The last compressed natural gas buses TransLink bought were these low-floor models in 2006.

TransLink’s return to natural gas buses criticized

Choice of CNG fuel defended as cheaper, technology of buses improved

TransLink plans to buy more compressed natural gas (CNG) buses that it shunned for years and Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan is questioning whether the reversal is politically motivated.

The transportation authority has more than 50 CNG buses, some dating back to the 1990s, but it rejected new purchases for years after concluding they weren’t cost-effective due to high maintenance costs and other problems.

In the mid-2000s, the then-elected TransLink board wavered several times on which fuel type of bus to buy while being heavily lobbied by dueling industry groups.

Corrigan wonders if the private unelected board has embraced CNG to please the provincial government as it promotes natural gas exports as a key to B.C.’s future.

“Is this about politics, about provincial government pressure to ensure that natural gas buses are here because we market so much natural gas worldwide?” he asked at a Metro Vancouver meeting Oct. 9.

TransLink executive vice-president Bob Paddon said the decision to buy 54 new natural gas buses, using federal gas tax funds, was a staff recommendation, endorsed by the board, not a decision forced down from the board.

He said early CNG buses were “very problematic” but the technology has improved dramatically and the much lower price of natural gas today has made it very attractive.

“Right now our assessment is the CNGs are a good replacement rather than purchasing new clean diesels.”

Paddon, who chairs the Canadian Urban Transit Association, said several other transit agencies are now looking at CNG.

“There’s just a much stronger business case than it was 10 years ago,” he said.

A 2012 efficiency review of TransLink also recommended it expand the CNG fleet in light of better life cycle costs.

Replacing old diesel buses with compressed natural gas will cut particulate and nitrogen oxide emissions by 90 per cent and greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent, according to TransLink.

TransLink also plans over the next three years to buy dozens more diesel-electric hybrids, which Paddon said are ideal in urban traffic where electric trolleys can’t run.

He noted regular diesels are still also needed for some routes because the advantages of electric hybrids are lost on long highway runs.

All-electric non-trolley buses are also on the horizon, Paddon said, likely available in as little as three to five years.

TransLink can only refuel natural gas buses at its Port Coquitlam bus depot, but that capability may be extended to depots in Surrey and Richmond.

BC Ferries is also moving to power some of its ferries by natural gas.

Corrigan contends that running a wide range of buses of different fuel types drives up costs, making CNG an unwise experiment in light of the past problems.

Just Posted

Have you seen Peter Webb?

Fifty-two-year-old man reported missing by family who last saw him July 9

UPDATE: 14-year-old pilot sets Guinness World Record at Langley airport

Mohd Shaikhsorab believes he is now the youngest pilot with the fewest hours logged to fly solo

Plenty of heroes in Thai cave rescue, says Langley diver

Erik Brown reflects on team effort that brought 12 boys and their coach to safety

Elvis sighted in Aldergrove

Live concerts set for Langley Cruise-In on Sept. 8

Township announces new Korean War memorial

A memorial stone from South Korea’s Gapyeong region will be installed at Derek Doubleday Arboretum

Through your lens: Okanagan wildfires

Check out some of the captivating images and video from social media of the wildfires

World’s translators push back on forcing Trump interpreter to testify

Democrats had asked translator to testify about Trump’s lengthy conversation with Putin in Helsinki

No decision on B.C. school stabbing suspect’s mental fitness for trial

The BC Review Board could not determine whether Gabriel Klein, 21, is fit to stand trial

Canadian government threatens to retaliate if Trump imposes auto tariffs

U.S president had suggested that auto imports pose a national security risk to the U.S.

Abbotsford’s Besse sisters: Vaulting to greatness at Summer Games

Local siblings heading to Cowichan to compete in equestrian

Wildfire evacuation order forces bride to search for new wedding venue

Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards is under an order due to the Mount Eneas wildfire south of Peachland

Recent online kitten abuse video raises serious social media questions

UBC and UFV profs weigh in on the subject of online sharing, shaming, and our digital landscape

UPDATED: ICBC fights back against claims that it’s ‘ripping off’ B.C. RV drivers

Canadian Taxpayers Federation is urging the provincial government to open up ICBC to competition

Summerland issues State of Local Emergency in response to wildfire

Two homes under evacuation order; evacuation alert remains in place as result of wildfire

Most Read