City staff will be bringing a report before the Public Works committee on Wednesday with a plan that will radically change direction for new buses in the future of the HSR. The plan calls for the cancellation of the planned 2013 purchase of new buses as part of the Metrolinx consortium as the conventional transit service is looking into purchasing natural gas (CNG) buses for the foreseeable future.
With the expected life cycle of standard buses estimated at about twelve years the HSR has been replacing older buses with newer and more efficient models each year. The cost of purchasing replacement buses this year would have been $9.1 million.
Approximately 35 of the 221 buses in the fleet are powered by natural gas and Hamilton is currently one of the only remaining municipalities in Canada operating CNG buses, although many transit systems in USA currently use natural gas fuel.
The oldest buses in the fleet are CNG buses from 2002, meaning that they are due for retirement within the next few years. The city has been ordering strictly diesel, and hybrid diesel-electric, buses since 2004 but changes in fuel price patterns has caused the city to take another look at the strategy.
The cost of diesel fuel has increased from $0.75/L in 2009 to $1.06/L in 2012 and are projected to continue to rise over the next few years. The cost of diesel is expected to reach $1.16/L before the end of the year. During the same period natural gas prices have declined and are projected to continue to fall. The average price went from approximately $0.35/L in 2009 to around $0.28/L in 2012.
The report cites that “with new extraction methods, large supplies of natural gas have become available within North America whereas the availability of diesel fuel is heavily dependent on offshore oil supplies.”
The only hinge is that the natural gas fueling station located at the Mountain Regional Transit Facility is more than twenty years old and is in dire need of replacement.
“The current CNG compressor station as a whole would require complete replacement,” says the report which will be presented to councilors on the committee. “The increased annual maintenance cost to keep the station operational and the rarity of parts available to repair the station when a major failure occurs contribute to the need to have the station replaced.”
The Mount Hope CNG fueling facility was constructed in the 1990s.
Marathon, the consultant company that looked into the issue, recommended that if the City proceeds with a CNG bus program, that the CNG station be replaced with all new equipment. The cost estimated to replace the existing station in its entirety, with redundancy, is $5.7 million.
“It is estimated that this project will create a savings of 86 Kilo-tons of CO2 over the 20 years–projecting a “green” image for Hamilton.”
The procurement of CNG powered buses is being brought before the Metrolinx Transit Procurement Initiative committee for consideration as part of their RFP to be issued for 2014 – 2016 consortium bus purchase.
If the report passes city staff will begin the RFI process to investigate the viability of replacing the CNG station with the City as the owner/operator or having a vendor constructing, owning and maintaining the CNG station under a contract with the City.
Full report: http://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdon…PW12017a.pdf