Electric city: Halifax to acquire 60 battery-operated buses, electrify Ragged Lake depot

Halifax Transit is set to electrify part of its fleet after receiving $112 million from all three levels of government to expand one of its depots and acquire 60 battery-operated buses.

“The investment in Atlantic Canada’s first electric transit fleet speaks to the commitments we have made to be better citizens of our planet through our Halifax climate city.

The funding will be used to purchase charging equipment and expand Halifax's Ragged Lake Transit Centre to accommodate the new fleet. The facility will also undergo a deep energy retrofit, including solar panels, to achieve a net-zero standard.

Ottawa is spending $44.8 million, $37.3 million is coming from the province, and the municipality is providing $29.8 million.

Construction on the facility is slated to begin in 2022 and be completed by 2023.

Request for proposals for the electric buses will be issued later this summer. All buses should be delivered by 2024, with the first deliveries in 2023.

Once in service, the buses are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3,800 tonnes annually by 2030.

"We continue to aggressively pursue action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Premier Iain Rankin said in a release. "Expanding Halifax Transit's fleet to include new electric buses will not only improve the capacity of public transit, but it will help us achieve our ambitious climate change goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. It puts us at the forefront of transit electrification in Atlantic Canada."

The announcement falls in line with pledges from the federal, provincial and municipal governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years.

Environmental and transportation advocates in the region say they were excited by Thursday’s announcement.

“These 60 additional buses, it’s not just that they are electric, but it’s that we’ll be able to run more routes more frequently, so that transit will become a more viable, more flexible option for more people for whom it isn’t right now,” says Ben Hammer, Transport Officer at Halifax’s Ecology Action Centre.

Larger Canadian cities, including Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver, have already began transitioning to electric buses. But one transit advocate says Halifax is running right on schedule.

“As recently as two years ago, Halifax Transit was doubling down on diesel, so it’s really good news that they are doing a 180 and deciding to electrify the fleet,” says Scott Edgar, chair of ‘It’s More Than Buses’.

“Every transit authority that waits a year or two, or five years, is able to pull the trigger when technology is that much better, so it’s probably good that Halifax is in the middle of the pack here. Hopefully other cities have worked out a lot of the bugs, but on the other hand, it’s not something we need to wait any more on.”

Edgar says along with environmental impacts, another advantage of electric buses is that they are much quieter. But that alone doesn’t guarantee more people are going to hop on the bus.

“I couldn’t be more excited about the fleet electrification, but we’re still waiting to hear anything at all about if the province is going to step up to fund Halifax Transit’s Rapid Transit Plan,” says Edgar. “If people found buses too inconvenient to fit in their live before, unfortunately the electrification of the fleet isn’t going to help.”

The city says the goal is to have the entire 340-bus fleet all electric by the year 2028, while following the Transforming Transit strategy to create a more convenient, cost-effective and environmentally responsible transit system for all residents.