Nova Scotia

CBRM eyes electric buses as transit ridership skyrockets

Cape Breton Regional Municipality is getting some high-powered help with a proposal to add electric buses to its transit fleet.

Energy minister fast-tracking study that could bring electric buses to CBRM faster

Wayne MacDonald, CBRM's director of engineering and public works, said the municipality is hoping to quickly secure funding for electric buses. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Cape Breton Regional Municipality is getting some high-powered help with a proposal to add electric buses to its transit fleet.

Nova Scotia's minister of energy is helping fast-track a study into a pilot project that could ease problems following an explosion of public transit ridership in the municipality.

The aim is to take advantage of federal infrastructure funding for green initiatives.

"The quicker the funding can come, the quicker our electric buses in CBRM will become a reality," said Wayne MacDonald, CBRM's director of engineering and public works.

He said transit ridership has tripled over the last two years and the municipality needs help.

In 2017, CBRM transit provided about 350,000 rides a year, said MacDonald, and ridership is now around 1.2 million, thanks to an influx of international students at Cape Breton University.

Derek Mombourquette, the MLA for Sydney-Whitney Pier and the province's minister of energy and mines, said the time is right for CBRM to be acquiring electric buses. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

The provincial study has only been underway for a couple of weeks, but MacDonald said it will help the municipality decide what kind of buses are needed, the potential cost, and what the vehicles would need for maintenance and infrastructure.

"We've been working with the bus producers and manufacturers to determine what's available and how long the timeline would be associated with ordering and how does that line up with our available funding," he said.

"How quickly that can happen, what infrastructure is required on the ground, how do we maintain, how do we charge, how do we make sure the buses are properly available to be used each day."

Derek Mombourquette, the MLA for Sydney-Whitney Pier and the province's minister of energy and mines, said the need for transit service in CBRM is growing and if infrastructure is needed, that is the time to invest in electric buses.

Mombourquette said the department is working to speed up the study with the aim of creating a pilot project as soon as possible that would help CBRM qualify for federal funding.

"If this becomes a priority for them, we would determine what we could do to go after the money," he said. "We need to determine what infrastructure we need to put in place to actually support the electric buses, so as fast as we can get that work done, we're going to get it done, so we can try to get these on the road."

Mombourquette said the province is also looking at ways to improve transit service at the university.

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