BC Transit aims to have an entirely electric fleet by 2040.                                BC Transit file photo

BC Transit aims to have an entirely electric fleet by 2040. BC Transit file photo

Natural gas buses still coming to Abbotsford, despite electric announcement

The province said last week that it would only buy electric-powered buses beginning in 2023

Abbotsford’s new transit depot won’t welcome its first buses for another year, but long-term plans for the site already need tweaking after a provincial announcement last week.

The $28 million depot was announced to fanfare in 2016, with officials saying it would support a fleet of up to 100 compressed natural gas (CNG) buses.

The depot will include a compressed-gas fueling station, and bumper-to-bumper parking for 92 buses.

An adjacent property would have room for 58 additional buses.

But last Tuesday, the province declared that, by 2023, BC Transit would only purchase electric buses.

It’s unclear, though, how Abbotsford’s new transit depot will have to be adjusted to accommodate electric buses, or how much it will cost.

A transit spokesperson said he could not provide the cost of the CNG fueling area by press deadline.

BC Transit still has plans to add just over 100 new CNG-fueled buses to its fleet. That would bring to about 230 its total number of CNG vehicles.

Three cities currently have CNG fueling infrastructure, with Abbotsford and Victoria soon to join them.

The new CNG buses are expected to be in service for 13 years, and won’t be replaced immediately. Over that time, BC Transit expects to save money by using natural gas instead of diesel.

Victoria will soon get 10 new electric buses, and officials say lessons learned from that project will inform the wider rollout of electric buses.

That will include the logistical challenges of recharging dozens of vehicles at the same time.

BC Transit says it will work with BC Hydro to ensure adequate power supply to its facilities. Abbotsford’s transit depot appears to be conveniently located in that regard: the city’s largest substation is located just down Highway 11 from the new transit depot.

Mayor Henry Braun said the city was actually hoping to be the first place for the electric buses, and he expressed confidence that the new bus depot would be built with BC Transit’s future shift to electric in mind.

“I’m assuming the left hand is talking to the right hand and that they are making appropriate installations so that the conversion, whenever that date comes, is fairly simple,” he said.

The federal and provincial governments are covering the bulk of the cost of the transit depot.

The City of Abbotsford and the District of Mission will share about $5 million of construction costs.

The city expropriated the vacant lot on which the depot is being built and paid the former owner $2.8 million. It then sold the lot to BC Transit.

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