TransLink aiming to stop buying new diesel buses starting in 2023

Oct 27 2020, 5:50 pm

Metro Vancouver’s public transit authority is aiming to stay on schedule and stop the purchase of any new diesel buses starting in 2023.

A TransLink staff report highlights that there are currently delays with the implementation to the construction of the new Marpole Transit Centre in Vancouver, located immediately west of the Canada Line bridge over the Fraser River.

This new bus depot, built on a vacant industrial site, dedicated for up to 300 electric-battery buses, was originally slated for completion by the end of 2023.

To ensure there is no delay for TransLink’s Low Carbon Fleet Strategy (LCFS), which will see the transition to electric-battery powered buses and the replacement of aging diesels, the public transit authority is seeking $43.91 million from the Greater Vancouver Regional Fund (GVRF). This fund pools 95% of the federal gas tax fund received by Metro Vancouver municipalities towards TransLink’s projects, typically for the bus system.

This includes $27.8 million to provide the existing Port Coquitlam Transit Centre with new electrification infrastructure to make it the region’s first bus depot equipped to handle electric-battery buses.

Another $17.9 million is sought as a top up for the increased cost to purchase 57 new buses that are electric-battery models instead of the previously planned last generation of diesel hybrid buses. The total funding requested from the GVRF for this bus acquisition is $86.1 million.

When other funding sources are included, both projects as part of the first wave of bus electrification will cost a total of $119.3 million, with the GVRF covering $113.8 million.

These 57 new electric-battery buses are expected to reduce operating costs by $14.4 million compared to diesel models over the 17-year lifespan of the vehicles.

“These are projections; there are many unknowns that will only be discovered with full-scale operational experience,” reads the staff report.

“TransLink is learning from the experience of other transit operators and once in service, TransLink will closely monitor the overall operating cost profile of this new fleet and update operations and maintenance budgeting accordingly.”

As outlined in February of this year, TransLink requires over $400 million to deliver its LCFS target over 10 years of acquiring up to 635 electric-battery buses to replace aging 40-ft regular buses and 60-ft articulated buses that use combustion fuels, and the associated charging and maintenance infrastructure.

This does not include the funding required to replace the aging trolley buses later this decade with new trolleys, not electric-battery buses, given the overhead power line network that already exists.

For near-term investments, TransLink closed its procurement process in March 2020 for up to 15 additional electric-battery buses. These new vehicles are expected to be delivered next year, allowing Route 100 22nd Street Station/Marpole Loop to be completed converted into TransLink’s first fully electrified bus route.

This is in addition to the first four electric-battery buses that went into service on Route 100 last year. The report notes there were communication and connectivity issues between these initial buses and chargers, but the problems have since been resolved.

The electrification of the bus fleet is TransLink’s primary strategy of reducing its emissions by 45% in 2030, and 80% by 2050.

TransLink is expected to be on the receiving end of the federal government’s new $1.5 billion national fund for zero-emission buses, announced earlier this month.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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