Clearing the air around the TTC’s new buses

The following is an editorial by Acting CEO Rick Leary, which originally appeared on thestar.com on Tuesday, June 12, 2018.

The following is an editorial by Acting CEO Rick Leary, which originally appeared on thestar.com on Tuesday, June 12, 2018.

When the TTC began the process of searching for new buses to replace those reaching the end of their useful lives, ensuring we were investing in vehicles that were consistent with our vision for a modern transit system was front of mind.

In addition to looking for reliable and accessible vehicles, we wanted to find buses that would help us do our part in the City of Toronto’s ambitious greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets.

Last November, our Board approved our Green Bus Technology plan to purchase, in phases, more than 600 new buses that will meet all of those objectives.

Our plan came after (pardon the pun) an exhaustive review of all available technologies. We needed to be sure that our go-forward strategy was affordable and achievable. We couldn’t simply purchase hundreds of buses that were an entirely different technology. That just isn’t realistic. How would we fuel or power them without the proper facilities? How would we maintain them without a program in place?

Instead, we built on a four-year program we started in 2016 to purchase 729 next-generation, clean-diesel and 254 hybrid-electric vehicles that offer significant reductions in GHG emissions and therefore improvements to local air quality over traditional diesel vehicles.

And early in 2019, we will see the first of 60 all-electric, zero-emission vehicles on the streets. By 2025, the TTC will only purchase zero-emission buses, and by 2040, our entire bus fleet will be zero emission.

Together, these new buses will mean a reduction in the TTC’s carbon footprint by approximately 64,200 tons of GHG-causing emissions each year.

And what’s good for the environment is also good for the economy. Not only will we be cutting GHGs, these new vehicles will allow the TTC to save more than $21 million every year through reduced fuel costs.

Some may think we are moving too slowly in bringing in new technologies or we’re using the wrong technologies.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In moving to where we are today, we drew on past experiences and a thorough analysis of what’s available.

The fact is the TTC has long been a leader in adopting new, low-emission technologies going back to the trolley bus. We also introduced high-capacity articulated buses, CNG buses, biodiesel fuel buses and, more recently, the new generation of diesel hybrid-electric buses.

In our experience, some technologies proved more reliable and more cost efficient than others. What is clear from our experience is that when adopting new technology, it is prudent to take measured steps to ensure we have a program that allows us to keep a reliable fleet of vehicles on the road to deliver service while introducing new vehicles.

Adopting technology too fast can result in decades of poor system reliably, poor customer and Operator satisfaction, and increased maintenance and operating costs.

Today, the TTC operates the largest bus fleet in Canada and the third largest in North America. We know we have a role to play in reducing our GHG emissions and we embrace that.

But we can only do that while bringing in technologies that are safe, reliable, offer lower operating costs, and are able to meet the needs of all of our customers.

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