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'Next generation of public transit' in Newmarket gets boost from feds

Nearly $1 million in funding from Natural Resources Canada will help Newmarket-Tay Power Distribution install and maintain an overhead charging station for the region's electric bus trial project
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It turns out Newmarket won’t miss the bus at all, thanks to a nearly $1-million federal cash boost to get a high-powered, overhead on-route electric bus charger up and running.

The Regional Municipality of York approved the purchase of six 40-foot battery-powered electric buses at a cost of $1.2 million per vehicle to add to the York Region Transit fleet last January. 

That $7.7-million trial, which includes the cost of some of the charging infrastructure, is expected to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, fuel and maintenance costs, while providing hands-on experience in operating electric transit vehicles that will eventually lead to a zero-emission transportation sector, the region stated.

The electric bus trial will take place in the Town of Newmarket on Route 55, which provides service on Davis Drive, and Route 44, which travels on Yonge Street, north of Davis Drive.

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The $957,000 in funding from Natural Resources Canada will help Newmarket-Tay Power Distribution source, install and maintain one 450kW overhead bus-charging station. It is part of a national project with similar initiatives in Brampton and Vancouver that will contribute to the Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium's (CUTRIC) Pan-Canadian Electric Bus Network.

Newmarket-Aurora’s outgoing Liberal MP Kyle Peterson on Wednesday announced the funding at the regional administrative office, flanked by the trial’s partners Newmarket-Tay Power Distribution, CUTRIC, two of Canada’s largest electric bus manufacturers, Nova Bus and New Flyer Industries, which will supply two and four e-buses respectively, Siemens Canada, and representatives from the regional and local levels of government.

“Today is another terrific example of how we can keep this momentum of real change going by investing in the next generation of public transit right here in Newmarket,” Peterson said of Ottawa’s commitment to a low-carbon future. “In all, CUTRIC has tested the performance of 18 electric buses and seven overhead chargers on five transit routes across the country, not only here in Newmarket but also in Brampton and Vancouver.”

The electric bus project that was three years in the making lost its provincial funding partner in summer 2018, when the incoming Conservative government under Premier Doug Ford nixxed $13 million in funding to York Region and Brampton promised by the former Liberal government. 

York Region stepped up to fill that gap by topping up its share of the cost of the initiative. 

CUTRIC CEO Dr. Josipa Petrunic applauded the local partners for pushing the project through.

“The first thing we need to recognize here is global leadership because, frankly, if you look across Canada, our energy sector is not prepared for the electrification of transportation,” she said. “So, it’s 2019, and if you Google ‘transit electrification strategy’, you’ll find nothing except for Newmarket-Tay Power Distribution’s project here in York Region.”

“What that tells us is that a small utility can show the rest of Canada how it ought to be done,” Petrunic added. “It’s no longer the case that we can get away with the idea that transportation is over here and energy is over there. Today, transportation and energy are merged.”

A March 2019 report from Clean Energy Canada, said that electronic buses “aren’t necessarily an expensive option. With battery prices falling 79 per cent between 2010 and 2017, e-buses are becoming increasingly competitive with diesel buses”.   

“Although many look to e-buses as the transit of our future, they’re also the transit of our past,” Clean Energy Canada executive director Merran Smith said in the report. “Canada welcomed electric trolley buses back in 1922, replacing old gasoline buses in Toronto’s growing suburbs. The buses were so popular that the transit commission of the day upgraded them to larger electric vehicles—the forerunners of today’s street car. 

“The choice to adopt a new and innovative technology paved the way for a transit system so successful it’s still transporting millions of Canadians almost a century later,” she said. “Let’s hope that future generations can look back on this period and remark how Canada showed global leadership in the universal shift toward electric transportation.”




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Kim Champion

About the Author: Kim Champion

Kim Champion is a veteran journalist and editor who covers Newmarket and issues that impact York Region.
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