A BC Transit bus seen downtown on Bastion Street.

A BC Transit bus seen downtown on Bastion Street.

Bus fleet replaced with models running on compressed natural gas

NANAIMO – The Regional District of Nanaimo board will not have to pay full price for a new set of compressed natural gas buses.

The Regional District of Nanaimo board will not have to pay full price for a new set of compressed natural gas buses.

At their meeting last week, regional district directors voted to replace 24 diesel buses with compressed natural gas counterparts, and while each has a price tag of about $643,000, assistance from Fortis B.C. and B.C. Transit, Regional District of Nanaimo Transit’s funding partner, will mean the regional district will only be on the hook for about $332,000.

Daniel Pearce, regional district transit operations manager, said the buses will be paid for with a cost-sharing structure that will see B.C. Transit covering 47 per cent of the cost and the regional district 53 per cent.

Additionally, Fortis B.C. has a program that will help cover 50 per cent of the increase of cost due to increase in production. According to Pearce, that  cost is $40,000 and $20,000 per bus will be covered by Fortis.

It is anticipated the buses will arrive by early next year and would be included in the 2017 budget, said Pearce.

Before buses arrive, a new compressor, which converts natural gas to bus fuel, will have to be added to the fuelling station to accommodate the larger fleet, something Pearce said is a separate project that will be done in 2016.

“We currently have two compressors right now, but we’ve done an analysis and we’ll need an additional compressor,” said Pearce. “The compressors are estimated at about $590,000.”

The diesel buses will either be transferred to another B.C. Transit bus system, if they have service life left, or likely sent to the scrap yard, he said.

With the new buses, Regional District of Nanaimo Transit’s fleet will be 100 per cent compressed natural gas fuelled.