By Robert Frank
Mobility-challenged residents might be singing War’s 1975 number-one hit Low Rider, if the Société de transports de Laval (STL) acquires any of the E-Z Rider buses it showed off last week.
While the 33-passenger stretch minibus gets top marks for its manoeuvrability and fuel economy, its main claim to fame is an almost metre-wide door ramp that gives the wheelchair-bound the freedom to board and disembark without assistance.
The independence-fostering coach is just one of a series of 21st-century transportation solutions that the Laval transit authority is considering acquiring for the island city.
“For the time being, the objective was just to let the public have a look at it,” STL spokeswoman Marie-Céline Bourgault told The Suburban, in an interview, after the March 18 event it staged at the Cartier bus terminal to showcase the E-Z Rider. “At some point in the future, we might consider an acquisition, but there is no plan to do so at this time.”
STL has already ordered 75 new, hybrid diesel-electric buses, with delivery staggered over three years, commencing in 2014, she said.
“We have an engineer working full time right now to test the electric bus,” Bourgault said. “The hybrid buses were purchased jointly from Nova Bus together with other transit authorities from throughout Quebec, but the electric bus is different, because they didn’t exist before.”
Unlike the electric buses used in Montreal until 1966, which were propelled by Hydro-Québec power delivered through overhead electrical catenary, the prototype that Laval is testing instead gets its energy from batteries that have to be charged overnight.
“When we acquire diesel-powered buses like the hybrids, we buy collectively in order to improve our negotiating position and get a better deal. For the same reason, we also team up with other transit agencies to pool our purchases of diesel fuel, and to print bus schedules,” she explained.
The hybrid bus technology is a first for Nova Bus, and it remains to be seen whether it will deliver the first of Laval’s energy-saving buses on time, next year.
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