Adding air conditioning to ETS buses a ‘no-go’ says one Edmonton councillor

File: ETS bus. Global News

EDMONTON – The cost of retrofitting more than 800 buses in the Edmonton Transit Service’s fleet with air conditioning is too much to consider, according to one city councillor.

“To retrofit our existing buses is a no-go as far as I’m concerned. It’s a ridiculous amount of money for that,” said Ward 5 councillor Michael Oshry.

The topic was discussed at Wednesday’s Transportation Committee meeting. Earlier this summer, councillor Amarjeet Sohi asked administration to explore options for when air conditioning could be beneficial on buses, and any other options to make commuters and drivers more comfortable.

In 2015, there were six instances where drivers had to stop working due to heat-related issues. According to a city report, buses get about five to nine degrees hotter than the outside temperature.

“The heat is intense. It comes in there, you have a greenhousing effect from the windshield and from the side windows,” said Steve Bradshaw, president of the local chapter of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

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“It is a problem. This is a safety issue that we’re talking about here. When you have bus drivers driving under conditions that they may be dizzy, they may even faint. We don’t need that. We don’t need those kind of safety concerns out there. We need the proper solution and the proper solution is air conditioning on our fleet.”

“I do appreciate that they’ve got a tough job on a really hot day but I’m not sure that it’s enough that we would want to spend $20 million-plus to put air conditioning on buses solely for that reason,” added Oshry.

Currently there is air conditioning in the passenger area of 57 of 94 LRT cars. Two hybrid buses are equipped with A/C. DATS vehicles and 46 city buses have air conditioning, but only in the driver’s compartment.

The remaining 884 buses in Edmonton Transit’s fleet do not have air conditioning, and the city estimates it will cost $43,000 to retrofit each bus with A/C, for a total of $38 million.

“It’s a concern for a comfort level for the passengers and we’re trying to make it a comfortable ride,” Oshry said. “But really, for the number of days a year that that would kick in, we have to look at whether the capital investment is worth it.”

Ideally, Bradshaw would like to see air conditioning in every ETS bus, but realizes that may not be realistic.

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“Practically, we’re taxpayers too. This takes money,” said Bradshaw. “We know that it doesn’t happen overnight. We’d like to see it done as soon as possible, but we’d like to see a process get started that’s going to get us there.”

Administration is looking at adding air conditioning to the new buses they’re buying, but those won’t hit the streets until 2017.

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