Wednesday, January 8, 2014

More than you wanted to know about bus procurement at TransLink

When I was researching the Federal Gas Tax funding —used to fund capital projects at TransLink— which I posted about yesterday, I came across a presentation for the Metro Vancouver Transportation Committee that was given by Bob Paddon of TransLink. As I said yesterday, some politicians have been complaining that TransLink hasn’t been using the federal funding to expand transit service. Some of those same politicians have also been complaining that TransLink is wasting money buying new buses because it has nothing better to do with the federal dollars.

When TransLink was audited twice in 2012, one of the recommendation was to reduce the amount of spare vehicles. TransLink is reducing its ratio of spare vehicles from 25% to 20% (the Canadian average is 22%). Even with this reduction, old buses still need to be replaced. TransLink's replacement schedule for vehicle is as follows:

40' and 60' conventional buses: 17 years / 1,000,000 km
Community Shuttle buses: 6 years / 450,000 km
HandyDart buses: 6 to 8 years / 200,000 to 250,000 km

Some people can get very existed about transit technologies, including the fuel types that are used in buses. The presentation included the following table that outlined the benefits and drawbacks of certain fuel types. Trolley buses are not included. Trolley buses have substantially lower energy costs than diesel, work great on hills, and are best in stop-and-go traffic. Their main drawback is that they are capital-intense.

Hybrid Diesel-Electric:
-Best for use in urban core areas with a lot of stop-and-go
-Lower emissions than Diesel or CNG overall

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG):
-Lower fuel cost than diesel
-Best for use in suburban settings with longer distances between stops
-Slight emissions advantages over diesel
-Do not perform as well as hybrids or Diesels in urban settings

-Appropriate for conventional vehicles in urban & suburban settings, and where CNG buses cannot operate near Trolleys
-Greatest operational flexibility
-Excellent performance on Vancouver’s steep hill

Of course what I found really interesting is TransLink's renewed interesting in compress natural gas (CNG) buses. Likely this is due to the province's full-scale embrace of all things natural gas. TransLink is planning to spend $5 million to allow CNG buses to operate in the South of Fraser. On an aside, it appears that the province is betting the farm on natural gas as a solution to all our budget woes. This is interesting because one of the reasons why TransLink has committed to expanding its CNG fleet is because “a significant drop in the price of CNG has resulted in favourable pricing. CNG is currently substantially less costly per kilometre than diesel.”

So while TransLink is far from perfect, it appears that its vehicle replacement strategy is not out-to-lunch.


Anonymous said...

LNG buses lack power to effectively operate in hilly terrain found in lower mainland ..."gutless" is the term commonly used by operators

Anonymous said...

Oops, that should have read "CNG", not "LNG"