‘We’ve reached a limit’: BC Transit mechanic says aging bus fleet posing challenges, but changes are coming

Watch Multiple cancellations and delays have left BC Transit passengers in Greater Victoria stranded over the past month. April Lawrence sits down with a BC Transit mechanic who describes the challenges of trying to keep up with an ageing fleet.

There isn’t a bus in Victoria Mordecai Edmonstone isn’t familiar with because as a BC Transit mechanic he’s likely had his hands on every one of them.

And about a third, 94 of Greater Victoria’s 302 buses, are 17 years or older.

“We’ve always kept buses for 20 years and I think we’re finally realizing it’s not cost-effective to keep stuff that long,” Edmonstone, who is also the unit chair for Unifor Local 333, said.

That’s because just like old cars, old buses, with a lot of kilometres, need a lot of work.

“We have six or seven buses off right now just for engine overhauls right? They’ve just reached 600,000 or 700,000 kilometres and they’re just expired,” he said.

And broken buses mean stranded passengers. In September there were 20 cancellations in just one morning. BC Transit admits old buses are part of the problem.

“We have an aging fleet as you heard, we had an increase in service in September, we did a fairly significant expansion, and we’ve got road congestion and road closures and infrastructure projects throughout the region and they all come together to make sometimes a very challenging operating environment,” said BC Transit Victoria Operations General Manager Kevin Schubert.

Edmonstone says the team of 68 mechanics is going full out to keep the buses on the road.

“I think we’re almost reaching a point where the garages are at capacity, we’ve reached a limit,” he said.

But there is hope approaching in the form of new compressed natural gas buses.

“We have approximately a third of our vehicles being replaced in the coming year, significant percentage of those are compressed natural gas,” said Schubert.

That’s 80 new buses for Greater Victoria, including new double-deckers. Eight will be used to expand service, but the remainder will simply replace their aging counterparts.

“New equipment is always a welcome sight when it comes around here,” said Edmonstone.

BC Transit also has a five-year plan to add another maintenance facility as well.

“We appreciate people’s patience through our challenges and I think we’re on the right track to service something everybody would be appreciative of,” said Schubert.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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