Political motivations questioned in TransLink natural gas plan 0
(24 HOURS FILE PHOTO)
The mayor of Burnaby is questioning whether the Lower Mainland’s transit provider has been pressured by Victoria to buy new buses that promote the province’s liquefied natural gas aspirations.
TransLink is applying for $122.6 million from the federal government’s gas tax this year, partly to pay for 54 compressed natural gas-fuelled buses to replace portions of its aging diesel bus fleet.
That decision, however, has Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan suggesting TransLink’s been pressured by provincial government politics, as the Liberals are currently promoting B.C.’s LNG resources for an international market.
“Is this about politics? About provincial government pressure?” he asked during a Metro Vancouver transportation meeting Wednesday.
“I know that it’s been a consistent pattern on the part of the province to push for natural-gas buses. They’re trying to market natural gas worldwide … (and) it’s difficult when you’re not using it in your own system within your own province.”
TransLink had previously purchased a small fleet of natural gas-powered buses about eight years ago, according to authority vice-president Bob Paddon, who explained the technology was older then and had problems with maintenance and travel distance.
He said TransLink, which still has about 50 of the older CNG buses, is now attempting to get the best value for money as natural gas prices are on the decline and the technology is improved.
“You look at your overall fuel costs. Diesel’s not going down in price, diesel’s going up in price, whereas compressed natural gas is going down,” Paddon said.
“So we’re starting to say, well if you can get the vehicle benefits in a CNG bus, but improved fuel costs (like a hybrid-electric bus), then you’ll just lay that business case out.”
But Corrigan said the technology has already proven to be ineffective and there’s no new evidence that suggests it would work better. Additionally, he said, it would likely cost more to operate a wide range of buses.
“It seems to me patently unwise to be experimenting again after the unsuccessful experiment and the losses.”
B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation said by e-mail TransLink makes decisions about what vehicles to use, but wouldn’t provide an answer as to whether it made any suggestions or recommendations to TransLink to buy that type of bus.
“Natural gas is a cheaper, cleaner alternative to traditional gasoline and diesel, producing 20-30% fewer GHG emissions,” the ministry said.
“In addition, B.C. has enough natural gas to support local and global production for more than 80 years.”