Halifax Regional Council reconvenes on Tuesday with a discussion on ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft set to dominate the meeting.
Municipal council has two issues it needs to address that pertains to ride-sharing in the municipality: a deferred request about a staff report from Matt Whitman, councillor for Hammonds Plains – St. Margarets, and recommendations from Halifax’s Transportation Standing Committee.
There are a few procedural issues that need to be dealt with by council in what promises to be a relatively short meeting on Tuesday.
Uber and Lyft in Halifax
By far the subject most likely to draw the public’s attention is the discussion around introducing ride-sharing services to Halifax.
A request from Whitman for a staff report, which was deferred at the last council meeting, may be redundant as a result of the recommendations from the Transportation Standing Committee.
The committee had passed along three recommendations after a municipal staff report concluded it would be “inevitable” that ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft would make their way to the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM)
It has been recommended that they direct staff to prepare amendments that would govern licensing and conduct of taxi drivers and ride-sharing services while asking for a supplementary report that would look at how the HRM should regulate ride-sharing services, which staff refer to as Transportation Network Companies (TNCs).
Finally, council will request that the mayor write a letter to the province to request an amendment to the HRM charter that would allow the municipality to provide grants for vehicle conversions or purchases for accessible taxi licence holders.
Under current regulations, Uber could operate in Halifax as a dispatcher, like Casino or Yellow, but they would have to employ people with taxi-owner licences.
These owner licences, which are different from personal cab licences, are tied to a vehicle and are required for any cab in the municipality, but the waitlist to get one is hundreds of names long — some have been on the wait list for at least 13 years.
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More buses, more money
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Halifax council is set to approve an increase to a contract with Nova Bus Ltd., the company that supplies the standard Halifax Transit bus.
Transit is set to exceed the upper limit of 100 vehicle purchases allowed in the contract terms and are asking council to approve an increased contract that would allow them to purchase 127 buses instead of the previously agreed upon 100 buses.
Staff says the move is necessary so transit can meet its service targets in the 2019/2020 fiscal year as they have had a “significant need for replacement” buses due to an aging fleet and use of non-accessible high floor buses.
The 27 buses, as well as the eight buses from the original contract, mean that Halifax Transit is asking the council to approve funding for $22,732,980 to purchase the 35 buses.
If the move is voted down, staff say it could delay vehicle replacement and implementation of the municipality’s Moving Forward Together Plan.
Analyzing protected bike lane on South Park Street
Halifax council are set to consider a recommendation from city staff that would see the city adopt an evaluation plan of the planned protected bike lane on South Park Street between Inglis Street and Sackville Street.
The bike lane is set to be introduced in phases, with the first portion of the bike lane, from Spring Garden Road to Inglis Street, to be installed in 2019.
The area from Sackville to Spring Garden Road will be installed in 2020 and 2021.
The evaluation plan would monitor bicycle volume, transit ridership, motor vehicle volume and speeds, pedestrian activity, the number of collisions and the effect on on-street parking.
The plan would have staff prepare an annual report that would be tabled at the Transportation Standing Committee before March 31 in 2020 and 2021.
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Improving the Access-A-Bus service
Staff are recommending that council adopt an improved service plan for its Access-A-Bus service.
The move would see Halifax Transit adopt the plan, with the goal of providing universal access, additional capacity of its current fleet, decreasing wait-list times and improve their booking window to allow for same-day service.
Currently, users are required to book the buses seven days in advance.
Halifax is set to add six new paratransit vehicles, as well the resources needed to operate the vehicles, during the 2018/2019 operating budget; a move that staff will allow them to “steadily increase” the number of trips provided and grow their service.
Council is set to convene on Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. at Halifax City Hall.