The future of Red Deer transit was rolled out on Tuesday with new buses that are more environmentally friendly and cost efficient.
The 17 new public transit buses that run on compressed natural gas instead of diesel are being phased in on various city routes over the next few weeks.
Purchased through the Quebec-based Nova Bus (affiliated with Volvo) each bus costs just over $500,000 — which is a little more than a conventional diesel-fuelled bus, said Trever Sparrow, superintendent of conventional services for the City’s transit department.
But he believes it’s well worth it, since the new CNG buses use 30 per cent less fuel per kilometre, and their fuel costs are 40 per cent lower than diesel — resulting in less green house gas emissions and more taxpayer savings.
The goal is to gradually replace the rest of the city transit fleet (consisting of a total of 63 conventional buses and 24 Action Buses for people with disabilities) with more vehicles that run on compressed natural gas.
So far, the city has used $5-million of its federal gas tax Fund allocation and $10.1 million in provincial GreentTRIP funding for the new CNG bus purchases. The City of Red Deer also funded about $600,000 from fuel and capital reserves to cover the remaining cost.
The $15.7 million project also includes the installation of a CNG fuelling station in the city’s civic yards and some upgrades to the bus storage facility and maintenance garage. (Gas detection monitors were upgraded as were electrical, heating and air handling systems to ensure the new buses could be safely maintained indoors).
Outwardly, the new made-in-New-York buses look the same as diesel-fuelled ones. But a test ride on one of the CNG vehicles on Tuesday demonstrated that they run quieter and smoother, as well as producing less harmful exhaust emissions.
Mayor Tara Veer said the city has taken a significant step forward in reducing its carbon footprint, while continuing to provide the community with affordable transit service that’s easier on the environment and the city’s operating budget.
Red Deer North MLA Kim Schreiner added that it makes sense to invest in cleaner burning, quieter vehicles that will make it more attractive for more commuters to use public transit.
While the federal Minister of Infrastructure, Amarjeet Sohi, did not attend the bus launch, he sent a message about the importance of ensuring Canadians have access to modern, clean and reliable transit services.
Red Deer is following Medicine Hat in introducing CNG buses. Calgary is still in the planning stage, and Edmonton is going on a different route, with some electric battery-fuelled buses.