Bus Shelter Filth Adds To Downtown Stink

Warning! This article contains graphic images that may be inconvenient for City Councilors or Metro Transit officials.

Reader discretion is advised.

The purpose of this post is to expose the wretched and rancid state of a specific Metro Transit bus shelter in Halifax. This is no ordinary transit shelter; This is the main bus stop at one of the most important intersections in the city.

The corner of Spring Garden Road and Barrington Street is the core of downtown Halifax. As the nearest bus stop to two 5-Star downtown hotels (the Sheraton Four Points and the Marriott Courtyard), it is located where tourists walk up from the Waterfront to take pictures of the Saint Mary’s Basilica on their route to shopping, food, and entertainment.

It is located where workers and business people conduct their affairs in and around one of the largest business towers in Halifax (the Maritime/Aliant Building). It is located where residents from all corners of the city permeate back and forth between retail shopping and restaurants located on both streets. There is one enclosed bus shelter that services this bus stop, with 21 different bus routes aptly servicing it throughout the day.

So behold! Here is Metro Transit’s bus shelter servicing this premium intersection of the only two main streets in downtown Halifax.

(Click to enlarge. If you dare.)

(Click to enlarge. If you dare.)

I take the bus daily in this corner of the city. Five days a week at approximately 8:30 AM, I am faced with the same dilemma. Do I stand outside and battle the infamous 50km mini-hurricanes of what is known as the ‘windiest spot in Halifax’? Or do I suppress my gagging and take refuge in this urine-infested, garbage-ridden cesspool of municipal neglect?


When it is raining or snowing, it is common for transit passengers on this corner to compete for the ‘sweet spot‘ in this shelter.  That spot near the door that allows you to hide half your body inside from the harshness of the weather, while giving you the access to quickly stick your head out for precious gasps of fresh air.  We all give each other half-knowing looks to acknowledge the mutual discomfort from the stench of urine and organic decay of garbage that has been left there since last summer.

An older gentleman has secured the sweet spot today, but tomorrow I am going to wake up five minutes early and beat him to it.


Given the importance of this intersection, you would think that the city would pay extra attention to it and make sure that it reflects the best face Halifax can offer. After all, if tourists, shoppers, and business people are not really the ‘crowd’ the city should care about in the downtown district, then who exactly should we bother giving a good experience to in the heart of the business, shopping, and entertainment district?

Yet, it would seem that the universe of municipal priorities rotates differently in Halifax, specifically when it comes to Transit services.

So, this is a call out to:

  • Metro Transit
  • City Council (in particular our incumbent downtown councilor)
  • Downtown Halifax Business Commission (DHBC)

Can you come up with a permanent solution to this embarrassment already? What is it going to take to put up and maintain a proper bus shelter in this sensitive intersection?

I realize that this is the city’s job, but the DHBC has a lot at stake here, so I’m not sure why they’re holding themselves hostage to the general mediocrity of our municipal services, Metro Transit, and city council. A small donation collected from downtown businesses can fund a fantastic structure worthy of this location and its significance. It can be a shelter that’s a joy to use and look at.

Perhaps even a bus shelter with (gasp!) a wall map of the downtown district and nearby attractions? Or (double gasp!) an electronic screen displaying bus departure and arrival information? Slap some sponsor advertising on it and Bob’s your uncle. Anything is better than the current status-quo!

(Click to enlarge photo)

(Click to enlarge photo)

Related Articles


About Author

Issmat A.

(6) Readers Comments

  1. It is correct that Metro Transit is responsible for the maintainence of their bus shelters. We can’t speak to what their maintenance program consists of but this is how the Downtown Halifax Business Commission (DHBC) contributes to the cleanliness of Downtown (including bus shelters):

    Every summer, DHBC hires university students for the Enviro Team program. The Enviro Team sweeps the streets and maintains the cleanliness of Downtown for the heavy tourist season. They also maintain the poster kiosks and do some graffiti removal. For the past three years, DHBC has been partnering with HRM to share costs and to coordinate efforts. This year, the students are scheduled to start at the end of April. It would be great to have this service all year but snow, student schedules and, primarily, budget prevents DHBC from continuing into the winter months.

    Also, on Wednesday, June 3, DHBC will host the 15th annual Clean Sweep event. The event serves as an opportunity for business members to get outside and contribute to a cleaner, more beautiful Downtown.

  2. Thanks for the info on current DHBC initiatives in the downtown, Ivy. While I support and encourage these efforts, I am wary of suggesting that these private initiatives are a substitute for a permanent solution to the bus shelter in question.

    If a pipe is leaking water all over your bathroom, the solution is to fix the pipe, not buying a mop and making your children take shifts mopping up the mess every 12 hours during their summer holiday.

    Besides, pointing to the community initiatives (as well intentioned as they are) that are in place as a possible (and current) solution gives the impression that this is a ‘people’ issue that can be resolved by what people do, will do, or are not doing.

    Instead, the attention should remain focused on pursuing this issue as a municipal infrastructure shortcoming that requires immediate attention by the appropriate municipal bodies. This particular shelter, despite its sensitive location, looks like a dump. And so it is treated and used as a dump.

    The shelter is carved as a recess into the landfill behind it, with limited to no visibility of what happens inside it. This is combined by the terribly dirty glass panels on either side, which contributes to providing an environment more resembling of an underground bunker than a premium downtown bus shelter.

    We don’t need to look further than down the road on Barrington street to the only other ‘enclosed’ bus shelter on this street: the Scotia Square bus stop. The same buses service both stops, yet the shelters at Scotia Square mall are of the newer variety. They have seats and garbage dispensers. Most importantly, they are made of clear glass panels on all sides, thereby giving no refuge to anyone who might fancy a little public urination.

    I have been using this bus stop on and off for years, and on a daily basis since last summer. The condition is constant in all seasons. We can’t just say that its OK to have it stink more in the winter than in the summer because there are less tourists in the winter. What about me, the tax-paying resident?

    A business traveler in town for a February conference doesn’t care for excuses about budgets, students too busy to ‘volunteer’ to clean up a Transit shelter (the tragedy!), or any of the other million and one reasons that the municipality can come up with (except, ofcourse, that they’re going to do something about it).

    That traveler simply shows up, engages in an experience, then goes away with a feeling about the place they were just in. No one can chase this traveler back to their home to offer rebuttals or explanations after-the-fact. The damage is already done.

    Friends:So how was your trip to Halifax Frank? Was downtown fun and interesting?
    Frank:Well, I didn’t really get a chance to venture far from my hotel and the conference. I did walk up a couple blocks. To be honest it was kind of ghetto. Lots of boarded up buildings and shady, smelly bus shelters“.

    Unfortunately, that conversation doesn’t end with:

    Frank:It’s ok though! I’m sure the snow somehow prohibits city workers from picking up the garbage or emptying the cans. Besides, Halifax is a town on budget and they can’t pay people to constantly monitor the state of the central downtown bus shelter. In addition, I heard the DHBC has a volunteer community program that has students picking up garbage instead of the municipality, but I was there in February and the students were still in class.”

    “Next time I visit, I will time it better to make sure all the stars are lined up right for me to have a good experience: summer holiday for the student cleaners, no snow to prohibit garbage removal, and a relaxed municipal budget that allows for the improvement of that one bus shelter.”

    I really believe that this problem is easily solved by removing the current shelter and replacing it with a more modern shelter. A shelter that sticks out into the sidewalk more, with clear see-through glass walls on all sides, and a garbage can inside that is emptied regularly.

    We are too nice in Halifax and prefer to do something ourselves than hold the people who are responsible for it accountable. This approach doesn’t do anyone any good, as it perpetuates an attitude of apathy in municipal government and services like Metro Transit. We pay taxes up the nose in this city, and it is our right to expect excellent service for it.

  3. I couldn’t agree more. I was reading about a different city (forget which) a few months ago that was facing a real problem with graffiti on their subways. Their solution was that every single night they were going to clean off the newly acquired graffiti. Every night. After a while of this they noticed the amount of graffiti diminishing until it was hardly happening.

    If a city shows that they care about public areas by keeping them clean the general population will in turn start to take pride in these locations. However if the city doesn’t care there are far too many people out there who will look at a dirty bus shelter and say if the city doesn’t care why should I.

    Good on you, Issmat.

  4. Does anyone remember the Broken Window theory?

  5. Thanks for sharing the link Darrin! Very interesting. Now I know there is an actual scientific name to this common-sense concept, and will likely use it in future conversations to impress others. :-)

  6. Status Update: Over the last couple of days, something incredible happened. The bus shelter in question received a good scrubbing, and the garbage was removed!

    It still looks like a third-rate shelter for its sensitive downtown location, but at least it doesn’t smell like a dirty bathroom any more.

    Thanks are due to whoever is responsible for the quick turn-around! Also thanks to Steve Morrison from Haligonia.ca for taking this picture and forwarding it to YWT.

Leave a Reply