Electric bus to ease impact on cruise routes in James Bay

A new double-decker electric-powered bus will be the “cornerstone” of transportation initiatives for cruise ship passengers pulling into Ogden Point in James Bay this year.

“The objective here is to mitigate the impact, as much as possible, upon the neighbourhood in which we connect through to Ogden Point,” Ian Robertson, president and CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, said Tuesday.

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“The challenge is finding that economic, social and environmental balance that fits.”

This year, 228 ship visits are scheduled between April 3 and Oct. 28. Most cruise ships serve the Alaska market and many arrive on afternoons and weekends. Neighbours have long complained about noise, emissions, and clogged traffic from buses and other vehicles carrying passengers to downtown and local attractions

The 88-seat bus is being leased for one year by CVS Cruise Victoria, a charter and sightseeing company. CVS has the option to lease the bus for three years and buy it for about $1.2 million US, company spokesman David Roberts said.

The electric bus will supplement the company’s 15-bus fleet, which runs on biodiesel. It will be used in a variety of scenarios, including carrying cruise passengers. Roberts is hoping it arrives before May.

CVS will evaluate the bus, looking at factors such as how far it can travel on one charge, the cost of charging the bus compared with the cost of fuel, as well as evaluating noise and maintenance costs, he said.

“We need to know all the costs versus what we already spend,” Roberts said. “If this is successful, our goal is to modernize our fleet in an environmentally sensitive way. Because this is the first experiment of its kind in Canada, we really need to put it through its paces.”

It is the first purpose-built electric bus to go into regular service in Canada, Fraser Atkinson, chairman of Vancouver-based GreenPower, said.

Now being built in China, final details will be carried out in the U.S. and Canada, he said.

Robertson said other transportation-related improvements include working more closely with cruise lines so that passengers know that they can walk to downtown or elsewhere once they arrive.

This could be accomplished through information posted on cruise companies’ websites, and in information sessions on board for visitors who are not taking tours. More than 100,000 passengers walk rather than take buses each year.

Fees charged to tour operators are also being changed to encourage the use of newer, quieter vehicles with lower emissions, Robertson said. In the past, tour operators were charged $2.05 for every passenger picked up at the terminal. As of this year, that fee is being waived for buses that were built in 2005 and up. The charge rises to $3 for buses 2004 and older.

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