How Canada can still catch the electric bus

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Canada has joined a small but growing group of countries, states, provinces, and cities pledging to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. And with transportation responsible for a quarter of the carbon pollution Canada produces, it represents a major area in need of smart solutions.

Canada is also home to four prominent electric bus manufacturers with customers across the continent. Electrifying public transportation is exactly the sort of solution we need: one that supports Canadian companies alongside our climate efforts. To that end, the federal government has committed to getting 5,000 zero-emission buses on the road in the next five years. 

The wheels are in motion: transit agencies from Vancouver to Edmonton and Toronto to Montreal are adding electric buses to their fleets while setting goals to stop purchasing diesel buses by 2025 or earlier. Many more are onboard with electrification but need extra support to speed things up.

To better understand how to make an electric-bus-filled future a reality in Canada, Clean Energy Canada asked transit agencies, industry associations, and other experts across the country to weigh in on the best policies and programs to advance electric buses in Canada. The findings are presented in a new report, Catching the Bus: How smart policy can accelerate electric buses across Canada.

While the arrival of the novel coronavirus has led to unprecedented times and challenges—including for transit agencies—we believe it’s vital we consider the long-term implications of the decisions we make in the coming months and years. Buses have lifespans of 10 to 20 years, meaning the investment decisions we make today will last for decades. 

As our report demonstrates, investments in public transportation broadly and in electrified transit specifically are essential to a resilient recovery. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape our public transportation systems to be both safer and less polluting. 

Electric buses can improve life for millions of Canadians, from the commuter who no longer breathes diesel fumes on the way into downtown, to the worker manufacturing Canada’s next generation of world-class electric buses, to the transit driver at the wheel of a quieter, more modern vehicle. Electric buses represent an opportunity to build healthier communities—provided transit agencies get the support they need.

Cleaner, smarter urban transit systems will drive the economy of tomorrow. Now is our chance to catch the (electric) bus. The full roundtable report is available here.

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