Bus delays cause bad days

“Thank you for calling Go Time. Please enter your route number followed by the pound key.”

The automated Go Time voice may be the biggest liar in the city.

For Haligonians, it’s a tale as old as time itself: waiting for a bus that might not show up on time, if at all. And the cold weather makes it more inconvenient for passengers shivering at the bus stop.

A passenger survey from October 2014 shows that about half of Halifax Transit passengers were either “very dissatisfied” or “dissatisfied” with the reliability of Halifax buses.

Another 60 per cent were either “very dissatisfied” or “dissatisfied” with scheduling and connections.

Tiffany Chase, spokesperson for Halifax Regional Municipality, acknowledged in an email that “it’s clear we have some work to do to increase overall customer satisfaction within these two service areas.”

In another survey based on time performance, 64 per cent say that they were picked up on time within four minutes, and 46 per cent report getting to their destination on time within four minutes.

Byung Jun Kang, a 23-year old Dalhousie masters of planning student, is the executive director of PLANifax, a non-profit organization that makes YouTube videos for the Halifax weekly The Coast to highlight planning issues in Halifax.

It has released two videos exploring why buses are late. There are many factors that contribute to late buses, including traffic congestion and bad weather, but there’s one passengers don’t really think about: themselves.

When people fish for change while boarding a bus, they often aren’t aware of the consequences.

“People think that it’s not a big deal but it’s actually a huge deal, especially in maintaining transit schedule, because if you’re 30 seconds late in one spot, the delay just gets larger and larger and larger, to the point where it could screw up the whole system,” says Jun Kang.

Chase agrees that commuters can do their part to keep buses on-time.

“Customers are asked to step up to the bus stop area as the bus is on approach and have fare payment ready. Where possible, we also ask that passengers disembark through the mid or rear doors to allow passengers to board at the front of the bus,” she wrote.

Longer routes are also an issue, since the longer the route the greater the chance a bus will encounter delays.

“I was waiting for the 14 in Dartmouth, and I was waiting there for an hour and a half,” says Jun Kang.

“When the bus got there, people asked the bus driver why he was late, and the bus driver said, ‘Sorry, there’s a traffic accident on the Armdale Rotary,’ which is like, two hours away from Dartmouth.”

Chase says Halifax Transit is working to make the bus system better.

Implementing shorter bus routes is part of Moving Forward Together, an initiative Halifax Transit launched in 2013 to improve bus service, she says.

There is also a proposal to introduce Transit Priority Measures, which will give buses “an edge over the rest of traffic.” A report will be presented to city council in the spring, and the changes should be implemented over the next five years.

Halifax Transit also looking to introduce a new GPS-based locator system, which is now being tested on a handful of buses.

It will provide real time data on the location of buses to Halifax Transit so it can better understand where buses are slowing down and whether or not they’re departing on time.