Electrifying London Transit top of mind for mayor at meeting with federal infrastructure minister

via Global News

London Mayor Ed Holder is continuing his push to make London Transit’s fleet all-electric.

Holder made the pledge last month during his state of the city address, saying the move would save the city millions in fuel costs and align with council’s climate emergency declaration. He noted the possibility of tapping into senior government funding for help making the plan a reality.

Earlier this week, Holder travelled to Ottawa to make his case to Catherine McKenna, Canada’s infrastructure minister.

Among those on hand for the meeting was London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos, who stressed Tuesday that talks were still in the preliminary stages, with many details still to be ironed out.

He says he’s encouraged by the conversations that have taken place and is optimistic the initiative could help London in ways the city hasn’t seen before.

“The idea has brought together people from across the spectrum,” Fragiskatos said. “Environmentalists obviously love it, but so do those who are more fiscally minded, who look at the annual savings that we would see in terms of fuel savings.”

London Transit spent nearly $7.5 million on fuel in 2018, according to the commission’s most recent public annual report. The commission projects fuel will account for 9.5 per cent of its 2020-23 operating budget.

“We have to be very creative in how we approach the challenge of climate change. Of course there’s a cost — there’s a cost to anything,” Fragiskatos said. “Fuel savings, though, in the city of London, would allow us to save $7.5 million a year. That money can go to any number of needs that city council could decide upon.”

Last week, LTC board members unanimously approved a recommendation from transit staff to spend $83,000 on a feasibility study looking into fleet electrification. The study is set to begin in March and finish in July, according to a tweet from Ward 4 Coun. Jesse Helmer.

The same staff report noted electric buses are estimated to cost nearly twice as much as the same-size diesel buses, not including additional costs for in-depot and on-street charging stations. LTC administration is expected to report back on next steps at a future board meeting.

Council on Tuesday, sitting as the Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee, will hear a motion calling on city staff to find a one-time source of financing to foot the bill for the study, and to work with the LTC, London Hydro, and other key partners in supporting it.

The motion, to be introduced by Mayor Holder and councillors Jesse Helmer and Phil Squire, also calls on having city staff work with LTC and with upper levels of government to, “identify funding streams to be used for the purchase of electric buses and related charging infrastructure, starting as soon as possible.”

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