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Evidence for Council

At Tuesday’s meeting,  City Council voted to waive the usual Audit and Finance Committee requirements and authorize spending $1,880,000 to buy 15 discontinued Access-a-Buses from GM Canada.  On page 5 of the staff report, signed by Dave Reage  and Jaques Dube is the following heading:

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT There was no community engagement associated with this report.

The community is engaged, HRM isn't.  Hundreds of Haligonians are poorly served by this expensive and ineffective service. Users have presented a much cheaper alternative, only to be ignored repeatedly.  

  • Access-a-Bus is a separate and unequal service.  
    • With persistent and worsening  problems
  • It discriminates against people with disabilities contrary to the Charter.  
  • It is a textbook example of the near impossibility of effecting change in government.  
  • Taxpayers are poorly served by this arrangement
  • The status quo best serves Metro Transit, not the public.  

Compared to what?

The decision to buy the Access-a-Buses is not simple.  The real questions are about how to maximize benefits and whether we should be driven by Federal grants.  Do we lock ourselves into the wrong choice through a hasty analysis?     

According to Halifax Transit the current size of vehicles is considered too large for the Access-a-Bus service "...with only one or two passengers onboard; this is not an optimal use for scarce resource of a relatively large capacity" (24 March 2016 Staff Report).  Why would we purchase more of such vehicles?

Council has a new passion for evidence-based decision making.  Let’s look at the evidence:

Metro Transit Reasoning:

Allegedly, a fortuitous alignment of the stars made 50% federal cost sharing available for once-in-a-lifetime pricing of the vans.  
  • The cost sharing isn’t exactly a certainty, but is practically a sure thing.
  • The 15 vans became available when another customer backed out.

The Math

15 vans for $1.880m is $125,333 each.  These are the chassis only, so the place where the people sit and the lift are extra.  Let’s suppose GM is giving a 20% discount.  Then the retail price is $2,350,000 and we save half the difference of  $470,000 or $235,000. Shall we commit to a dubious course for $235,000?

The alternative

The Access-a-Bus strategic plan of 2010, makes a sound economic argument for augmenting service with accessible cabs, recommending:

Metro Transit officials enter into discussion with local taxi companies to gauge the level of interest in the provision of supplemental service for Access-a-Bus;

Here’s a table from that 2010 report:
Updated figures are
  • Average 2016  cost per Access-a-Bus trip is $36.95 (already 25% higher than predicted)
  • Average distance per trip is 6.67km
  • Same trip via accessible taxi is $14.51 - a savings of $22.44/ ride
  • In 2009, Access-a-Bus made 115,000 trips
  • Access-a-Bus is oversubscribed, 7 days advance booking required to hopefully get the appointment requested
  • Access-a-Bus demand will grow with aging population - Stats Canada predicts a growth in disabled population from current 20% to over 30% in 2026

More math.

So purchasing 15 discontinued Access-a-Buses saves $235,000.  To save that same amount via the cab supplement, we’d need to shift 10,472 rides from Access-a-Bus to Taxis.  Less than 10% of rides.

The bottom line

15 vans at a 20% discount is a one-time saving of $235,000 for HRM taxpayers.  We can save that same $235,000 by shifting just 10% of Access-a-Bus rides to taxis.
  • Not once, but forever
  • A course of action endorsed in the 2010 plan

Of course the alternative needs a thorough experiment.  We’ll need to review costs, savings, logistics and eligibility.  A properly conceived program ought to aspire to be cost neutral, meaning that incentives, discounts, management and secondary effects should sum to zero.


  • Halifax Transit staff is to develop and execute a partnership with HRM accessible transportation service providers to support Halifax Transit Access-A-Bus service.  The plan will be limited to 10,000 rides and commence in spring, 2017.  Costs and benefits will be calculated and a progress report is to be filed by June, 2017.
  • The purchase of discontinued vans be nullified
  • Institute an affirmative employment policy for Access-a-Bus to hire people with disabilities for proposed positions such as additional schedulers and dispatchers.

Gerry Post
Warren Reed

In a secret location in Halifax.....

.....the next generation of Harbour Hopper is being tested.

Russian hackers and Wikileaks are allegedly seeking details, but we are able to bring you exclusive photographs of the state-of-the-art wheelchair module in action.

Here is the launch vehicle as shipped from the lab in Calgary:  It features the heavy-duty power unit.  We believe there is a manual override for safety.

The elite team of Hopper-nauts is simulating a launch.  Notice the new style of space suit and helmet. 

And arriving at Tranquility base on board the Harbour Orbiter:

A close-up of the principal safety features on board the Orbiter.

All kidding aside, for wheelchair users, this is the moon shot revisited.  A forward thinking businessman, a responsible government agency and this society have joined to re-imagine a signature tourist attraction that symbolizes Nova Scotia's commitment to equality.  Not just tourists, but fourth graders on school trips will be able to enjoy this trademark element of the Halifax waterfront.

We are confident The Hopper-nauts will live long and prosper!

"We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people."
John F. Kennedy 1962

Sarah Dube

I've been procrastinating in posting the sad news of Sarah Dube's death at age 29.  You can read the impressive details of her life here.

Sarah was the first winner of the James McGregor Stewart Award in 2015.  Her life was one of consequence,  packed with achievements and the business of living.  I knew and admired her as an articulate and outspoken advocate.  Others saw her in action as the excellent  Chair of Independent Living Nova Scotia.

The James McGregor Stewart Society is honored to have been associated with Sarah. Her death leaves a big gap in her community.

Here, thanks to Ryan Delahanty, is Accessible Media's film of Sarah receiving her award in June of 2015

More on Sarah's remarkable life at CBC