City of Ottawa to expand electric bus pilot with federal funding

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson speaks during an announcement about federal funding for electric buses at a public transit garage in Ottawa, Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Ottawa will look to expand the number of electric buses set to join its transit fleet this fall thanks to additional federal funding.

In a press conference Thursday, Ottawa Centre MP and Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna outlined $2.75 billion in federal spending over the next five years to help Canadian cities to electrify their transit systems. Funding will go toward electric buses for public transit, electric school buses and charging infrastructure.

Mayor Jim Watson joined McKenna and said city staff will bring a report to the transit commission before the summer to outline how the federal funding could boost the number of electric vehicles Ottawa can add to its fleet.

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The city announced already late last year that it will spend $9.3 million to purchase four electric buses from Winnipeg-based New Flyer Industries, which are set to join the OC Transpo fleet later this fall.

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The city planned to spend $6 million on the project with the federal Public Transit Infrastructure Fund making up the rest of the gap.

But Watson said the latest federal funding commitments could see the city “significantly” expand its electric bus pilot program.

He positioned the move toward electric buses as a critical part of the city’s climate change initiatives.

“Moving from diesel to electric is instrumental in meeting our carbon emission goals,” Watson said Thursday.

He also championed the environmental impacts of another major local infrastructure project, the city’s light-rail transit system (LRT).

Earlier this week, city staff revealed that the Stage 2 Trillium Line LRT extension could be facing delays of roughly 40 days, but the city is working with contractor TransitNEXT to mitigate any schedule setbacks.

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The Trillium Line is supposed to be completed in August 2022, with a handover in time for the start of the fall semester at Carleton University, one of the key stops on the north-south line.

Watson said Thursday that he first learned about the possible delays a few days before staff made the information public at a late-night finance and economic development committee meeting on Tuesday.

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Asked whether he believed the Trillium Line would see riders before the end of 2022, Watson said he was “very confident” the Stage 2 expansion will be up and running before the end of next year.

The first stage of Ottawa’s LRT system, the east-west Confederation Line, was handed over 15 months late in September 2019 after a series of construction delays.

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