings

The online survey provided rich quantitative and qualitative rider and non-rider feedback on the plan.

Of 12,831 written comments relevant to this plan, 72% related to the impact of specific route changes, 19% pertained to frequency/hours of service and 11% were about transfers. The top reasons for making individuals’ trips better or worse were identified as follows:

These changes make my trip better These changes make my trip worse
These changes make my trip better These changes make my trip worse
1. My trip is more direct 1. My service has been reduced or eliminated
2. I can travel more often 2. My trip is less direct
3. My route(s) run later or earlier 3. I have to transfer too much
4. Transfers give me more travel options

1.10.3    Public Opinion Research

Results from a telephone survey conducted by Corporate Research Associates in early May 2015 found a 73% level of public support for the proposed changes.

1.10.4    Petitions

Additionally, some communities organized to oppose proposed changes that would affect their level of transit service, or to lobby for expanded service through organized feedback on the survey, emails or petitions. Those included:

Route 1: West End Peninsula residents displeased with proposed changes to the Route 1.
Route 7: North End Peninsula residents displeased with proposed changes to the Route 7.
Route 15: Residents displeased with proposed elimination of service on Purcells Cove Road between Williams Lake Road and York Redoubt.
Eastern Passage Connection – residents requesting a connection between Cole Harbour and Eastern Passage via Caldwell Road.
Lawrencetown: Residents of Lawrencetown requesting transit service.
Route 400: Residents  displeased with the proposed discontinuation of service between Beaver Bank Villa and Kinsac Road along Beaver Bank Road.
Route 401: Residents of Porters Lake displeased with the proposed removal of service from Grand Desert and Back Road.

1.11 Most Frequent Comments

The following table summarizes the most common themes emerging from consultation based on the previous draft network:

Table 1: Most Frequent Comments on Draft Network [PDF]

Document - Part 1 - Background in [PDF] format - 712kb - 15 pages (2 are on 11 x 17)