Quebec to put up funding to switch entire Exo bus fleet to electric

Edmonton's first battery-electric bus rolled into service on Tuesday. Aug. 4, 2020. (Jay Rosove/CTV News Edmonton)

The Quebec government is committing to support the electrification of the Exo transit agency's bus fleet.

Transport Minister François Bonnardel made the announcement at Trajectoire Québec's annual fundraising luncheon in Montreal on Monday.

The public transit agency, which mainly serves the north and south shores of Montreal, plans to replace its existing buses, which are owned by private carriers, with fully electric vehicles.

Bonnardel pointed out that the private component of Exo's business "makes the electrification of its buses very difficult, since it would require that the private sector invest huge amounts of money in charging infrastructure and electric buses.”

Through the "Exobus program," Exo would take ownership of its bus fleet and garages, a change that is already underway and will take several years to complete.

Phase 1, to be completed in 2027, would cost up to $330.8 million. The details of the financing and how much is expected to come from the federal government have not yet been determined, but Bonnardel has promised that the majority of it will come from the provincial government.

The launch of the Exobus program represents a major step forward for Exo in terms of improving its services “at a time when the north and south shores of the Montreal region are expanding rapidly,” said Sylvain Yelle, Exo’s general manager.

“So, within five years, our ambition is to acquire more than 135 electric buses and within 20 years, Exo wants to own the entire fleet of buses, which could result in 1,000 electric vehicles," Yelle said, as he thanked the provincial government.

A FINANCIAL FRAMEWORK FOR PUBLIC TRANSIT

Bonnardel also announced he will establish a financial framework to fund public transit for a five-year period, from 2023 to 2028.

“The government is well aware that public transit needs constant support," he said.

“In doing so, we want to respond to a request from the municipal community and provide more predictability, especially in a context where the pandemic has profoundly affected this sector and where it is important to bring back riders."

Sarah V. Doyon, director of Trajectoire Québec, an organization that advocates for citizens' rights to public transportation throughout Quebec, called the announcement "excellent news.”

“We will have to find new sources of financing, but we are satisfied that there is finally a willingness to work on this," she said.

She reiterated a request made by her organization, and others, that have been for some time calling for a "50-50 rebalancing of investments in road transportation and public transit.”

In the last provincial budget, public transit received 30 per cent of the funds invested in transportation, while road transportation received 70 per cent.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 9, 2022.

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