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Calgary gets $325 million for electric buses, transit facility upgrades

Fleet additions will be made over the next three years, said the director of Calgary Transit.

Calgary Transit’s bus fleet is going to get a lot greener over the next three years, with significant funding for new electric buses having been announced by the Government of Canada.

In total, Calgary Transit will be receiving over $325,214,141 for the procurement of 259 electric buses, along with upgrades to the Spring Gardens and Anderson bus garages.

The funding is on top of previously announced loan funding from the Canada Infrastructure Bank for $165 million made in February of this year for the greening of transit.

“Our partnership with the Canada Infrastructure Bank has been critical to greening our transit fleet much quicker than we could have done on our own, and the funding provided directly by Infrastructure Canada has been an absolute game changer,” said Mayor Jyoti Gondek.

“Zero emission buses will be less costly to maintain and operate, with lower fuel costs when compared to conventional diesel buses at the City of Calgary. We are committed to bold moves that are both economically and environmentally sustainable and really help people move about the city.”

Mayor Jyoti Gondek speaks as the Government of Canada announces $325 million for electric busses and infrastructure upgrades for Calgary Transit at the Oliver Bowen Maintenance Facility in Calgary on Monday, June 19, 2023. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Funding being provided solely by the federal government

The funding is being provided to the city through the Government of Canada’s $2.75 billion Zero Emission Transit Fund.

Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities, said that the funding was being provided immediately to the city.

“As the city does its procurement process, our job is to collaborate and make sure they get the money as quickly as they can,” he said.

“The good news is it’s not like sort of the checks in the—it actually will be in the mail. So the money is available right away, and as quickly as the city can go through the procurement process.”

Calgary Skyview MP George Chahal said that funding would directly support more investments into Calgary, and improve the lives of Calgarians.

“Transit is important and I am laser focused on bringing more investments to this corner of the city,” Chahal said.

“This improved public transit system will drive sustainable economic growth, enhance community inclusivity and promote a healthier environment for current and future generations.”

Speaking to the media at a separate event on June 19, Premier Danielle Smith congratulated Calgary on receiving the investment from the Government of Canada.

She said that the province had not received an ask from the City of Calgary for funding for electrification of transit, nor from the federal government.

“We were waiting to see what the announcement would be ourselves,” Smith said.

“I believe our opportunity is in hydrogen vehicles, especially in the work being done by the Alberta Motor Transport Association to get dual-use vehicles with diesel and hydrogen, as an interim step ultimately towards hydrogen vehicles.”

'Huge for Calgary Transit'

Sharon Fleming, Director of Calgary Transit, said this was a huge announcement.

"We are looking to refresh our fleet and this is an opportunity for us to do it in a way that allows us to use zero-emission technology," she said.

The 259 new buses would represent approximately 25 per cent of the existing fleet numbers, Fleming said. That percentage could change based on the service's desire to expand the number of buses available for transit passengers.

Currently, Calgary Transit operates 1,028 buses.

"It gives us the opportunity to have the benefit of the new technology without having the expense. That expense is being funded from the federal government and in both a large grant and a loan, and it's a fantastic opportunity," Fleming said.

Fleming said that the next steps being taken would be to put out a procurement document, select the right kind of vehicles for Calgary, and to build out the infrastructure to charge those vehicles.

"We're a little ways away, looking at least three years before we see the first one on the road," she said.

Mayor Gondek said that right now the City of Calgary isn't putting a timeline on retiring the diesel portion of the fleet.

"Right now we are pretty happy that we have a mixed fleet. We all know that we did a compressed natural gas facility up in north central Calgary a few years back, so we are slowly doing the transition to cleaner fleets," Mayor Gondek said.

"This new announcement of electric buses is absolutely a benefit to that fleet. But again, it is a mixed model, and we will transition away from diesel as quickly as we can."