Commuter makes the case for a South Shore-Halifax shuttle

Commuter makes the case for a South Shore-Halifax shuttle

Catherine MacQuarrie drives along Highway 103 twice a day, three days a week from her home in Lunenburg.

The mother of two young children has a tight schedule: she has to get to work early enough in the morning so she can get home in time to see her kids before they go to bed.

It's a routine that allows her the quality of life she's looking for in a small town while meeting the demands of a professional career as an architect — but the commute isn't easy.

"I find it very draining to be driving an hour and a quarter twice a day," said MacQuarrie. "I'm fortunate enough that I have a flexible work schedule and I can do some of my work from Lunenburg. I don't think I would ever commute five days a week ... three is manageable."

Shuttle solution

MacQuarrie would like to see a bus service introduced on the South Shore that accommodates the working professional who needs to commute to Halifax for work.

"They've been talking about twinning the highway and taking care of all that extra traffic. Depending on how flexible a commuter bus can be and how it could fit into everyone's schedule, if that were a viable option," she said.

"I think it's a much more economical one than trying to twin the highway."

Stats to back it up

A 2011 Statistics Canada study (National Household Survey) showed daily, there were 1,405 residents of Lunenburg County who travelled over an hour to work. Another 930 people spent 45 to 59 minutes travelling to work.

That's nearly 2,500 people a day who spend more than 45 minutes travelling to work in cars. The six-year-old statistics also show another 960 from Queens County travel more than an hour. 

A more recent provincial report on Highway 103 safety estimates that current 2017 traffic volumes for all purposes, not just commuting, on the stretch between Bridgewater and Halifax is 14,500 cars a day. It will increase to 16,100 by 2024 and 18,400 by 2034.

Former bus service

Mike Cassidy is the president of Maritime Bus, a commercial bus service that used to run a shuttle from the South Shore in 2012 when the company took over Acadian Lines — but the service didn't last. 

"We used to leave Yarmouth at 7 a.m., get into Halifax around noon hour, we would leave Halifax around supper hour and wouldn't get back into Yarmouth until 10, 11 o'clock at night," said Cassidy. 

"And we were not having the ridership that would make a bus line network sustainable for those 300 and some odd kilometres that you would travel each and every day." 

But MacQuarrie thinks a bus service on the South Shore should cater to the working commuters with flexible hours. 

"There needs to be some options with a commuter bus so that people who like to get into work early can get back early," she said.

Employment numbers

According to statistics from the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, between 2008 and 2015, Halifax gained 14,000 jobs, while rural Nova Scotia lost 17,500.

From January to October 2016, the employment rate in Halifax went up 0.7 per cent but declined by 1.5 per cent in the rest of the province. 

Cassidy admits demand for shuttle services is growing in Atlantic Canada and thinks it may be time to look at a service on the South Shore again.