City council took the first of what will likely be many baby steps towards approving a new five-year transit plan on Tuesday.
The municipality’s 23 councillors agreed to receive the plan, and approved several service standards included in the 350-page document, but wouldn’t budge any further – saying they need more information and want some big changes made before they give it a final stamp of approval.
“If you’re asking me to approve this in principle, then there are things in this plan I can agree with, but there are a whole lot of things I can’t agree with,” said Coun. Sue Uteck.
The fist-waving and head-shaking began almost as soon as the report was brought before council in October – with many councillors strongly opposed to proposed fee hikes for either motorists or transit users. Others complained about a lack of focus on rural areas, or the fact that the new fleet of vehicles would not be hybrids.
According to Michael Labrecque, HRM’s director of transportation and public works, just getting the service standards approved on Tuesday was a small victory. The standards are a broad set of rules covering everything from how frequently buses circulate to the structure of routes, and will give Metro Transit staff at least some direction, he said.
“It helps us tremendously if we start the journey with a set of standards, and from that point we can do anything with the service based on council’s wishes,” Labrecque said.
But some councillors suggested the entire plan should have been given the go-ahead, saying Metro Transit needs clear direction from city hall sooner rather than later.
“Approving (the entire plan) does not tie us into anything,” said Coun. Steve Adams. “Only council will decide if the things approved in principle will eventually be implemented, you have to put your toe in the water if you’re going to get all the way in.”