City joins E-bus study

·3 min read

THUNDER BAY, ONT. — A study is underway for the transition of Thunder Bay’s transit and municipal fleet to electric vehicles.

The city is participating in the feasibility study along with 12 other municipalities in Ontario in what Vanessa DeGiacomo-Zwaresh, a city engineering analyst, calls a promising initiative.

Should the study, which will seek information resources and implement a roadmap for the transition, prove viable, it could mean a green light for the switch to electric fleets.

“The city council supported the net zero plan and this would reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” said DeGiacomo-Zwaresh.

“So from that perspective, we’re looking at what our fleet currently uses for gas and diesel — because we run both — and what the potential is for reductions for greenhouse gas emissions. It looks promising, but again, it depends on once the study is done and the findings are presented to city council, ultimately it’s up to the prerogative of council. I think it’s a really exciting initiative that I hope leads to the electrification of transit.”

With high fuel costs and energy costs, the study will examine the feasibility aspects and long-term goals of the transition.

“One of the requests for qualifying quotes (RQQ) that was put out is a comprehensive financial analysis of the whole project, both for the municipal fleet and the transit fleet,” DeGiacomo-Zwaresh said.

“They will be looking at how it would be phased in, the capital costs, the operating costs, maintenance costs and human resources costs. All of that will be factored into the feasibility study.”

The study is co-ordinated by the Metrolinx Transit Procurement Initiative (TPI), of which Thunder Bay is a member. Metrolinx works with transit agencies to help buy buses and transit-related goods with the benefits of bulk pricing, procurement efficiency and shared expertise.

DeGiacomo-Zwaresh said the city looks at bulk procurement throughout the province of Ontario but couldn’t comment if Thunder Bay’s Alstom plant could be the manufacturer.

“This was an initiative through the Metrolinx TPI, where we looked at hiring a consultant for the 12 municipalities and the City of Thunder Bay,” she said.

“We put out a comprehensive (request for qualifying quotes) and we went through quite the process of selection to select the final successful consultant to work on these projects with the 12 municipalities.”

Brad Loroff, manager of Thunder Bay Transit Services, said they are “quite excited” about the city’s participation in the joint study.

“Diesel buses are some of the noisier, more polluting vehicles on roads so going electric could have large benefits,” he said to The Chronicle-Journal. “Electric buses generate fewer emissions so there are real gains for the environment. They are whisper quiet with no exhaust or engine noise, which would create a more comfortable urban environment for riders as well as pedestrians and cyclists.”

Loroff added, “We are also keen to understand more about the potential operational related opportunities like fuel savings, reduced maintenance costs and how electric buses may complement improved planning across the transit network.”

Gerry Broere, director of the city’s facilities, fleet and energy management says the study will not only determine the purchase and transitioning to zero-emission, electric fleets but also reflect maintenance, storage, and charging requirements. The study will provide a detailed report and plan for the preparation as well as assess the impact on the local energy grid maintained by Synergy North.

Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal

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