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Charlottetown applies for federal funding to invest in electric transit buses

If federal funding comes through, T3 Transit drivers like Nasim Amiri will soon be driving electric buses on their routes in Charlottetown, Stratford and Cornwall.
If federal funding comes through, T3 Transit drivers like Nasim Amiri will soon be driving electric buses on their routes in Charlottetown, Stratford and Cornwall. - Mitsuki Mori

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - The City of Charlottetown has applied for some significant federal infrastructure funding for the purpose of purchasing 18 new transit buses.

An application has been made to the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) for $20.5 million to invest in a fleet of electric transit buses to meet current needs and expand transit service in the Charlottetown area.

The city would be responsible for $6.1 million, 75 per cent of the applicant share. The towns of Cornwall and Stratford would chip in smaller amounts. The province is in for $6.5 million while the federal government’s share would be $7.8 million.

“We need buses today because, in 2016, we had used buses from another municipality to get us by until we could take advantage of federal government programs,’’ said Mike Cassidy, president of T3 Transit.

Charlottetown residents were given a glimpse of the electric buses in September in the form of a bright orange electric bus. A group of politicians and members of the media got to take a ride on a 35-foot, New Flyer Canada zero emission, battery-electric Xcelsior Charge demo bus and learn more about what it can do. The bus was then put to work on city routes transporting customers.

Each electric bus comes with a price tag of around $1 million, roughly double the price of a diesel bus. It has 32 seats with standing room for another 35 passengers. There is also a wheelchair lift. It has a capacity of 390 kilowatt hours of energy, on which it can drive about 310 kilometres.

The bus uses lithium-ion batteries to store energy and it has an electric drive motor, but there’s no transmission.

T3 is a private operator that provides drivers, fuel and maintenance for the buses. Currently, T3 operates 12 buses and runs 11 routes per day in Charlottetown, Stratford and Cornwall. The municipalities own the buses.

“We, as a province, would like to make a statement across this country that we want to be one of the first provinces (in the) municipalities of Stratford, Cornwall and Charlottetown to go electric and we’ve been working with the manufacturer, we’ve been working with the research people.’’

- Mike Cassidy

“We, as a province, would like to make a statement across this country that we want to be one of the first provinces (in the) municipalities of Stratford, Cornwall and Charlottetown to go electric and we’ve been working with the manufacturer, we’ve been working with the research people.’’

Out of the 18 buses Cassidy is looking for, 14 would be electric and four would be diesel operated “as we grow the system over the next 10-year period.’’

The city has also applied to the ICIP program for another $20.5 million (with the cost split between the three levels of government) for public transit infrastructure (such as bus shelters).

Business continues to flourish for T3. While the national average is 19 passenger fares per service hour, T3 is doing 28 passenger fares per service hour. In 2018, passenger fares rose 13 per cent in Charlottetown, 10 per cent in Stratford and four per cent in Cornwall.

Cassidy said he also plans on reviewing the current service to consider what routes they could cover, increase the frequency of where they are travelling, examine Saturday service in Cornwall and Stratford, extending evening service in Charlottetown and possibly extending service on Sunday.


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