Marcus Garnet, professional planner and public transportation advocate

The Scenario:

The year is 2025, a warm spring day in Halifax, and Brian has invited us all out to his place in Bedford for a BBQ. After a fine meal Mike suggests we head downtown to take in a local band at one of Halifax’s many entertainment venues. How do we get there, and what do we see along the way?

We start out on foot, walking along wide, tree-lined sidewalks, with views of Bedford Basin unfolding as our street winds its way downhill. As we get closer to the Bedford Highway, we start passing more townhouses, then some condominiums with downstairs cafes and stores with shop windows right next to the sidewalk.

Hybrid double-decker buses cruise past, taking passengers from Bedford West to the Mill Cove Transit Centre with its plaza, wellness clinic and grocery deli. Others pass us on bikes and driving electric smart cars.

When we enter the glass-roofed Transit Centre we can choose between local buses, a fast ferry to Purdys Wharf, or a rail shuttle that links all the university campuses with shopping centres and downtown Halifax. Our cellphones show us the schedule then display a bar code that lets us through the turnstiles. Some of us use our MacPass which we took from our cars. That MacPass is even good for parking fees and peak-hour road tolls.

We’re going to a new performance venue at the Halifax Farmers Market, so we hop on the rail shuttle. The ferry is a shorter ride, but it isn’t going where we want to go tonight. The fast boat is popular with office workers at Purdys Wharf and Scotia Square. In fact, we could even have biked all the way to the Farmers Market on the trail alongside the railway, but the band starts in only 20 minutes.

Our self-propelled Dayliner glides up to the platform, a short ramp slides across the gap, and we can board on the level. Several people get off after going shopping at Sunnyside or Bedford Common. Two motorized wheelchairs, a child’s stroller and three bicycles roll on. The child starts to squawk, so we move into the other car.

We choose comfortable seats with a panorama of the Basin. We quickly outpace the rollerbladers racing us along the waterfront trail. Soon we’re passing cars in the roundabouts on the Bedford Highway.

It’s hard to believe our vehicle has a shell that’s nearly 70 years old. Its stainless steel still sparkles, and all its innards were replaced with low-emission systems in a complete rebuild done here in the Maritimes. And most of the welded tracks were already there too. So we’re re-using and re-cycling existing assets.

Before we know it, we’re slowing for the stop at Mount Saint Vincent, where students get off for evening classes. Other young people get on for a trip downtown with friends.