Halifax Transit is a Canadian public transport service operating buses and ferries in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Founded as Metro Transit in March 1982, Halifax Transit runs two ferry routes, 61 conventional bus routes (including corridor, local, and express services), three regional express routes (called MetroX), and three rural routes. Halifax Transit also operates Access-a-Bus, a door-to-door paratransit service for seniors and the disabled.
Total ridership in the 2018/19 reporting year was about 26.94 million, with the system carrying 94,475 on an average weekday. According to the 2016 census, Halifax had the seventh-highest proportion of workers taking transit to work among Canadian cities.
The municipality's first transit service came with establishment of the Dartmouth ferry service, first chartered in 1752. In 1816, the sail-powered ferry was replaced by a horse-powered boat, and in 1830 with a steam ferry. While private omnibus services are known to have begun in the city at least as early as 1854, the roots of Halifax Transit date back to June 11, 1866.
The Halifax City Railroad Company (HCR) began operations with five horse-drawn trams on rails that stretched from the corner of Barrington Street and Inglis Street in the south end to the city’s first railway station, near the corner of Duffus Street and Campbell Road (now Barrington Street), in the north end.
Notwithstanding a ten-year hiatus, horse-drawn street railway services continued in Halifax until April 1896 when the system, now operated by the Halifax Electric Tramway Company, completed the conversion to electric-powered operation. The street railway served Halifax until March 1949, when the war-worn trams were replaced by "trackless" electric trolley coaches.
The bright yellow trolleys, operated by utility company Nova Scotia Light and Power, plied city streets exclusively until 1963, when they were supplemented by diesel buses for the first time. The system became all-diesel on January 1, 1970, the same day the City of Halifax took over the operation. Some of Halifax's T-44 trolleybuses were sold to the Toronto Transit Commission for parts for their Western Flyer E-700A.
Metro Transit, a single transit agency serving all of the greater Halifax-Dartmouth metropolitan area, began operations in March 1981. The system was created by the Metropolitan Authority, a common-services agency representing the former cities of Halifax and Dartmouth as well as suburban Halifax County, to consolidate the transit operations of the Halifax Transit Corporation and Dartmouth Transit.
Metro Transit expanded in 1994 with the absorption of the Dartmouth ferry services formerly operated by the city of Dartmouth. Ownership of the transit service was transferred to the newly created Halifax Regional Municipality when Halifax, Dartmouth, and Halifax County were amalgamated in 1996. Since then, the service has been operated directly by the municipal government, and since October 2010 the agency has reported though the Transportation Standing Committee of Halifax Regional Council. The municipality announced on July 15, 2014 that it was changing the service's name to Halifax Transit to reflect the city's new brand.
In January 2014, Halifax regional council approved a study to look at a major re-design of the city's transit system. The "Moving Forward Together Plan" was adopted in principal by Halifax Regional Council in April 2016. Proposed amendments to the plan were defeated in November 2016, with the exception of a change to the route of the Porters Lake MetroX (soon to be Rural Express) and a short reprieve to attempt to increase ridership to save the #15 bus to York Redoubt.
Conventional bus service
Halifax Transit operates 57 conventional transit routes within the Urban Transit Service Area, broadly similar to the metropolitan region of Halifax Regional Municipality (Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford and Sackville), including the areas of Eastern Passage, North Preston/Cherry Brook and Herring Cove. Routes are numbered according to the region or type of service provided.
Express routes, originally established as Metro Link express bus service operates Monday to Friday. The two express routes began service in August 2005. The system consists of two limited-stop fully accessible express routes, connecting downtown Halifax's Scotia Square bus terminal, with the Portland Hills terminal in Cole Harbour on the Dartmouth side, and the Sackville Terminal in Lower Sackville.
Regional Express Routes, formerly MetroX, is Halifax Transit's rural express bus service. There are three routes which started operating in August 2009 running between Halifax and Tantallon, the Airport, and Porters Lake, respectively. All routes terminate at Scotia Square in downtown Halifax, are handicap accessible and have facilities to carry bicycles.
Rural routes provide some suburban and rural communities access to the regular and express bus system operated by Halifax Transit. There are four rural routes provide service between the Sackville Terminal and Beaverbank; Portland Hills to East Preston, Lake Echo, Grand Desert; South Centre Mall and Ketch Harbour via the Old Sambro Road and Highway 349; and the Lacewood Terminal and Tantallon via Kearney Lake and Hammonds Plains Roads.
Halifax Transit also provides two passenger ferry routes, one connecting downtown Halifax with Alderney Landing in Dartmouth, and the other connecting with Woodside. Each route is serviced by a pair of vessels. The ferry services are integrated with the bus services; the fares are identical, and transfers are accepted between the two systems. The harbour ferries board 1.4 million passengers each year Each ferry carries up to 398 passengers. All routes are handicap accessible and have provision to carry bicycles.
Halifax Transit also provides Access-A-Bus, a dial-a-ride paratransit service for elderly and handicapped residents. This was created in 1981, the same year Metro Transit was formed.
Halifax Transit offers four main fare categories: Adult (16 years & up), Senior (65+ years), Child (5 – 15 years), and Student (for full-time students with valid student photo ID card). Anyone with a ticket, pass or transfer for the regular or Metrolink service can pay the difference in cash fare to use a more expensive Metrolink or MetroX service.
A Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) Identification card can be used to obtain free travel on Halifax Transit's conventional buses, MetroX buses, MetroLink buses and harbour ferry service. A university student bus pass (called U-pass) is available to students of Saint Mary's, Mount Saint Vincent, King's College, Dalhousie, Nova Scotia Community College (Halifax campuses) and Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. The cost is included in tuition fees. Halifax Transit offers a low-income bus pass sold for 50 per cent of the regular price to eligible applicants.
Transfers are issued upon request on all Halifax Transit buses and ferries. A transfer allows the user to transfer between multiple conventional route buses and ferries travelling in any direction without having to pay an additional fare. A transfer also allows users to transfer to MetroLink and MetroExpress buses at a reduced fare. Transfers are valid for 90 minutes after the last scheduled stop on the current run of the route where it was issued. Holders of a valid MetroPass or MetroLink Pass do not require transfers.
Schedules and route information
Route information can be accessed through the Halifax Transit Departures number 902 480 8000. Individual route schedules are available online at halifax.ca/transit. Most terminals have TV screens that display anticipated arrival times of buses that service the terminal.
In early 2016, Halifax Transit released their next-generation AVL-based system called Departures. The system was first launched on May 15, 2016, with the introduction of the Departures Line, and as of July 2016 the rollout of the updated Departures Board that replaces the older GoTime departure displays found at terminals across the system. The Departures Board works similar to the previous GoTime-based departures display, with the exception that instead of showing the next two bus arrival times, will display the bay number and the next bus departure time, either showing the next hour and minute or the number of minutes before the bus departs, or "delayed" if the bus is behind by a certain number of minutes. It will also only show buses set to arrive in the next while, versus the older display which would show "(not scheduled)" for any route not running at that point in time.
The Departures Line works similarly to the previous GoTime IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system. Instead of dialling (902) 480- plus the 4-digit number found on bus stop signage, one dials (902)-480-8000 and following the voice responses, one would input the bus stop number to access route departure times. The system gives the estimated departure time if available, scheduled times if the bus is not reporting real-time data or is delayed by a number of minutes, adjusted time to depart when schedule adjustments are made, and will announce when a bus is arriving within the minute.
On December 16, 2016 Halifax Transit began piloting an automated stop announcement system on several bus routes, providing both auditory and visual notice of approaching bus stops, as well as announcing the route of each bus on arrival at a bus stop. By January 30, 2017, all conventional buses provided the automated stop announcement. As of June 8, 2017, all conventional buses in the Halifax Transit fleet were low floor and accessible to wheelchairs. 
Route number structure
As the Moving Forward Together Plan takes effect the following number structure will be in effect. Routes 1-19 are Corridor routes. Routes 20-99 are Local routes. Routes 100-199 are Express routes. Routes 300-399 are Regional Express routes. And routes 400-499 are Rural routes. Corridor routes provide high frequency during most of the day and travel long routes connecting different parts of the Halifax Regional Municipality to Downtown Halifax. Local routes provide less frequent service across various parts of the HRM connecting communities to corridor routes. Express routes are limited stop, peak service only routes that provide direct transport from downtown to local communities. Regional Express and Rural routes provide varied levels of service to areas outside of the HRM.
Implementation of the Moving Forward Together Plan is currently incomplete, and some existing routes have not yet been reassigned to match these categories. For example, local route 5 Chebucto is expected to be discontinued and its route number reused for a new consolidated service along the Portland Street corridor. MetroLink route 159 is not considered an Express Route, and will eventually be discontinued and replaced by a new Express route.
Wheelchair – Uses Accessible Low Floor (ALF) buses only.
Rush Hour Service Only.
Designated Bike Route.
MetroLink Service (see MetroLink section above)
MetroX Service (see MetroX section above)
University routes that only operate during the university academic calendar year (September – April).
|No.||Name||Type||Features||Inner Terminal||Outer Terminal||Notes/History|
|1||Spring Garden||Corridor||Bridge Terminal||Mumford Terminal||Travels Roslyn Road at Peak Times|
|2||Fairview||Corridor||Water Street Terminal||Lacewood Terminal|
|3||Crosstown||Corridor||Lacewood Terminal||Windmill & Wright|
|4||Universities||Corridor||Dalhousie University||Lacewood Terminal||Used to provide service to Mount Saint Vincent University.|
|5||Chebucto||Local||Water Street Terminal||Downs & Milsom||Weekday service only.|
|7||Robie||Corridor||Merv Sullivan Park||Northridge Loop||Route 7 has 2 branches in a clockwise and counterclockwise loop.|
|8||Sackville||Corridor||Barrington & Duke||Sackville Terminal
Replaced route 80 Sackville
|9A||Greystone - Fotherby||Corridor||Barrington & Duke||Fotherby & Herring Cove|
|9B||Herring Cove||Corridor||Barrington & Duke||St Paul's & School|
|10||Dalhousie||Corridor||Dalhousie University||Invenary & Strath|
|11||Dockyard||Local||Bridge Terminal||Halifax Dockyard||Partially a re-reinstatement of a former route with the same number.|
|14||Leiblin Park||Local||Barrington & Duke||Leiblin & Juniper||Thru-Route to route 61 Auburn|
|21||Timberlea||Local||Lacewood Terminal||Charles Road||Used to service downtown Halifax.|
|22||Armdale||Local||Mumford Terminal||Ragged Lake Transit Centre|
|25||Governors Brook||Local||Mumford Terminal||Titanium Crescent|
|28||Bayers Lake||Local||Mumford Terminal||Lacewood Terminal|
|29||Barrington||Local||Point Pleasant Park||Bayers Road Centre|
|30A||Clayton Park West||Local||Lacewood Terminal||Lacewood Terminal||Travels in a clockwise loop.|
|30B||Clayton Park West||Local||Lacewood Terminal||Lacewood Terminal||Travels in a counter-clockwise loop.|
|32||Cowie Hill Express||Express||Barrington & Duke||South Centre Mall||Weekday service only.|
|39||Flamingo||Local||Bridge Terminal||Lacewood Terminal|
|41||Dartmouth – Dalhousie||Local||Dalhousie University||Bridge Terminal||Weekday service only.|
|51||Windmill||Local||Bridge Terminal||Princess Margaret & Killkee||Weekday rush service extends from Bridge Terminal to Princess Margaret & Killkee to Joseph Zatzman Dr.|
|53||Notting Park||Local||Highfield Terminal||Bridge Terminal||Weekday rush service extends from Bridge Terminal to Summer & Trollope.|
|54||Montebello||Local||Dartmouth Ferry Terminal||Caledonia & Du Portage|
|55||Port Wallace||Local||Bridge Terminal||Portobello Loop|
|56||Dartmouth Crossing||Local||Portland Hills Terminal||Wright & Countryview||Used to service Westphal|
|57||Russell Lake||Local||Woodside Ferry Terminal||Portland Hills Terminal||Used to service Mic Mac|
|58||Woodlawn||Local||Bridge Terminal||Dorthea & Lucien|
|59||Colby||Local||Bridge Terminal||Ashgrove & Cole Harbour||Weekday rush service extends from Bridge Terminal to Summer & Trollope.|
|60||Eastern Passage / Heritage Hills||Corridor||Bridge Terminal||Caldwell & Shore||Travels to Heritage Hills at peak times only.|
|61||Auburn / North Preston||Local||Barrington & Duke||North Preston Recreation Centre||Thru-route to route 14 Leblin Park.|
|62||Wildwood||Local||Bridge Terminal||Cole Harbour Place||Used to be the 62 Cherrybrook.|
|63||Woodside||Local||Bridge Terminal||Irving & Franklyn||Weekday service only until 5 PM.|
|64||Burnside||Local||Highfield Terminal||Bancroft & Marketplace||New route 64 Akerley, no service to Bridge Terminal, weekday only.|
|65||Caldwell||Local||Portland Hills Terminal||Caldwell & Cole Harbour|
|66||Penhorn||Local||Highfield Terminal||Gaston Loop||Used to provide service to the Cobequid Terminal.|
|68||Cherrybrook||Local||Bridge Terminal||Cherrybrook & Hwy 7||Weekday peak service extends from Bridge Terminal to Summer & Trollope. Used to provide service to Ross Road and Auburn.|
|72||Portland Hills||Portland Hills Terminal||Finlay & Shuble|
|78||Mount Edward Express||Woodside Ferry Terminal||Cole Harbour Place||Weekday rush hour service only.|
|79||Cole Harbour Express||Woodside Ferry Terminal||Colby Village||Weekday rush hour service only. Replaces former MetroLink route 165.|
|82||First Lake||Local||Sackville Terminal||Cobequid Terminal|
|83||Springfield||Local||Sackville Terminal||Springfield Estates|
|84||Glendale||Local||Scotia Square||Sackville Terminal||Partially replaces route 87 Glendale, peak extension to Summer St.|
|85||Millwood||Local||Sackville Terminal||Sackville Terminal||Partially replaces route 82 Millwood|
|86||Beaverbank||Local||Sackville Terminal||Kinsac Community Centre|
|87||Sackville - Dartmouth||Local||Bridge Terminal||Sackville Terminal||Partially replaces route 87 Glendale|
|88||Bedford Commons||Local||Sackville Terminal||Bedford Commons||Used to service Atlantic Acres. New extended service to Sackville Terminal.|
|90||Larry Uteck||Local||Water Street Terminal||West Bedford Park & Ride|
|91||Hemlock Ravine||Local||Mumford Terminal||West Bedford Park & Ride||Partially replaces route 81 Hemlock Ravine|
|93||Bedford Hwy||Local||Scotia Square||Union Street||Peak only.|
|123||Timberlea Express||Express||Scotia Square||Charles Road||Weekday service only.|
|135||Flamingo Express||Express||Scotia Square||Lacewood Terminal||Weekday service only.|
|136||Farnham Gate Express||Express||Scotia Square||Lacewood Terminal||Weekday service only.|
|137||Clayton Park Express||Express||Scotia Square||Lacewood Terminal||Weekday service only.|
|138||Parkland Express||Express||Scotia Square||Lacewood Terminal||Weekday service only.|
|159||Portland Hills||Express||Barrington & Duke||Portland Hills Terminal||Weekday service only.|
|182||First Lake Express||Express||Cobequid Terminal||Summer/Bell||Replaces route 82 First Lake at peak times.|
|183||Springfield Express||Express||Summer Street||Springfield Avenue|
|185||Millwood Express||Express||Sackville Terminal||Bell/Summer||Replaces route 85 Millwood at peak times.|
|186||Beaverbank Express||Express||Scotia Square||Kinsac Community Centre||Peak only.|
|194||West Bedford Express||Express||Summer & Trollope||Innovation Dr. & Gary Martin Dr.||Weekday service only.|
|196||Basinview Express||Express||Summer & Trollope||Hwy 1 & Rockmanor||Weekday service only.|
|320||Airport/Fall River||Regional express||Albemarle & Duke||Halifax Stanfield International Airport|
|330||Tantallon||Regional express||Albemarle & Duke||Tantallon Rink Park & Ride||Weekday service only.|
|370||Porters Lake||Regional express||Albemarle & Duke||Porters Lake Rink Park & Ride||Weekday service only.|
|401||Porters Lake||Rural||Portland Hills Terminal||Grand Desert, Highway 207||Weekday service only.|
|415||Purcells Cove||Rural||Desmond Ave||Bayers Road Shopping Centre||Weekday service only.|
|433||Tantallon||Rural||Lacewood Terminal||Tantallon||Weekday service only.|
|2||Wedgewood||2018||Merged with 4 into new route 2.|
|3||Gottingen||1927||1989||Merged with route 7.|
|4||Rosedale||2018||Merged with 2 into new route 2.|
|8||Windsor||1963||1999||Discontinued due to overlapping service from other routes.|
|8||Waterfront||2010||2013||Discontinued due to inadequate ridership.|
|6||Quinpool||1980||2017||Discontinued due to overlapping service from other routes.|
|9||Barrington||1928||2017||Discontinued due to Moving Forward Together Plan modifications. Partially replaced by route 29.|
|11||Macdonald Bridge||1955||1988||Merged with route 1, later partially reinstated.|
|16||Parkland||2018||Discontinued due to Moving Forward Together Plan modifications. Partially replaced by route 39.|
|17||Saint Mary's||2018||Merged with 18 and 42 into new route 4.|
|18||Universities||2018||Merged with 17 and 42 into new route 4.|
|19||Greystone||2008||2017||Replaced by route 9A.|
|20||Herring Cove||1970||2017||Replaced by route 9B.|
|22||Exhibition Park||1993||2004||Reinstated with service to Exhibition Park with the opening of the Ragged Lake Transit Centre in 2010. Service to Exhibition Park was discontinued again in 2017.|
|23||Timberlea Express||2018||Replaced by new Express route 123.|
|31||Main Express||2018||Replaced by new Express routes 135, 136, 137 and 138.|
|33||Tantallon Express||2018||Replaced by new Express routes 135, 136, 137 and 138 and Rural route 433.|
|34||Glenforest Express||2018||Replaced by new Express routes 135, 136, 137 and 138.|
|35||Parkland Express||2018||Replaced by new Express routes 135, 136, 137 and 138.|
|42||Lacewood-Dalhousie||2018||Merged with 17 and 18 into new route 4.|
|52||Crosstown||2018||Discontinued due to Moving Forward Together Plan modifications. Partially replaced by route 3.|
|66||Forest Hills–Woodside Ferry||1987||1989|
|71||Forest Hills Express||1982||1989|
|80||Sackville||2019||Replaced by corridor route 8, which follows the same routing.|
|86||Basinview express||2019||Replaced by route 196|
|165||Woodside Link||2005||2014||Replaced by new conventional route 79|
|185||Sackville Link||2019||Replaced by new Express routes 183 Springfield, 185 Millwood, and 186 Beaver Bank, which each follow the same routing as the previous route 185, but continue beyond Sackville terminal to serve various residential areas.|
|402||Sambro||2009||2017||Discontinued due to inadequate ridership.|
Moving Forward Together Plan
The Moving Forward Together Plan is Halifax Transit's 5 year improvement plan that outlines planned changes to the transit network from late 2016 to 2020.
Halifax Transit has been criticized as inefficient and unreliable. Some transit advocates have called Halifax Transit's "Moving Forward Together Plan" inadequate, identifying four major concerns:
- The lack of a connective network which will result in dramatically less travel choice for transit users
- Inefficient and redundant route design that will cause ridership to remain low
- Missing data and analysis making it difficult to have good, evidence-based discussion
- A five-year implementation, which will cause unpredictability for riders as routes continuously change
In addition, the "Moving Forward Together Plan" is characterised as a plan that disregards the key principles that Halifax Transit identified through years of public engagement and consultation. Business groups have also noted both the current lack of service, and lack of proposed future service, along key corridors of the region.
In 2014, a massive fuel leak spilling close to 200,000 litres of fuel at Halifax Transit's Burnside bus depot went undetected for almost four months. In addition to the cost of lost fuel, cleanup from local environmental damage and groundwater contamination as far as 1 km away cost Halifax Regional Municipality approximately $2.5 million. Before the discovery of the leak, Halifax Transit initially claimed that the excess fuel consumption was caused by higher usage during winter.
In popular culture
- The characters of Phillip and Phillmore the ferry twins from the children's TV show Theodore Tugboat are modelled after the Halifax-Dartmouth ferries.
- Regional Plan 2014 Urban Transit Service Boundary Map (PDF) (Map). Archived from the original (PDF) on May 10, 2017. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
- "2018/19 – Year End Performance Measures Report" (PDF). Halifax Transit. 2019.
- "Commuters using sustainable transportation in census metropolitan areas". Statistics Canada. November 29, 2017.
- Wyatt, D.A. (2015). All-time list of Canadian transit systems: http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~wyatt/alltime/
- Canadian Railroad Historical Association Bulletin 17 (1954) http://www.exporail.org/can_rail/Canadian%20Rail_CRHA_Bulletin_no17_April_1954.pdf
- Cunningham, D. and Artz, D. (2009). The Halifax Street Railway: 1866–1949. Halifax: Nimbus
- Leger, P.A. and Lawrence, L.M. (1994), Halifax – City of Trolleycoaches. Windsor ON: Bus History Association
- An Act Respecting the Metropolitan Authority of Halifax, Dartmouth and the Municipality of the County of Halifax. Statutes of Nova Scotia. 1978. c. 9.
- Halifax Transit brand unveiled The Chronicle Herald
- "Halifax Transit's Multi-Year Transformation Underway". Halifax Regional Municipality. Archived from the original on July 20, 2014. Retrieved July 10, 2016.
As part of the evolution of our transit system, and in keeping with the brand strategy, the name Metro Transit was changed to Halifax Transit
- Gillis, Sean (January 6, 2014). "Transit First – Big changes for Metro Transit". Spacing Atlantic. Retrieved February 4, 2014.
- , Halifax Transit Annual Service Plan, 2017/18.
- , Metro News, June 8 2017.
- Halifax Transit, Metro Express page (with planning documents) Archived June 3, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
- Metro Transit, Dartmouth-Halifax Harbour Ferries Archived June 3, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
- Halifax Transit, Access-a-bus Archived March 8, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
- "Low income transit pass program". Halifax Transit. Retrieved December 18, 2019.
- Halifax Transit, 2008 News Archive Archived June 3, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
- Halifax Transit  Archived December 21, 2016, at the Wayback Machine Stop Announcements
- The Signal  January 30 2017.
- , Metro News, June 8 2017.
- "Moving Forward Together". Retrieved December 3, 2017.
- Burke, David (August 1, 2016). "Halifax Transit's poor reliability costs people work, says Cole Harbour man". CBC.
- Ryan, Haley (December 1, 2016). "The long, long bus ride: Dartmouth man takes councillor on his hour-and-a-half commute". Metro Halifax.
- "Open Letter to Council – Halt Moving Forward, Bring in an Expert (updated)". It's More than Buses. November 18, 2016. Archived from the original on December 24, 2016.
- Berman, Pam (November 22, 2016). "Bus routes needed to link Dartmouth communities: business groups". CBC.
- "Metro Transit diesel leak hits Burnside groundwater". CBC News. Retrieved April 18, 2017.
- "Transit garage fuel leak cleanup costs spike to $2.5 million". CBC News. Retrieved April 18, 2017.
- "AG slams city over fuel spill issue". The Chronicle Herald. May 20, 2015. Retrieved April 18, 2017.
- Media related to Halifax Transit at Wikimedia Commons
- Official website