It appears as if another municipality has something we do not. The debate on electric busses in Strathcona County has begun. The Strathcona County Taxpayers Association would like Strathcona County Council to end this debate before it costs any money.
Remember the double decker busses? They were supposed to be a great deal for Strathcona County. Consultants were hired. A business case was presented showing the savings. It was supposed to be a great project. Until the costs started coming in. The business case did not include the renovation to the building that required larger garage doors or the purchase of a platform that could be hoisted high enough to complete maintenance on the second level. Like so many decisions Strathcona County makes the decision on double decker busses was made with incomplete information. If the millions in extra “unforeseen” costs had been added into the project the original business case would have been far less attractive.
A debate of electric busses will start with consultants. And then someone inside our transit department will run with the project. A business case will be presented to Council highlighting the benefits of electric busses. The negative aspects will be buried until later. The chances of no cost overruns is very small. Almost every project we undertake in Strathcona County costs much more than when it is first presented to Council.
Has anyone even asked why we need electric busses? We spend over $19 million on transit services in Strathcona County. The City of Lethbridge, with approximately 50% more population than urban Sherwood Park, requested less than $13 million for transit in their 2017 budget.
Now is not the time to be experimenting with electric busses. Just because someone else has something is not a reason for us to go out and get it too. We have made far too many errors in the past that have cost far too much in project cost overruns. Electric busses may well be the way of the future. But the technology is far too new and our economy is far too weak for Strathcona County to serve as one of the guinea pigs in implementing electric bus service.