Staff Looking towards Articulated CNG Buses

New Flyer XN60 | Photo from New Flyer

New Flyer XN60 | Photo from New Flyer

Public Works staff presented a proposal today at the Public Works Committee to seek authorization to purchase eighteen 60′ articulated buses for the 2014 bus replacement order, instead of the 40′ buses. The presentation also included ordering buses fueled with natural gas (CNG) rather than diesel fuel, which is the fuel source in most of Hamilton’s current bus fleet.

The articulated buses would cost $15.5 million for the eighteen buses while traditional 40′ buses would cost the city $8.76 million.

The reasoning for the order are two-fold. Purchasing articulated buses will allow the HSR to increase capacity on several routes that continue to experience overcrowding and bypassing of intending transit users, most notably 2 BARTON and in the King-Main corridor. Articulated buses allow for extra capacity without the extra expenditure of more buses on the road and more drivers. The reasoning for the change proposal from diesel to natural gas is primarily a cost savings.

The city could see an estimated annual savings of $1.49 million in 2016 and an average of up to $3.75 million annually up to 2024 due to replacement of diesel fleet with natural gas.

The eighteen articulated buses would be ordered from New Flyer Industries, who are the only manufacturer which produces articulated buses powered by natural gas. NovaBus only produces 62′ articulated diesel buses. Orion Bus Industries shut down at the end of 2012.

The current natural gas station at the Mountain Transit Centre is at the end of it’s life expectancy and a new station would need to be constructed to facilitate the new buses. Hamilton’s current compliment of CNG buses are due to retire in the next few years. The Public Works Department wants to enter into an agreement with Union Gas Limited to design, construct and maintain a compressed natural gas station at the City’s Transit facility at 2200 Upper James Street. That could cost as much as $3.6 million.

They would also be looking to upgrade the CNG station at 330 Wentworth Street North as an emergency backup station to support the current natural gas operation for Transit. Responding to a question from councillor Tom Jackson, Don Hull also mentioned that the additional articulated buses will mean that some buses will need to be stored outside of the main garage. Hull also stated that an additional garage site may be needed in the future, which would likely see the HSR move back into the former Wentworth Street Garage at 330 Wentworth Street North.

The proposal was sent back to staff primarily over concerns over the the costs involved and ownership questions regarding Union Gas owning and operating the fuel station, as well as whether Union Gas would be permitted to fuel other vehicles other than transit at the station. The report will come back to the next Public Works meeting on May 22nd.

Source: City of Hamilton [PDF]