In 2016, Kingston Transit recorded another record setting year for ridership, which was up a whopping 11.6 percent from 2015. Although the continued growth can’t be attributed to a single factor, initiatives including the introduction and expansion of express routes, student pass pilot program, Employer Transpass, route adjustments and longer hours of operation have all made Kingston Transit an increasingly viable option for commuters. While it’s reasonable to expect Kingston Transit’s momentum will keep on rolling, in order for this essential service to realize substantial gains, innovation will be required.
Commuters in Kingston need only look to neighboring communities to see what the future might have in store for Kingston Transit. From GPS connectivity that allows riders to determine when buses will arrive at their stop, to real time bus capacity readings via a transit app, and dedicated bus lanes during peak commute times, there’s no shortage of ideas we could borrow to make public transit even better. Of course, aside from improving Kingston Transit, one thing that’s sure to bring new customers on board is to make the service more affordable. With a big target on the expensive cost of diesel fuel, what if Kingston Transit upgraded its fleet to zero-emissions, battery-electric buses?
Communities throughout Ontario have been trying out alternatives to fossil fuels for well over a decade, from propane-power in Hamilton to biofuels in Brampton and bio-diesel right here in Kingston, battery-electric buses are the latest trend promising substantial savings over the long-term. When asked about the electric buses during an online community chat last Spring, Kingston Transit Manager Jeremy Da Costa stated:
There are no immediate plans for electric buses. The Canadian Urban Transit Research & Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC) is beginning an electric bus demonstration project in Ontario to test the available electric bus technology in an urban transit application in Ontario’s climate. We will be monitoring the results of this project to evaluate if and when Kingston Transit might begin using electric buses.
Since last Spring, Kingston seems to have signed on as an initial CUTRIC participant along with seven other Ontario municipalities; Durham, Oakville, York Region, Woodstock, St. Catharines and Ottawa. In spite of this positive step forward, even if the results of CUTRIC’s 2-year electric bus trials are a resounding success, a report to council filed last fall dampened potential by stating: “…all bus vehicle purchases from 2017–2021 will continue to be diesel given the uncertainty of the alternate fuel”. While this leaves the window open for electric buses in Kingston sometime beyond 2021, it contradicts and undermines the city’s supposed position as a true pioneering partner in transportation innovation.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that Kingston’s involvement in CUTRIC is the right move because it puts us in league with communities daring to take a chance, and contribute to something with immense potential. However, if we want to be seen as true ambassadors of sustainability, this self-declared hotbed of history and innovation will have to do more than participate. We must commit to leading the way, and aspire to do big things that set the example for others.
Photo credit to SounderBruce.