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Transit incentive on hold as city explores ways to cut traffic

Plans to extend a program where companies discount bus passes for their employees remains stuck in neutral.

HRM council is looking at ways to cut the flow of cars into downtown Halifax, but plans to extend a program where companies discount bus passes for their employees remains stuck in neutral.

The Eco-Pass, or E-Pass, has been a pilot program since 2007. Employees at participating companies get 10 or 15 per cent off the price of a bus pass, with the companies and Metro Transit splitting the cost of the discount.

But Metro Transit isn't ready to offer it to everybody.

"We have a number of other priorities," Metro Transit spokeswoman Lori Patterson said Tuesday. "The pilot program has met with some success. It's certainly a good idea, but the problem is capacity issues on the bus. Before we can expand our service anymore, we have to build a new garage."

Jen Powley of the Ecology Action Centre finds the delay frustrating. She co-ordinates the E-Pass from the EAC and gets at least call a week from employers hoping to join up, only to have to turn them away.

"It's frustrating when there are people who want this service and you have to (turn them away)," she said.

Powley said the group has been told the program will expand by 2010, but Metro Transit wouldn't confirm that.

A report on HRM's parking strategy submitted to council found 78 per cent of Halifax commuters travel by car and in 68 per cent of the cars, it's just the driver. The study identified "free" parking as a big factor. When company lots are considered, 40 per cent of parking is free to the user downtown. The study found 29 per cent of drivers would hop on the bus if they had to pay to park and recommended the city use its parking strategy to discourage lone commuters.

Halifax Downtown Coun. Dawn Sloane couldn't be reached for comment.

 
 
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