SAINT JOHN • An electronic bus fare payment system is next on the list for Saint John Transit after it introduced the city's first 40-foot electric bus Tuesday.
Plans are to replace the current paper-punch fare system either with digital cards or a digital payment system where riders can top up their accounts and travel, according to Nick Cameron, chair of the Saint John Transit Commission. The system, which is likely to be introduced next year, will also be an opportunity to look at youth, senior and student rates all at the same time.
"I think it will be a different fare structure," Cameron said, adding he wasn't promising any change in present ticket costs.
It's the latest development for Saint John Transit as it looks to modernize its service with an eye on its carbon footprint. A 20-foot electric bus was also unveiled last month ahead of the latest addition to its fleet Tuesday.
The new 40-foot BYD KZ is a 41-seater with air conditioning and USB charging ports. It makes almost no noise when compared to traditional diesel engines and also has a rear camera for reversing, as noted during a ride of the bus at its unveiling Tuesday.
"You never saw that we got a back-up camera in the bus, but this one does," said driver John Tian, who has been with Saint John Transit for 13 years now.
"I feel so excited to drive this."
Tian was the first driver to get an opportunity to take the 40-foot electric bus for a spin around town. He described the pickup and braking system as phenomenal.
"I only press half break, it is so quick," he said, adding the bus has buttons and a digital system for temperature control and mirror adjustments "just like car."
The 40-foot bus is a pilot project running on a six-month trial in Saint John. It arrived from Saskatoon and has been seen working fine at a -41-degree temperature, according to Fogan.
Ian Fogan, director of Saint John Transit, said the bus takes five hours to charge and can run up to 300 kilometres on a single charge. It is suitable for most of the city routes, he said, though some routes are longer and may require some on-route charging options.
According to a study, Fogan said, "Even on the most challenging routes, if we stopped in for a quick two-minute charge at four different times during the day, then that would cover us for the entire day."
This would not affect the ridership or compromise the route in any manner as most of the chargers are built in, he added.
The study also stated that Saint John's moderate climate should not have much of an effect on the batteries in the winters, but the biggest concern is the air conditioning that can eat up a lot of charge on warm days, Fogan said.
To run these tests and learn about the on-road performance, the 40-foot bus has been leased for the pilot program. If successful, plans are to purchase the next ones.
The bus is expected to eliminate approximately 50 tonnes of CO2 emissions, and the estimated fuel savings right now is expected to be in the $20,000 range per bus, according to Fogan.
"It's about the whole carbon footprint," Saint John Mayor Donna Reardon said Tuesday. "We do wanna move in that direction."
She said the City of Saint John is looking at reducing its carbon footprint in every area as soon as possible, and she's proud that Saint John is taking the lead in the province by being the only city to introduce electric buses on roads.
"Always wanna be right out at the front of everything, that's the best spot."
Rhythm Rathi, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal