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City councillor wants to electrify routes for London’s bus rapid transit (BRT) system

A rendering of the bus rapid transit system on Richmond Street at Grosvenor Street. The rendering may not be final.
A rendering of the bus rapid transit system on Richmond Street at Grosvenor Street. The rendering may not be final. The City of London

A London city councillor is proposing the city adopt entirely electric routes for bus rapid transit (BRT), the first of its kind in Canada.

Coun. Jesse Helmer says electric buses will not only benefit the environment, but will cut costs in the long-term.

“Using Hydro instead of diesel will save $900,000 a year in energy costs just on the two rapid transit routes alone,” said Coun. Helmer.

READ MORE: An interactive map is London’s new tool to get BRT feedback

The plan to electrify BRT routes comes from the Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC) presentation to the city, which promotes low-carbon and ‘smart’ transportation technologies.

Coun. Helmer says the plan looked at the length of each route, how hilly it is and whether the vehicles would be running in designated lanes.

“From a quality of ride perspective, the quietness of operation and smooth acceleration will make your ride more enjoyable,” Coun. Helmer said.

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Coun. Helmer says the electric buses would require high-powered, charging stations that could recharge a battery in a matter of minutes.

“With dedicated lanes, electric buses would only require about three minutes to cool down, but with mixed traffic, that number increases to five minutes,” he said.

“The implications of that in terms of cost would be significant, meaning the $900,000 the city saves will shrink significantly.”

While operating costs will be lower for electric buses, the initial cost of buying the buses and the charging stations will be more expensive upfront.

“The city wants to keep those operating costs as low as possible to save as much money as we can,” said Coun. Helmer.

“Ultimately, I believe electric BRT routes is the way to go.”