The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has recently received partial funding from the federal government that has — along with city and Provincial backing — enabled it to invest in some very advanced technology, such as hybrid buses.
There are currently 1,500 40-ft. buses in the Toronto fleet, including 220 Orion VII Clean Diesels. An additional 262 clean diesels will be added by the end of this year. Meanwhile, the city will be phasing out its 100 compressed natural gas (CNG) buses by the end of 2006.
Robert Boutilier, deputy general manager (Surface Operations), says next year the city plans to replace some older buses with 150 Orion VII/BAE hybrid-electric models and 80 Orion VII Clean Diesels. In 2007, another 100 Orion VII Clean Diesels will be added as part of the city's ridership growth strategy, which includes reducing overcrowding on buses to attract new riders.
As the third largest transit property in North America, TTC covers 622 sq. km., providing bus, streetcar, subway and para-transit services to 2.4 million people in Toronto. The number reaches 4 million when you include Toronto's greater metropolitan area.
“Last year our average weekday ridership was 1.3 million people,” says Boutilier. “One of our biggest challenges is maintaining reliable bus services as traffic congestion gets worse and worse each year. Also, with the recent bombings in London, fear of terrorists attacks has taken hold here and has raised the issue of security and the need for additional equipment like sophisticated onboard cameras.”
But technology is costly. The price of a Transit Operators Safety Camera System (TOSCS), for example, ranges between $2,000 and $10,000 per bus, according to Boutilier, depending on features and picture quality. TTC began a six-month trial of TOSCS last month so it will have the data it needs when requesting bids next year.
A much greater cost will arise from the use of hybrid buses. Boutilier points out that while a conventional bus costs about $450,000-$500,000 ($Canadian), a new hybrid is about $750,000. “We are following the New York City experience with hybrid buses, and hope to offset this cost through savings in fuel and potentially less maintenance. New York City has reported a 20% to 30% reduction in fuel costs, which is very encouraging. On the maintenance side, the new hybrids do not have transmissions that need repair and use the electrical system for stopping, which should reduce wear on the conventional brakes.”
The biggest benefit of the new hybrid buses, of course, is environmental. And in Canada, Boutilier says, the federal government is now focusing on getting rid of greenhouse gases, in addition to reducing particulates and smog. The hybrid-electric buses from BAE Systems, designed to reduce particulate matter by 90% and NOx by 40%, will also produce 30% fewer greenhouse gases. Boutilier says this will help cut greenhouse gases down to half of what they currently are on CNG and Clean Diesel buses.
Boutilier explains that the fleet is phasing out its CNG buses because the CNG fueling stations are in need of an overhaul, which would cost close to $4 million. In addition, the “overall experience with the natural gas fleet has not been very good. We've had reliability problems with the vehicles and high repair costs associated with that.
“We also recently added the requirement for fire suppressant systems in the engine compartments of all new buses,” he continues. “Temperatures are running hotter with the newer engines. And with all the expensive electrical systems on board our new hybrids buses, a fire could be quite devastating.”
Boutilier reports that at the end of last year, one-third of the city's buses were handicapped accessible. By the end 2006, that number should jump to over half. TTC's goal is to make the fleet 100% handicapped accessible.