Evidence of meeting #39 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was bus.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Étienne Lyrette  Corporate Advisor, Governmental Affairs, External Relations and Strategic Planning, Société de transport de Montréal
  • Serge Carignan  Director, Engineering and Technical Services, Société de gestion et d'acquisition de véhicules de transport
  • François Chamberland  Director , Engineering Service, Operation, Société de transport de Montréal

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Wild Rose, AB

You're suggesting that there are regulatory barriers to that. I understand but I'm not hearing what those barriers are. I'm asking for specifics, if you can provide them. If you'd like us to try to be able to make changes and recommend changes, we need to know what specifically those barriers are so that we can make a recommendation.

9:40 a.m.

Director, Engineering and Technical Services, Société de gestion et d'acquisition de véhicules de transport

Serge Carignan

It's a case of our either accepting their regulatory measures or modifying our own to comply with their measures. I am referring specifically to lengths, angles, types of windows, and other safety issues. I mentioned the bumper a while ago. The bumpers are good for five kilometres in Europe. We ask for 7.5 here in North America.

So it's all about these little things throughout the vehicle; it's not the propulsion system, not the electric system, that's the hurdle. It is, however, the engine. This is a big hurdle in itself, because we have just one manufacturer in North America that can build an engine for a city bus, whereas there are dozens in Europe.

So these types of measures are what the big hurdles are right now.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Wild Rose, AB

Not to belabour the point any further, would you be willing to table with the committee a list of some of the specific things you might like to see changed? That would be helpful to us when we are looking at doing our report.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Merv Tweed

Thank you. I have to stop you there.

I'm going to Mr. Leung.

May 29th, 2012 / 9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Chungsen Leung Willowdale, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Let me first say that I used to work for UTDC, 30 years ago. What I would like to know is, can you bring me up to date on the status of the fuel cell with, say, Ballard in Vancouver? Why is it not widely used in urban transit applications?

9:40 a.m.

Director , Engineering Service, Operation, Société de transport de Montréal

François Chamberland

As I explained a little earlier, fuel cell buses are electric buses: you merely replace the batteries with fuel cells. All the traction system in the bus is the same.

The problem with fuel cells is with the hydrogen in them. Once you put hydrogen in a bus, you cannot put the bus into our depot. In Montreal we have seven very huge depots. It's quite simple; it's a problem with the electricity on the ceiling. It has to be explosion-proof. You need have to have special detectors, you have to even have some part of the roof or the wall that can be blown off, if there's a problem. Our huge depots were never meant to have these inside.

Also, the way the hydrogen is produced, it's not that clean. If you look at the bus itself, the bus produces no pollution at all. But you have to know that hydrogen is produced by natural gas. It needs energy; it's not zero-emission, when you look at it.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Chungsen Leung Willowdale, ON

Let me go to my next question, then.

Currently, in your calculation for your bus routes, what is the person-per-hour, per-direction capacity that you're looking at for urban transit, for either gas or electric buses? What factor do you use?

9:40 a.m.

Director , Engineering Service, Operation, Société de transport de Montréal

François Chamberland

That's a tough one. We don't look at it this way.

STM bus service is built around 12-metre buses that can accommodate 60 people. The service is built with buses of this capacity that can be left outside for more than 24 hours without refuelling. I think the range is 500 kilometres.

If you change that, we have to buy more buses. If you go to smaller buses or to buses that need to be recharged or refuelled in less time, we need more depots, we need more drivers, and our operational costs would go up very fast.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Chungsen Leung Willowdale, ON

In my experience with Asian transit systems, a lot of them expressed to me that an urban transit system, especially those using buses, is a closed system. When it is a closed system, why are we concerned about the safety regulations that we have imposed upon ourselves in Canada?

For example, Montreal itself is a closed system. I don't expect you ever to export your buses, unless, when they're finished their service life, you send them down to South America. But before that, within the seven-year economic life that you mentioned, because it is a closed system, why, if we buy enough of them, wouldn't the suppliers around the world—the Fiats, the Volvos, and all of those—not meet our requirements for the windows, for example? As far as the propulsion system is concerned, it's not a problem. Most of the stuff is just very minor cosmetic changes to the bus.

9:45 a.m.

Director , Engineering Service, Operation, Société de transport de Montréal

François Chamberland

You have to understand that the transit bus market in Canada is not very big. Even if we have thousands of buses to buy in the next four years, those thousands of buses are for a big European company that builds every year....what?

9:45 a.m.

A Voice

It might be 8,000.

9:45 a.m.

Director , Engineering Service, Operation, Société de transport de Montréal

François Chamberland

You have one company that builds 8,000 a year, and you have many companies like that.

They would be interested in coming to us and selling the buses and putting them in conformity with our rules and regulations if they could sell those buses to the United States, but they will never sell a bus in the United States because of the Buy American Act. That's a big problem for us.

We saw it with the midibus I showed you, the smaller electric bus. When we go to big industrial shows, they are all after me to sell me electric buses. Then I tell them that I am from Canada.

“Oh, tough luck!” That's what they told me.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Chungsen Leung Willowdale, ON

That's the same problem that existed 30 years ago with a lot of the Japanese and the Korean bus makers. At that time, the suggestion was that they should set up in the United States. Is there still a barrier to their building buses in the United States? I know that we've lost our Blue Birds, our Flyers, our Orions, and so on. Is that still the situation with the Buy American Act?

9:45 a.m.

Director , Engineering Service, Operation, Société de transport de Montréal

François Chamberland

Yes.

You have to understand that North American buses are built to the Americans' liking. They're very huge buses. They're very tough, they're like tanks, and they're very heavy. We have them in service for 16 years in Montreal. They're very tough.

European buses are lighter, smaller, and cheaper, but they will not make 16 years in our streets, the way we use them. They will not meet the standards of NYCT, for example, which has very high standards for big buses. They have a big test, a mandatory test, for every bus, which is called the Altoona test. I'm sure that if we put a European bus through that, it would be destroyed by the end of the test, and the bus is supposed to survive this.

The European and the Asian manufacturers are not very interested in engineering a big bus like that to try to compete with big, well-established, American bus companies. So the Europeans and the Asians have no interest in the United States.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Chungsen Leung Willowdale, ON

But if you look at the MAN buses in Germany, are those not built to U.S. standards? If they're being used in U.S. airports, then do they not have buses that meet those standards?