Is Burnside missing a key piece of the transit puzzle?

Colin Chisholm
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Shouldn't Atlantic Canada's largest business park have a transit terminal?

A transit terminal in Burnside could lead to better service throughout the Park, especially if it was eventually used as a hub for a expanded interpark routing.

If bus routes are the arteries for a city's mass transit system, then certainly bus terminals are the hubs. So shouldn't Atlantic Canada's largest business park have a transit terminal?

According to transit expert Todd Litman, absolutely.

"They enhance rider safety and comfort, which can increase ridership and therefore help achieve various planning objectives such as congestion reduction and parking cost savings," Litman says.

Litman, who is a mass transit consultant based in Victoria, B.C., says terminals are an important aspect of any public transit infrastructure.

"However, they are costly to build and maintain, and so are only economically justified where sufficient numbers of travelers will use them."

Still, Litman argues that if you want to enhance ridership in an area, a terminal is the best way to attract new riders while providing better service to existing ones.

"The experience of waiting for a bus can be a major deciding factor for commuters who may be looking at switching to public transit," Litman says. "Waiting in the rain and cold, exposed to the elements, won't foster a transit-centric community."

If a terminal is in place at various hubs, where people can sit, read a newspaper, get some work done on their computer and be protected from inclement weather, it's a much more appealing option Litman says.


Burnside's Transit Woes

It's no secret that transit in Burnside is lacking. Some routes, such as the 52 Crosstown, can take commuters over an hour to get to their destination, where driving to the same destination would take less than 15 minutes. It's not ideal for employees who work in the park and rely on transit for their commute.

With ever-rising gas prices, this reliance on transit will only increase.

The theory goes 'if you build it, they will come,' and many were hoping this would ring true in Burnside after Metro Transit recommended building a terminal in the park in its five-year strategic plan.

However, the terminal is currently in limbo as it was later deemed unnecessary by Metro Transit, which suggested focusing on route adjustments would help rectify Burnside's transit challenges.

Council still needs to vote on the measure, so we won't know if Burnside will get it's terminal or not for some time. Metro Transit management is planning to meet with members of the Greater Burnside Business Association (GBBA) to discuss the next steps.

Sean O'Boyle, chair of the GBBA, says he was surprised that Metro Transit suggested not including a terminal in Burnside, something he notes was originally recommended and seemed to make sense at the time.

"I would want to see something that was fairly compelling and convincing that proves a terminal is not the way to go," O'Boyle says. "If Metro Transit is able to bring forward a viable resolution that can save taxpayer money and enhance service, I'm all for it. The trick will be seeing if that actually happens."

O'Boyle says he still thinks a terminal is the best option, but is open to other ideas so long as they make long-term improvements and aren't Band-Aid solutions.

But is a terminal the solution?

Ross Soward is a community planner with the Cities & Environment Unit, a research group within Dalhousie. He says he's not convinced a terminal would make sense in Burnside as the nature of a terminal is to provide commuters a place to transfer from one route to another.

"I don't think it makes sense to have one terminal for the whole Burnside area and then call it a day," Soward says. "The area in general is not conducive to walking around."

He says that even if the terminal was in a central location, many areas do not have sidewalks or bike lanes for people to get to their desired location once inside the park. He says amenities and infrastructure should be the first step to enhancing transit in the area.

"I think it's important to improve the transit quality in several different geographical areas within the park," Soward says. "And so you don't need a terminal, but having better bus shelters and looking at the scheduling to see if the routing is efficient for your users is the right way to go."

Soward says many commuters either go through or stop at Burnside and it wouldn't be an ideal location for multiple bus transfers to occur due to its relatively low density and outlying location.

Although it's difficult to find consensus on the terminal issue, one thing seems certain: public transit in the Burnside area needs to be revamped.


Organizations: Metro Transit, Greater Burnside Business Association

Geographic location: Burnside, Atlantic Canada, Victoria

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