Thursday, February 5, 2015

By Chris Shannon

Fuel-efficient Vicinity bus expected to arrive in May

SYDNEY — Transit Cape Breton’s fleet of buses will include a more economical and fuel-efficient 30-foot Vicinity bus in the spring.

Grande West Transportation Group Inc. won a tender in October to provide the Cape Breton Regional Municipality with a new transit bus. It cost $290,000, and its expected delivery date is May.

In a company news release Wednesday, the Vancouver-based firm said it sold the CBRM and three other customers the bus at a price $48,000 higher than the initial average sales price for the first 31 buses sold.

The initial lower prices were set to gain “sales awareness and transit system acceptance,” of its new line of Vicinity buses.

According to Grande West, the bus costs 40 per cent less than a regular 40-foot transit bus, burns less fuel, emits less harmful emissions and has lower maintenance costs. It seats between 22 and 28 passengers.

Transit Cape Breton manager Mike MacKeigan said the lifespan of the vehicle is 10 to 12 years but a “significant refurbishment” of the bus would extend its life.

“The price of this vehicle makes it more attractive from that perspective. It gives us a chance to reduce our operating costs from maintenance and repair over the course of the first several years,” he said.

In the past, the CBRM purchased more expensive buses with a longer lifespan, said MacKeigan.

“The important component of our day-to-day business practice and plans are to reduce our operating costs. The way you do that is by lowering your repair bills and reducing your fuel consumption.”

The fleet of approximately 16 transit buses are generally 20 years or older, and have “more than a million miles” on them, he said.

Breakdowns happen regularly basis. One bus had to be towed away from its transfer stop on Dorchester Street on Monday.

The CBRM also ordered two new handi-trans buses, which are expected to be in service this spring. There are currently five of the wheelchair-accessible buses in use by the CBRM.

MacKeigan said the public works department hopes to purchase at least one new bus in the upcoming capital budget, which will be brought before council in March.

Meanwhile, implementing changes to bus routes to reduce the transit service by 200 hours a week — or one-third of its operations — has been pushed back due to the complicated nature of reducing the service while causing the fewest problems possible for riders.

It’ll likely be May before people see changes to routes. MacKeigan said he would meet with council later this month to review the proposed changes to the transit service.

“We’re trying to make sure we don’t have too many gaps between connections from the various routes,” he said.

In last spring’s budget, staff indicated the reductions in service would likely add up to $2.5 million in savings in the first five years for the transit service.