Taking the bus in Halifax could soon come with the benefit of free internet access.
Halifax’s Transportation Standing Committee have passed a staff report calling for a pilot project that would outfit 20 buses and three terminals with WiFi.
“It was always something spoken in the public realm as a nice to have but there was never any direction from council asking what would that mean,” explained Lorelei Nicoll, who serves as chair of the committee.
The Committee’s recommendation will now be put to Halifax Regional Council who can decide on whether they’d like to see a feasibility study conducted, ahead of the implementation of WiFi on the limited number of vehicles.
Halifax’s full fleet boasts 340 buses and five ferries.
The total estimated costs associated with installing modems to the entire fleet is $345,000 with annual data costs that could exceed $200,000.
The main hope is that adding the service would entice more people to choose public transportation, increasing ridership and lowering the number of vehicles on the road.
“We can’t be live streaming Netflix movies or anything like that because it doesn’t have the capacity,” Nicoll explained.
“But to actually use the data from the free WiFi to save the data package that you have on your phone when you go elsewhere is a means of making things more economical for the users.”
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Transit user Jason Dosman, supports the idea wholeheartedly.
Dosman used to live in Annapolis Valley, where riders enjoy free WiFi, he says that for many on the bus it’s an invaluable service.
“Sometimes you can’t afford $50 or $80 a month for a cell phone so you just use it on WiFi,” he explained.
While waiting to catch his bus Kelly Johnson said he believes the benefits don’t stop at entertainment.
“People that can work and are looking for work, active job hunts,” he explained.
Student Kyle Stephens said it would make it so people like him could use the time commuting wisely by doing homework while in transit, and that it could also lead to more efficient travel for passengers.
“On the transit app you can check when your buses are going to the next stop ahead of time and stuff without using data,” he said. “It’s just useful.”
Noah Elwood indicated that even though it might not be a necessity for everyone, he thinks there’s plenty of riders who could save themselves from unwanted data overages that can be seen from streaming music or videos while traveling to and from work.
“I don’t really need the WiFi, I have enough data as it is,” he explained. “But for some people who are going day to day, eight-hour shifts every day on the bus, they kind of need it.”