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An ally of the environment

To help the province of Quebec achieve its targets with respect to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the reduction of its dependence on oil.

As the Quebec government is intent on seriously improving its energy consumption, and in particular, on reducing GHG emissions by 20% before the year 2020, to a level below the one reached in 1990, it must invest in public transportation in order to increase public transit use. Indeed, as mentioned in the Consultation Report of the Commission on Energy Issues in Quebec, “Public transportation performed better than expected in terms of the amount of energy required per passenger-kilometre covered and the type of energy used. Indeed, intercity and intraurban travel by bus consumes 2.2 times less energy than individual travel per kilometer covered.”(Source). Consequently, an increase in the modal transfer from the automobile to public transportation will result in improved energy efficiency. In order to achieve this modal transfer, not only will it be essential to enhance the public transportation offering, but it will be imperative to improve it in order to ensure that it meets the needs of the target clientele. New clients will choose public transportation if it is available, and if it meets their various needs: speed, reliability, frequency of service, comfort, security and accessibility.

In addition, a report published by the David Suzuki Foundation in 2012 states that “The oil production and automobile sectors together cost the Quebec government 18 billion dollars per year in imports, which in turn increases our trade deficit and contributes to our collective impoverishment.”(Source). The province is thus losing huge amounts of money through the purchase of oil and automotive products, while there is a need to invest in and develop those sectors in which we have already established an enviable expertise and which are likely to result in significant economic benefits, notably in the areas of hydro-electricity, the construction of buses and metro stations, etc.

Also, in its first study of the economic benefits of a reduction in oil consumption, the Regroupement national des conseils régionaux de l’environnement (RNCREQ), a Quebec-wide congress of regional environmental councils, reveals that if Quebec reduced its oil consumption by 12% over a period of six years (2015 to 2020) in the road transport sector, it would significantly improve its trade balance (Source). In point of fact, instead of spending 20 billion dollars over six years outside Quebec, the province could use these funds to stimulate its economy and regional development, and to create jobs. Over the six-year period, a total of 130,000 direct and indirect jobs would be generated.

On track towards the electrification of public transportation
The electrification of the public transportation network is an ongoing priority. It is undeniable that in the foreseeable future, it will be necessary to proceed with the gradual electrification of the public transportation system in order to help the government reach its objectives of reducing GHG emissions and its dependency on oil. The electrification of the public transportation system will also help promote and even increase public transportation ridership, with a clientele that is increasingly concerned by environmental issues.

In fact, the Quebec transportation companies have already shifted toward electrification, by purchasing their first hybrid buses. Compared to diesel-powered buses, hybrid buses consume between 10% and 30% less fuel and their GHG emissions are reduced by an equivalent percentage. Indeed, one single hybrid bus travelling 100,000 km per year consumes 20,000 fewer liters of diesel and produces 51 fewer tonnes of GHG emissions than a diesel-powered bus.

This eco-balance can certainly be improved, thanks to the next generations of hybrid buses. By choosing the hybrid series configuration, it will be possible to eventually modify the way buses operate and to improve their electric range. Finally, the introduction of fully electric buses will allow us to use vehicles that do not rely at all on fossil fuels.

However, it is crucial that the reality of the marketplace be considered: the switch-over by public transportation companies to electrification must be progressive in nature, beginning first with testing activities, then with the acquisition of hybrid buses, followed by improved hybrid vehicles, plug-in hybrids, and finally, electric buses, when the market will offer vehicles that meet society’s needs and the province-wide operating conditions.

There is presently no proven, reliable, high-performing wireless electric bus on the market which meets the needs of the public transportation companies and which is as self-sufficient as a diesel-powered bus. In order to monitor the development of the different public transportation electrification technologies, we must keep a close watch on the latest discoveries and maintain our road tests. To this end, several tests have been completed by the Quebec public transportation sector. For example, since the month of April, 2013, the Société de transport de Laval (STL) has integrated to its fleet of vehicles an electric city bus built by DesignLine. After acquiring this vehicle in December, 2012, the STL became the first public transportation company in North America to test a full-size, slow-charging electric bus. In 2012, the public transportation companies of Montreal and Longueuil also tested a hybrid diesel-electric articulated bus from the European manufacturer Iveco and results indicated a very positive energy performance. In addition, the Outaouais and Montreal public transportation companies completed a joint assessment, through their customer service departments, of a fully electric bus manufactured in China by BYD, a first in Canada. Consequently, the transition from the dependence on fossil fuels to an entirely electric mode of travel is certainly an objective that will be pursued by the public transportation sector.

In December, 2014, Mr. David Heurtel, minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and the Fight against Climate signed, on behalf of the Quebec government, the Compact of States and Regions. This international agreement is designed to showcase and quantify the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction commitments and achievements of sub-national and regional governments, as well as their climate change policies. It is also another tangible commitment on the part of the Quebec government, in its fight against climate change.

Finally, the public transportation sector is an ally of the government and of several of its departments in the attainment of their ambitious objectives. It is therefore important to support the growth of public transportation, through a genuine political will, in order to enhance its popularity. Ultimately, it is the entire population of Quebec that stands to gain the most.