Kamloops is one of a half-dozen cities B.C. Transit is considering for a fleet of fuel-efficient, low-emission compressed natural gas buses.
Transit and City officials met earlier this week about the possibility of being part of a pilot project that could see 25 of the buses on routes by February 2014.
Victoria, Nanaimo, Kelowna, Whistler and Prince George are also in the running. B.C. Transit spokeswoman Meribeth Burton said transit is looking at large communities with an aging fleet, and Kamloops is one of them.
Erin Felker, the City’s transportation manager, said there is a long-term financial benefit to adopting the natural-gas fleet, especially if the cost of natural gas and diesel remain comparable.
The buses save about 20 per cent on fuel compared to the diesel models.
But the City does have some short-term financial concerns that come with switching 25 buses within a 44-bus fleet, she said.
“We have buses that we’re going to retire soon,” said Felker, adding not enough to swap out 25 at once.
“Maybe five buses a year that will be replaced over five years. But, if you’re one of communities that takes place in the CNG (compressed natural gas), you get all 25 at once.”
She said that’s a big financial hit to the transit budget, the cost of which isn’t yet known.
Whatever municipality is chosen will also need to build a $2-million fueling station. But Burton said gas company Fortis will offer some kind of incentive.
“We’re looking at leveraging a couple of opportunities for financial incentives,” she said.
Although there is a saving on fuel, the buses cost about 10 to 15 per cent more to maintain. When compared, Burton said the actual savings is about five to 15 per cent.
The City has asked B.C. Transit to come back to them with more specific costs to Kamloops, said Felker. She expects to hear something by the end of January.
Burton said a city will be selected by the end of the month. If Kamloops isn’t picked this go around, a second fleet will be rolled out the following year.
Coun. Donovan Cavers hopes the City will be a part of the pilot.
“I’ve heard (the buses) are much more efficient and don’t emit as much pollution, so I’m in favour of them,” he said.