Just two years ago the Burnside community, and the Greater Burnside Business Association (GBBA) in particular, were basking in the release of Metro Transit's new five-year strategic plan. Why? Because it promised a transit terminal for Burnside and a solution to the Park's long-standing busing concerns.
Now the satisfaction of that moment is poised to crumble in the face of a new proposal from Metro Transit that will see the proposed terminal scrapped, the land sold off and current service levels to the Park redefined.
"Suffice it to say I am skeptical that a $35,000 re-routing plan can rationally be the equivalent solution to a problem for which consultants and a five-year strategic plan recommended a terminal just two years ago," says GBBA Chair Sean O'Boyle.
O'Boyle has personally worked extensively on the transit issue for several years on behalf of the GBBA, ever since members and other Park residents identified transit service as one of the largest obstacles to continued expansion in Burnside.
In fact, he was instrumental in organizing a meeting that brought together city and Metro Transit officials with developers and large employers from Burnside to discuss the issue and identify possible solutions. At that time, the terminal was seen as a key piece of infrastructure.
"I am rather surprised and disappointed this has become a proposal without notice to or input from the GBBA, or the community at large, given the years-long involvement we have had with HRM and Metro Transit on this very issue," O'Boyle says. "Our membership has consistently indicated THE number one priority for them and this community is improved public transit service. This has been the case literally every year for the many years I have served on the GBBA board."
Area councilor Jim Smith is also concerned about the proposal.
"I understand they're considering enhanced routing in Burnside as an alternative to a terminal," Smith says. "That's not what I want to hear, but we will have to wait for further details. I have asked (Metro Transit Director) Eddie Robar if he will engage the GBBA on this, but didn't get a clear answer. I will push for that (consultation) at some point in the process so we can get their input."
Dave Reage, assistant manager of service development at Metro Transit, has assured the GBBA there's no change to the current Burnside terminal plans at present. He says the proposal is simply a part of a report to the city's Transportation Standing Committee providing information on a variety of items designed to boost transit ridership and doesn't constitute any change in plans at this time.
However, Robar confirms that the terminal proposal and the rest of the report will be discussed further at the next Transportation Standing Committee meeting in late December or January and then may go to Regional Council for any recommendations the committee agrees on.
None of this is what O'Boyle wants to hear.
"This community has been told for several years now that a bus terminal would be built and public transit services improved, and now Metro Transit is apparently proposing reneging on that commitment and the Strategic Plan it developed only two years ago," O'Boyle says.