Committee Approves Articulated CNG Buses for 2015

New Flyer XN60 | Photo from New Flyer

New Flyer XN60 | Photo from New Flyer

At the May 22nd Public Works Committee meeting, Don Hull and the transit staff once again presented the cost benefits of purchasing 60′ natural gas (CNG) articulated buses as opposed to the traditional bus replacement order of 40′ diesel buses.

With the lesser cost of natural gas fuel, and the ability to hedge the source of fuel in advance, the city would look to save approximately $1.9 million in fuel savings for the 35 buses to be ordered over the next two years.

One of the concerns with Councillors was if there was the need for the additional cost of articulated buses rather than traditional 40′ buses. The cost for one 60′ bus will cost the city $861,000 a piece while a 40′ bus costs just $553,000. While that savings seems like an easy choice up front, the reasoning for purchasing articulated buses is in the increase of passenger capacity without additional operating costs. While the up front cost is higher for articulate buses, the HSR would need to run three 40′ buses to have the same capacity as just two 60′ buses. That would mean buying, fueling and paying a driver for the additional bus.

So to reach the same passenger capacity it would cost $1.72 million for two articulated buses or $1.66 million for three 40′ buses. This is just the capital costs, and when you factor in the additional costs of hiring another driver to drive that bus it would cost 20% more per hour. Purchasing buses comes from the capital reserves from Metrolinx for bus purchases whereas any costs for additional operating costs related to driver salaries comes from municipal coffers.

Pass-bys are the main reason that the transit department is looking to increase passenger capacity.

For the period of September to December 2013 the HSR recorded more than 6,000 pass-bys, with nearly 75% of those happening on the King/Main/Queenston corridor (routes 1/5/10/51) and on 2 BARTON. Articulated buses run on 10 B-LINE EXPRESS and 51 UNIVERSITY routes, but there are no buses running on either 1 KING or 2 BARTON routes. The additional articulated buses would switch half of the buses on routes 1 and 2 to 60′ buses, with nine being converted on KING and eight articulated buses on BARTON.

58 of the current 108 bus stops would need to be modified on the 2 BARTON route to comfortably accommodate the longer buses.

A decision was also made with regards to a new Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) station at the Mountain Transit Centre. The station is well beyond the expected life and repairs to the station, with its age, would require custom parts to be hand made and is cost prohibitive. The committee approved staff to go forward to negotiate with Union Gas to construct a new CNG station at the Mountain Transit Centre and Wentworth Operations, pending final approval by committee of the final costs.

The 18 articulated buses for 2015 order would take 10-11 months for delivery, meaning that the buses would arrive approximately March or April of 2015. The remaining 17 buses to be ordered for the next year will be traditional 40′ CNG buses.

Source: City of Hamilton [PDF]