PM, premier pledge $79M for 118 new buses, majority for Greater Victoria

The Victoria Regional Transit System was the big winner Thursday as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan announced a $79-million investment in 118 new buses for B.C.

Erinn Pinkerton, B.C. Transit’s chief executive officer, confirmed that the majority of the buses will be deployed in Greater Victoria — including 10 battery-electric buses.

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“Our head office is in Victoria,” she said. “We run the Victoria system. So when we introduce new technology into our systems we do like to bring them into the operation, [so] that we can then be close to it.

“We’re going to be looking at everything, right?”

Pinkerton said the long-range electric buses are expected to be delivered in 2021. Specific routes for the buses have yet to be determined.

Besides the electric buses, Greater Victoria will get 21 compressed natural gas buses, while Victoria and Kelowna will receive the majority of 19 new double-deckers and 63 light-duty gas and diesel buses.

“This is the first step to B.C. Transit transitioning to a zero-emission fleet,” Pinkerton said. “This is a big milestone for us and having the support of both governments is very important, as there’s a lot of work to be done.”

The federal and provincial governments will each contribute about $31 million towards the purchase of the 118 buses. Municipalities will contribute more than $16 million.

Trudeau, who is heading into a federal election this fall, said the new buses will help keep people moving and reduce air pollution.

“Those living in the fast-growing Western Communities in the area struggle every day with the Colwood Crawl,” he told reporters at B.C. Transit headquarters in Victoria. “Investments like this will help shorten that commute by addressing congestion and getting everyone home just a little sooner.”

Horgan said the additional buses will help meet the growing demands on B.C. Transit, which reported a six-per-cent increase in ridership last year to nearly 57 million.

“We need to reduce congestion,” he said. “We need to get people home faster and we need to make sure that our economy continues to grow here in British Columbia, all the while reducing our emissions.”

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, who sits on the regional transit commission, called it an exciting announcement.

“We’ve been pushing for electric buses and we’re the first in the province to get 10,” she said. “So we’re pretty happy today. It’s great to see the federal, provincial and local governments all working together.”

B.C. Transit said the 10 heavy-duty electric buses will be based out of its Victoria depot, which will be equipped with the required charging infrastructure.

The 21 compressed natural gas buses will be based at the Langford depot.

Transit officials said the new buses will replace aging vehicles or boost capacity in areas where ridership is growing.

All the buses will be equipped with closed-circuit television security cameras and support NextRide technology, which allows people to check the location of their bus, so they know when it will arrive at a particular stop.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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