Is Burlington missing out on a chance to show some leadership on the electrification of buses?

By Pepper Parr

October 20th, 2021



Here is an interesting situation.

Our Mayor sits on the Burlington Hydro Board.

Electrical Utilities across the province are undergoing a process of consolidation – but not Burlington. Haven’t heard anyone asking why Burlington is going to sit on the sidelines.

But that is another matter.

CUTRIC – Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium has released a report reviewing and assessing the transportation electrification strategies of electricity generators and distributors – electrical utilities – from across Canada.

Titled Electrical Utility Strategies for Transportation Electrification: Canadian Market Scan & North American Case Studies, the insightful report reveals, amongst other things, a distinct shortage of utility-led transportation electrification strategies in Canada today.

If the transit fleet is going to be electric Burlington Hydro might want to invite Sue Connor, Director of Transit,  to talk to them about how this can be done.

“With utilities needing to play a vital role in the electrification of transit systems, including both battery and hydrogen electric transit systems, Canadian transit agencies recognize the need to develop robust utility relationships,” said Josipa Petrunic, President and CEO of CUTRIC. “However, this report shows that most major utilities in Canada are poorly prepared for transit electrification and have no or minimal transit electrification strategies.”

The report provides a full market scan of strategies launched by Canadian electrical utilities, as well as a review of electrification case studies and best practices across North America, including current initiatives from BC Hydro, Newmarket-Tay Power Distribution Ltd and Toronto Hydro, who are members of CUTRIC. The report also reviews legislation and regulation that promotes utility involvement.

As Canada strives to reach 5,000 zero emissions buses, utility-led transportation electrification strategies are a critical component and will aid a faster and more efficient transition.

Sue Connor, Director of Burlington Transit

The report can be had for $299 – the Director of Transit probably has one. The city is lucky to have one of the most creative and highly respected transit professionals in the country serving as the Director of Transit.  Sue Connor performed miracles when she ran Brampton’s transit operations and has made huge differences at Burlington Transit.  Ridership growth was soaring until Covid19 kicked that operation in the shins.

There is an opportunity for the city to lead on the electrification of the Burlington Transit fleet  – Mayor Meed Ward is a big fan of transit but has anyone ever seen her on a bus?

We learned recently that the fees for the C.Dir designation  Meed Ward earned last year were paid for by Burlington Hydro.  It was a perk that was available to every Burlington Hydro Board member.

The C.Dir. Board Director Education program is a globally recognized, university-accredited professional designation.

One has to wonder why Meed Ward just didn’t declare this when we asked the question some time ago. Where did her lofty cry for transparency when she was a ward councillor go?

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2 comments to Is Burlington missing out on a chance to show some leadership on the electrification of buses?


    With the time it actually takes these guys to actually do something
    ALL municipal vehicles should be electric

  • Chris Ariens

    I recently caught a snippet of the Mayor of Oakville’s state of the town address, where he boasted about the partnership with the federal and provincial governments to replace the entire fleet – 57 buses – with electric buses, plus purchasing an additional 16 electric buses to expand the fleet.

    So far it seems that Burlington’s strategy was focused on expanding the bus fleet first, which I do think is necessary to provide enough frequency on the key routes to build stronger ridership for Burlington Transit. However the number of buses in Burlington’s fleet is quite similar to the number of buses the Oakville mayor spoke about. I’m left wondering how Oakville was able to fund not only replacing the existing fleet, but also support the system expansion, with fully electric powered buses? Why didn’t Burlington receive the same support? Did the Transit department even ask for it? Or is this something that’s further out in the plan for our city?

    Given that a bus is a capital asset that we expect to last a long time,10-15 years minimum, our system will continue belching diesel fumes for many years to come. We need to begin the process of electrification today if we are going to meet our target of 50% emissions reduction by 2030. It will take time as buses reach the end of their service life, we absolutely should be replacing them with new electric buses.