'The future of public transit': Edmonton on board to buy 40 electric buses

Electric buses represent “the future of public transit,” Mayor Don Iveson said Friday at a funding announcement that will put 40 of the green vehicles on Edmonton’s streets.

$43M cost shared by federal and provincial governments and City of Edmonton

 A man in a suit stands at a podium in front of a full-size city transit bus.
Federal Instructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi speaks Friday at a funding announcement that will see Edmonton purchase up to 40 electric buses. (Emilio Avalos/CBC)

Clean-running electric buses represent "the future of public transit," Mayor Don Iveson said Friday as he helped announce funding that will put 40 of the green vehicles on Edmonton's streets.

Iveson joined federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi and Alberta Transportation Minister Brian Mason at a bus garage in southwest Edmonton to announce $43 million in funding for the project.

The federal government is providing $21.5 million through its public transit infrastructure fund. The province is contributing $10.8 million through its GreenTRIP program. The city is also providing $10.8 million.

Iveson said the city will get its first five electric buses in 2019 and 35 more by 2020.

"We're ordering them now, we're just finalizing the procurement — that will be announced soon — but the funding is what made it possible for us to accelerate our electric bus purchase, and if it all goes well, I want to go much farther than 40 buses in coming years," he said.

He said he would like to see the entire fleet converted to electric within 10 or 20 years. Electric buses cost more to purchase than diesel buses but are cheaper to operate and maintain and produce fewer greenhouse-gas emissions, he added.

"The purchase of electric buses is absolutely critical to our city's accelerated leadership on energy and climate.

"It also will produce a more reliable bus for our operators to work with and our maintenance folks to work with, and it will also produce a smoother and quieter ride with less exhaust and less noise in neighbourhoods."

Iveson said moving to electric buses is a "big priority" for him as mayor.

"I've seen cities in China that have already completely electrified their bus fleet," he said. "This is the future of public transit. And I can't wait for the next round [of funding] and the eventual full electrification of our bus fleet."

Edmonton Transit used to have a fleet of electric trolley buses but they were retired in 2009 as part of a cost-cutting move.

St. Albert put three new electric buses on the road last year, and Parkland County has one electric school bus.

Friday's announcement was made at Edmonton Transit's Centennial garage.

Mason said the transition to electric buses will be good for the environment and for job creation.

"As Edmonton continues to grow," Mason said, "it will need to expand its transit fleet and the addition of new, electric buses will help protect our environment and get people to and from jobs and appointments safely and quietly."

Supporting innovation

Sohi said the move to electric buses is important to the federal government.

"As technology advances, it's very important that we continue to support innovation and we continue to support efforts to have more reliable, less polluting vehicles that help us build greener communities, at the same time creating jobs for Canadians."