[HALIFAX, NS] — HRM Regional Council voted to cut the ferry service last Tuesday, which connects the waterfronts of Dartmouth and Halifax and is an important corridor for many citizens.
The cuts were originally more severe, but Gloria McCluskey brought forward a compromise motion, which eventually succeeded. Saving Friday, Saturday and holiday hours, but implementing the rest of the cuts during the week.
"Very highly frustrated over the whole thing," McCluskey said after the vote. "It never should have been on the list, because the ferry recovers 68 per cent, the average bus recovers 46 per cent."
The cuts to the ferry were in the spring budget, but only got the attention of councillors when staff brought recommendations to council on how to cut the ferry. The debate on what to do was divisive and heated.
"The only reason that we got what we did was the compromise," McCluskey said, "They (council) were prepared to go with the first recommendation and cut everything. I would not have given in to this if there was any other way of doing it."
"Let me tell you that when the budget for next year comes up, it's going to be a different story," McCluskey said.
HRM goes to the polls to elect a new regional council and mayor on Oct. 20, and the ferry could become an election issue.
Zane Kelsall, who owns the Two If By Sea cafes in Dartmouth and Halifax, said he was discouraged by the ferry cuts and what it could mean to local businesses.
"Having businesses on both sides of the ferry, I take the ferry across probably six or seven times a day," Kelsall said. "I think it's really shortsighted."
The Two If By Sea website features an animated ferry which connects the two locations. Kelsall said the cuts to the afternoon hours from every 15 minutes to every 30 minutes is problematic.
"I know there's financial reasons for it, but I think having the ferry run consistently more often would be the solution for people seeing it as a viable way to get across," Kelsall said. "It does affect my business, but not as much as it might for other businesses such as the Hart & Thistle and other waterfront locations who rely on those patrons who grab one last drink or bite to eat before catching the ferry home."
Charlene Gagnon lives in Dartmouth and said the ferry cuts should have been looked at more carefully than they were.
"I don't see much of a problem with going from every 15 minutes to every half hour because it's more of a convenience issue for people," Gagnon said. "I know so many people who come over to Dartmouth Sunday night and hang out in the neighbourhood and then go back to catch the ferry back to Halifax and they don't even realize that it stops running at 6 p.m. because it seems like such an early time."
Gagnon said that the ferry service is also backwards for events, rather than having reduced hours during events like Natal Day, Gagnon would like to see more ferry runs to accommodate increased demand.
"Being someone who is really involved in the music scene on the Dartmouth side, I was really happy that they did not cut Friday and Saturday night service because we've got a growing nightlife scene emerging in downtown Dartmouth," Gagnon said, who performs at Jacob's Lounge. "The people who come to see us take the ferry across around 11 p.m. and then take a taxi back. But those same people couldn't afford to take a taxi both ways."
Monday - Thursday, service ends at 10:15 pm. Reduced service from every 15 minutes to every 30 minutes between noon and 2 p.m.
Friday - Saturday (and holidays): maintained current service
Sunday: Service delayed until 11:30 a.m.