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TransLink is expanding its battery-electric bus fleet, which helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 1,000 tonnes annually.Provided

Colin Cuvelier, a certified commercial transport mechanic, has worked on three different incarnations of sustainable buses at Coast Mountain Bus Company, a subsidiary of TransLink (South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority), since 2012.

“This is the future and TransLink is focused on making the electric bus work. I agree with them because it’s what we have to do,” Cuvelier says.

Patricia Lucy, director of brand marketing and ridership development, explains that TransLink, established in 1999 and based in New Westminster, B.C. to serve Metro Vancouver, is a multimodal transportation authority that has sustainability in its DNA.

“The vision was around one single entity that oversees sustainable transportation across the region,” Lucy says, “It’s really about how we help people get around and how we get them around in a more sustainable way.”

The need is great, Lucy adds. “We’re in a space where affordability, the environment and the climate are in huge crisis. So we all have a role to play in sustainability.”

TransLink is responsible for transit, walking and cycling infrastructure, but its mandate also includes the major road network as well as bridges, notes Lucy.

“So we really plan, fund and build the whole gamut of the transportation system,” she says.

The TransLink network also includes SkyTrain rapid transit, its own transit police, the paratransit system HandyDART, as well as the SeaBus. The passenger ferry offers a 15-minute ride between downtown Vancouver and North Vancouver.

“Climate should be top of mind for everyone. It means a lot to our TransLink employees and attracting new employees into the transportation industry,” Lucy adds. “They want to work for someone who cares about the same things they do.

“We are moving people away from the single-occupant vehicle and giving them more choice around sustainable travel, making it easier for them to walk, cycle or take transit,” says Lucy. “As we progress with our electric fleet and other measures it brings us towards meeting our net-zero GHG climate goals by 2050.”

Mechanic Cuvelier says he began working on the first green bus, the diesel hybrid, in 2012 although it’s been in service since 2009.

“Then I started working on the natural gas buses, so that was the second greener bus. I call them that because natural gas is a greener fuel compared to diesel,” Cuvelier says. “That led me to the fully electric buses that go quite a distance without charging.

“I service every aspect of the vehicles, the big ones whether a 40- or 60-foot bus, natural gas or electric.”

Fast charging is done through a basic pantograph system in which the bus has rails on top and the charging station has rails that descend to it.

“The two rails on the pantograph sit on top of the two bus rails and that puts on the charge,” Cuvelier says.

Vancouver has also operated traditional electric trolley buses since 1948 and has the second-largest fleet of this kind in North America.

Overall, TransLink moves about 380,000 people a day, down slightly from before the pandemic but rising again. “We’re back about 80 per cent,” says Lucy.

“Our ridership recovery has been really strong in comparison to some of our sister agencies across North America. We’re having a great recovery because people rely on us,” Lucy adds.

“It’s why we exist.”

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Advertising feature produced by Canada’s Top 100 Employers, a division of Mediacorp Canada Inc. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.

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