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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

10 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

In Toronto there are hybrid buses but my understanding is that their implementation has not been as successful in terms of fuel savings as they would have liked, because the batteries have not had the life that they would have liked.

Have you learned from their folly?

10 a.m.

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

François Chamberland

With hybrid buses, you have to understand that for them to work, to save fuel, you have to use them wisely. You have to brake a lot, because the hybrid buses use electric braking to recharge the battery. If you go on a highway with a hybrid, it's worthless; and even on the highway, the hybrid will probably consume more fuel because you have the weight of the battery and you have this extra volume too.

In Montreal our commercial speed is 18 kilometres an hour, which is very slow, because we're always downtown in the traffic. So with the batteries that we have, to save the 30% of the fuel, as we've shown you, we have to use the buses at 18 kilometres an hour. So it's all downtown Montreal. We would not put these hybrid buses on the highways at first to go to either end of the island, because they would not save fuel. I think in Toronto they use the hybrids everywhere and I think they save less than 10% in doing so.

So it's very expensive. But in Montreal with the slow speed that we have, as we're always on the brakes, it will work perfectly. We've tested it with the federal program, the PDTU that we have, and we're quite sure that it's resulting in a 30% fuel saving.

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

I listened with interest to your comment about the regulations that prevent you from bringing readily available European fleets into Canada. One of the things you commented on was that to open a window on a bus you have to be able to push it out, but in Europe you can break the glass. And yet, on a VIA train you can break the glass. It's the same Transport Canada making the regulations for trains and buses, and yet they accept it on a train but don't accept it on a bus. It boggles the mind—but I see that they're taking notes over there. So I think that's one of the kinds of things that this committee can make recommendations about.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

Thank you, Mr. Sullivan.

Monsieur Poilievre.

May 29th, 2012 / 10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Before beginning, I have to correct you on one point. You did say there's just no federal money to help with these matters. I'm sorry, but 20 years ago you would have been right: there was no federal money then, because, as a rule, federal governments did not fund municipal infrastructure of this kind. Budgets were literally zero.

Today we not only have a permanent gas tax fund, which transfers a continuous and predictable flow of money to municipalities like Montreal, which is the second-largest recipient in the entire country, but there's also a capital fund called Building Canada, which provided a record number of dollars. In addition to that, we just concluded a stimulus program that lasted two years and stacked another multi-billion dollar commitment, of which Montreal was an enormous beneficiary. Even in your presentation, you pointed to the federal contribution to one of your buses.

So I am sorry. We absolutely have to correct the record when witnesses come here and say there's just no federal help and they're not getting any assistance from our level of government.

Do you want to accept that correction? Or do you dispute it?

10:05 a.m.

Corporate Advisor, Governmental Affairs, External Relations and Strategic Planning, Société de transport de Montréal

Étienne Lyrette

I just want to make it clear here. We totally recognize the effort that has been made, especially with the Building Canada fund, in which we know there is a tremendous amount of money. That's why, for the next generation, or what I would call the next program that will come in 2014, we want to make sure that public transit stays in the eligible category.

So we recognize that. We recognize as well the gas tax fund transfer, which is quite useful for our own municipality as well.

I think the point here was specifically about R and D, for a program like the program we have here. In English it's the urban transportation showcase program. That was a very, very small program, but very useful for testing new technology like hybrid or electric.

But I totally agree with you.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

I also agree that the Hippocratic oath for doctors should apply to government policy, and that is to start by saying “do no harm”. Before we talk about what government should do to help, let's make sure government actions are not the problem in the first place.

You have identified some challenges with regulation on the importation of foreign vehicles and so on. Just to reiterate the request of my colleague, Mr. Richards, I'm interested if you could provide us with a very specific list, including the articles, the sections, and the wording, of what is problematic for your permanent importation of transportation technology that would help you be cleaner, more affordable, and better for the city.

Could you provide us with a very highly specific list of those things because then we can take those to a group of Transport Canada officials before this committee, ask them why those rules exist, and potentially recommend their amendment.? Would you be able to provide us with that list of problems and also proposed amendments?

10:10 a.m.

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

Serge Carignan

Sure. We could do that. We will do it.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Those are all my questions. Are there any others who want to take the rest of my time?

Mr. Richards.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Thanks, Mr. Poilievre, for sharing a little bit of time with me.

You made a comment earlier in response to someone else's question regarding natural gas and its use in transit. Maybe I heard you incorrectly, and I want to make sure that I didn't, but you seemed to indicate that you had some evidence or a study from somewhere indicating that these vehicles produce four times the greenhouse gas emissions of regular, conventional gasoline powered buses or vehicles. Was I correct when I heard that?

10:10 a.m.

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

François Chamberland

The four times is not in comparison with diesel buses, but electric buses in Montreal. You always have to look at this for your specific application. Montreal is very far away from a gas source and we're readily plugged into very clean electricity. That's what you have to compare.

If you move to another city, like Calgary, you have to make a study. These studies are very complicated. They have to be made by a university. They have to be checked and challenged by international experts. We're in the process of getting all of these challenges. That's why I cannot show you these figures because it's still in a study.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

You haven't got anything you can provide the committee that demonstrates the evidence behind that or the study that's behind that statement?

10:10 a.m.

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

François Chamberland

I could provide you a study comparing a Euro 3 bus with a diesel and natural gas bus, the same bus, and you will see that it produces more GHG emissions.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

I find it troubling that statement like that is made without your being able to provide us with evidence to back it up. I find it fairly hard to believe, actually, to be honest. I'm not going to suggest that you're misleading the committee by any means. I would ask that if you're going to make a statement like that, it would be useful to have some evidence you could provide. So if there is something you can provide the committee in writing or verbally today, I would ask that you do so.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

I have to stop you there. Thank you.

Ms. Michaud.

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Thank you very much.

Thank you for your presentations. That was very interesting.

In fact, I wanted to continue on this same subject. I was interested too, but perhaps in a different way.

In your assessment of greenhouse gas emissions, you also include transportation through pipelines. This is a whole; it is not just about the use of buses in the city. Have I understood correctly?

10:10 a.m.

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

Serge Carignan

When it is used, a natural gas-powered vehicle produces greenhouse gases. These are carbon chains. In addition to CO2, you have to look at the gas molecule itself. A gas molecule may escape along the way while the vehicle is being fuelled or repaired. A CO2 molecule leaving the vehicle's exhaust pipe counts as 1 molecule, but a CH3 molecule, natural gas, that escapes into the environment is the equivalent of 20 molecules burned. So the molecules lost throughout the circuit are punished 20 times more than 1 molecule leaving the vehicle's exhaust pipe.

That is what the studies often do not take into account. They take into account what comes out of the vehicle, but they do not take into account the entire chain that the gas must go through. It is not necessarily only the distance that the natural gas must travel, but also the way it is handled. Emptying a vehicle's tank by mistake has disastrous consequences, when you know that you have to multiply by 20 to obtain the CO2 equivalent.

10:10 a.m.

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

François Chamberland

As Mr. Carignan explained, a bus running on natural gas has a vent that allows gas to escape. There is no exhaust on an electric bus. Consequently operating an electric bus in downtown Montreal generates no pollution.

And there is not just air pollution; there is also the noise. An electric bus makes no noise, nor does a trolleybus or a tramway. A bus running on natural gas uses a combustion engine, similar to a diesel engine: that makes noise. The noise levels of the STM's buses are a problem. The STM cannot offer certain routes at night because they are too noisy. We will be able to offer them with electric buses.

So there are a lot of benefits for us in switching to electric buses.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

As you said so well, the noise, greenhouse gas and weather issues are very important and relevant for the City of Montreal. Your call for more test programs has been heard, at least on our side. I hope that can happen for you.

You also talked about the ecolobus in Quebec City, which I am very much interested in. I come from the greater Quebec City area, so I have had a chance to try them a little. Are you at the STM cooperating directly with the people of the Réseau de transport de la capitale on your midibus project?

10:15 a.m.

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

François Chamberland

Yes, absolutely. We share all the demonstration projects with the AVT group, where Mr. Carignan is the director. We have meetings several times a year. We share our experiences, our good and bad efforts and our results. We have agreed not to conduct the same demonstration twice in two different cities. The small six-metre bus project is being done in Quebec City, whereas the inductive recharging project is being carried out in Montreal. The bus project in which batteries are recharged at night is being done in Laval, whereas the project involving the hybrid buses that will be plugged in is being carried out in Longueuil. We are sharing all that with each other. We can share it with all the other transit authorities in Canada. There are no secrets within the Canadian Urban Transit Association.

To get back to the urban transportation showcase program, I must say that the hybrid test we are carrying out is the only scientific study on hybrid bus performance being conducted in the world. Our study has gone around the world I do not know how many times. We are getting calls from Asia, Europe and Africa. Everyone is asking us questions about our study, which is available on our website. There are no secrets. We are a public corporation. So it was not a partisan study. The idea was simply to take measurements, to compare and to provide results.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

This is very interesting. It would definitely be interesting to look at that study.

Are you considering using midibuses in Montreal in the same way as the ecolobuses are being used in Quebec City?

10:15 a.m.

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

François Chamberland

No. The ecolobuses in Quebec City are very small and very limited. You are familiar with them. I believe their maximum speed is 33 km/h. That is tough on the hills.

In fact, the midibuses are as wide as normal buses. They are bigger than the ecolobuses. I believe those buses can reach a maximum of 120 km/h. They can travel 120 km in a day and are also equipped with air conditioning. The midibuses are really used for public transit and can transport a lot more people than the buses of the small tourist line you have in Quebec City. They are bigger.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

That is interesting.

My speaking time is already up. So thank you.

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

Thank you.

Just before I recognize Mr. Toet, I think it's important to note that when you talk about the benefits of electricity and electricity-driven vehicles, coming from the province of Manitoba, where we have large resources and large hydro projects, I would point out that there certainly are environmental impacts from developing those dams and displacing communities. In fact, in Manitoba we're still paying for dams that we built 30 years ago.

So just to balance the record out, as much as I believe that electricity-driven vehicles are more efficient compared to gas-driven ones, we're not looking at all the factors necessarily on the electrical side of it, too.

Mr. Toet.

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair

And thank you to our guests. It's been very informative and very appreciated. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions, though, regarding the buses from Europe.

You're going with the minibus here in North America, a 9-metre bus compared to a 12-metre bus. Are the buses that are being used in Europe on an ongoing basis 12-metre buses?