Transit Commission gives green light to $1 billion plan to buy zero-emission buses

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Ottawa is one step closer to a zero-emission bus fleet, and becoming the first city in Canada to do so in a big way.   

The Transit Commission approved a $1 billion plan to convert the diesel OC Transpo bus fleet to zero-emission vehicles. The goal is to have a zero-emission transit fleet by 2036.

"It’s a pleasant transition, because we know we’re going to be contributing to council’s agenda, to the environmental impact; and, to being leaders in the field, which we’re very proud of," said John Manconi, Ottawa's transportation services general manager.

The plan includes purchasing 450 new buses by 2027, starting with 74 electric buses to be on the road by 2023.

"They’re long-range battery life in between charging; so, they’ll be on very busy routes," says Manconi.   

Those first to be replaced will be 40-foot buses, serving local routes. OC Transpo's double-decker and articulated buses would then be next, with hopefully newer technology that allows for a longer range.

"Technology is growing exponentially, we all know how technology evolves; just think of your iPhones - the evolution of those exponential, it’s not just linear."

The $1 billion price tag includes new equipment at the St. Laurent bus garage for charging.

It’s all possible, in part because of a loan with the Canada Infrastructure Bank and the Federal Government.

"For me, the number one thing I look at is financial concerns; the numbers certainly make sense here," said Allan Hubley, chair of Ottawa's Transit Commission.

"The cost to do this on our own, we wouldn’t even be taking about this. The fact that there’s enticements there by the federal government, for us to be the first to jump in, in a big way, and we’re going to take advantage of those enticements."

Hubley says the electric buses will still require a small diesel motor to power air conditioning, as well as heating during those cold winter commutes.

The plan is separate of an electric bus pilot project, which will see four buses hit Ottawa streets later this year.   

The next step is for council to approve on June 23.