Electric Buses Will Not Replace LRT

With the cancellation of LRT and the Province’s offer to invest one billion dollars towards transportation in Hamilton, there has been increased discussion about electric buses as an alternative to rapid transit.
While I support a transition to an electric HSR bus fleet as a possible mitigation measure to help meet Hamilton’s Climate Change goals – it is important to note that electric buses on their own will not replace LRT.

HSR Bus

For more information, please continue reading below…

Hello Ward 8 Neighbours,

With the cancellation of LRT and the Province’s offer to invest one billion dollars towards transportation in Hamilton, there has been increased discussion about electric buses as an alternative to rapid transit.

While I support a transition to an electric HSR bus fleet as a possible mitigation measure to help meet Hamilton’s Climate Change goals – it is important to note that electric buses on their own will not replace LRT.

The City of Hamilton has declared a climate emergency with a goal of a net zero carbon economy by 2050. As we work towards our climate goals, there is no doubt that electric buses will be an important part of our green house gas emission strategy.

However, one fact needs to be made perfectly clear – electric buses will not replace LRT.

Right now, bus service levels along Hamilton’s B-Line corridor (the future LRT route) are near peak delivery. We can only add so many buses to a single route before they end up in one long line – like a train. Whether the buses run on diesel, natural gas or electric does not change the fact that in order to increase service and meet current ridership demands, rapid transit is the only solution.

While electric buses in dedicated lanes may be an effective short term solution for the A-line corridor along Upper James from the Airport to the waterfront – City officials even say that the technology is still evolving, Hamilton’s escarpment adds challenges and so does hydro capacity, as this Hamilton Spectator article from January 24 points out.

“We’re really in the infancy of that right now. We want to take a measured approach,” Coun. John-Paul Danko, speaking about an electric bus fleet.

According to Jason VanderHeide, Manager of Planning and Infrastructure, the “advertised” overnight vehicle charge results in a range of 145 to 200 kilometres.

Mark Selkirk, Manager of the City’s Fleet Maintenance states that the Mountain-climbing routes are a big drain on batteries.

“You lose 60 per cent of efficiency on the escarpment.”
Mark Selkirk, Manager of Fleet Maintenance

VanderHeide also noted a major piece of the electric bus puzzle will involve coordination with utility providers to ensure enough power to meet the added demand.

“It’s fair to say it’s an incredibly complex conversation around electric buses.”

Another major problem with thinking about electric buses as a replacement for LRT is that a bus transit route – even if it is in dedicated lanes along the B-Line or A-line corridors is that buses do not generate nearly the economic uplift as rapid transit and have far higher lifecycle costs which would be shouldered by Hamilton taxpayers.

There are also many technical challenges with electric buses, as pointed out by the Ward 8 Councillor in the article:

Cost will also add to the complexity of switching to an electric fleet, Danko points out to the Spectator. “I’d like to see us transition as quickly as possible…but that requires a funding commitment, and that’s going to have to come from upper levels of government.”

Electric buses run between $950,000 and $1.2 million depending on the model and battery capacity. That’s compared to about $700,000 for natural gas counterparts, Selkirk noted.

Sean Hurley, writing for Raise the Hammer also has some interesting points in his February 2 op-ed arguing that an electric fleet would cost more for the City to operate rather than LRT.

My colleague and Ward 1 Councillor Maureen Wilson shared her thoughts on an electric bus fleet as well.

Questions or concerns?

If you have any questions or concerns, you can contact our office here.

One thought on “Electric Buses Will Not Replace LRT”

Comments are closed.

Councillor John-Paul Danko