Dal neighbours upset over bus stop

University, councillor fielding complaints about noise from students waiting for late-night bus.

Bus stop outside the Howe Hall residence and Dal Health Centre is shown between classes. Photo: Allison McCabe

Ann-Noreen Norton has a bird's eye view from her home of the rowdy weekend crowds that congregate around what students dub the "Howe Hall bus stop" outside the Dalhousie Health Centre at Coburg Road and Lemarchant Street in Halifax. Since the university issued the "U-Pass" bus pass in 2006, the stop has become a stomping ground for partygoers en route downtown.

"If the noise and obscenities just happened once and the bus came and they'd all go... but that bus runs every 10 minutes," said Norton. "It can start as early as four o'clock and on Saturdays, as early as lunchtime."

Dalhousie University President Tom Traves addressed her concerns at last week's Annual President's Meeting when Norton appealed to the school for help. He acknowledged receiving numerous complaints from area residents and told them he had met with a supervisor from the city's planning services in December about moving the stop. For now, the relocation's feasibility boils down to safety requirements.

"The Traffic Authority won't permit the move of a stop on particular blocks in that area," said Billy Comeau, a Dalhousie communications officer. "There would be insufficient space for traffic if the bus stop was moved further down."

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Students wait for the bus outside the Howe Hall residence on a Friday night. Photo: Emily Graff

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Google Maps street view of the bus stop and surrounding neighbourhood.

Not so, says Northwest Arm-South End Councillor Sue Uteck, who has been fielding complaints from her constituents concerning the problem bus stop. She says she's had discussions with Metro Transit and believes a solution can be reached.

"They're in the planning now for budgets and routing," said Uteck on Monday. "Metro Transit very rarely moves the stops. It's got to be a compelling reason."

In her 10 years on city council, Uteck has only successfully lobbied for moving one other - an Inglis Street bus stop that was also affected by the mass of students on the street's sidewalk following the issuing of the metro "U-Pass."

"I said (to Metro Transit) ‘We're looking at another Inglis Street.'"

Lori Patterson, a spokesperson for Metro Transit, said her office has only ever received three complaints about that bus stop. She adds that relocations aren't easy.

"It's been a well-established bus stop for a long time," she said. "[But] If there's an alternate location that's suitable for our passengers and falls within the sight lines of city traffic we certainly would look at it."

Other residents don't think moving the stop would solve the main problem they have with the neighbourhood: the noise.

"I can't see how they can do anything with it," said Art Irwin, a landlord who lives in the area.

He's satisfied with Dalhousie's attempts to keep noise levels down but wonders whether a relocation of the "Howe Hall" stop would fix the dilemma. "You could move it back from the curb 15 or 20 feet onto Dal property but that's not going to stop the unruly people."

"Gratuitous violence"

Norton said she's worried about more than property damage when students mill around outside of residence after drinking. Last April, Norton called the police when she witnessed a group of people at the bus stop swarm and beat a young man who was heading back to campus. She says more should be done while the New Academic Building on Coburg Road is being built and thinks surveillance at the new building might keep student behaviour in check.

"It would be safer for students to be in a situation where there's more security," said Norton. "There's so much screaming profanities and a fair amount of gratuitous violence."

Norton said the obvious solution - to move out of the neighbourhood - is complicated and doesn't appeal to her.

"It appeared to me that the bus stop was a fixable item: reduce the noise for residents and provide a safe place for students to stand."

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