Changes coming to Halifax’s busiest shopping street

On a bright and sunny afternoon, Spring Garden Road is normally bustling with pedestrians, cyclists, and traffic.

But on Monday, July 4, the street will look different than usual, when the city starts its “daytime transit only pilot.”

“On Monday, you’ll be seeing some regulatory signage changes,” says Elora Wilkinson, Halifax’s principal planner for urban design. “You will also see banners to communicate and to help people know what’s coming.”

“You’ll also see an enhanced enforcement plan, you’ll see HRP in the area, really focused on education at the beginning,” she adds.

The pilot project means that every day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., the only motor vehicles allowed on Spring Garden Road between Queen and South Park Streets will be city buses and emergency vehicles.

Personal vehicles, taxis, delivery vehicles, and rideshares will not be allowed.

The city says the idea is to make the street better for those who use it most.

“So pedestrian experience, reducing some of the noise on the street, the congestion, but also creating a space where transit can get through in a way that's reliable,” says Wilkinson.

Some pedestrians say they're up for the change.

“I think it'd be a really neat thing to try, I’m really curious to see how it will work over the next year,” says David Langelaan, who works nearby.

Visitors Carole Prevost and Sylvie Emond from Ottawa agree.

“I love it!” says Prevost. “It's quieter too, when you're just the pedestrian walking.”

Though Emond thinks closing the street daily may be too much of a shift.

“I think it's a good idea,” she says, “but I would only do it on Friday night, Saturday and Sunday.”

Vehicles will be able to use side streets to cross Spring Garden Road and flow through the area.

That means traffic can pass through southbound on Birmingham Street, northbound on Dresden Row, and northbound on Brenton Street (with a left turn only required on Spring Garden to South Park Street).

The city is also changed Clyde Street into a two-way street between South Park and Brenton Streets.

But some who rely on getting their vehicles into the area for a living predict problems.

“We can't really stop close to this corner so we should go up fifty meters,” explains taxi driver Dave Buffett, as he points to where a taxi may have to pick up a client in lieu of being able to stop on the street.

Buffett, who’s also head of the Halifax Taxi Drivers Association, says the changes will mean some clients will have to walk further to catch their cab.

“I can see a lot of confusion, I can see a lot of missed calls because they went to the wrong corner for example. So I don't see any positives,” says Buffett.

Some businesses agree, with a recent survey conducted by the Spring Garden Road Business Association finding opinions among 100 respondents split right down the middle.

Stephen MacNeil of Citadel Music says the past two years on the street have been anything but harmonious for his business, so he’s just hoping for the best.

“It’s hard to say,” says MacNeil when asked about what it could do to his customer base.

“We just went through COVID,” says MacNeil. “The street was shut down last year completely, like, the sidewalks are about three feet wide (for streetscaping construction), so it can't get any worse than it has been.”