STM - Society in motion
The most stringent study of hybrid buses ever conducted
Since April 2008, the STM has been testing eight diesel-electric hybrid drive buses throughout its network. The project focuses on comparing the road handling, fuel consumption and emissions of hybrid buses with those of standard buses used under identical conditions on the same bus routes. With this project, we want to find out if hybrid drive technology is well-suited to Montréal’s urban environment and weather, and if it really does help lower polluting emissions.
The project is part of the Urban Transportation Showcase Program (UTSP) and is carried out jointly with Société de transport de l’Outaouais (STO). The purpose of introducing hybrid buses into passenger service in the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce / Côte-des-Neiges, LaSalle and Verdun areas was to reduce fuel consumption and, thereby, lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The eight buses have undergone a battery of tests in Montréal’s unique climate. Indeed, as extreme changes in temperature can impact the operating efficiency of hybrids, these were compared to same-generation, standard-size buses, for proper assessment. In all, 14 new vehicles, the eight hybrid buses and six other standard diesel buses, were outfitted with measuring instruments able to collect data on some 30 different elements. That information will enable engineers to daily compare the performances of both bus types in regular passenger service on identical routes.
Hybrid drive buses feature two electric motors and a diesel engine. When starting up, the electric drive will propel the bus forward only if it engages smoothly and if its batteries are sufficiently charged. The diesel engine kicks in when the vehicle needs more power or when the batteries require recharging. The gradual transition from electric drive to diesel drive varies according to its speed and how it is being driven. It usually occurs when the bus reaches 15 km/h.
Hybrid drives appear to be more efficient on low-speed city routes marked by frequent stops and starts, making their design perfectly suited to heavy traffic environments. Under these conditions, the electric motors are running regularly. The frequent stops are also creating an ideal environment for hybrid buses as the battery-recharging cycle is activated the moment drivers take their foot off the accelerator.
Using hybrid buses not only leads to obvious environmental benefits through lower fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, it also benefits STM passengers and drivers. Having learned to operate hybrid drive vehicles, drivers are unanimous in saying that these buses are much easier to handle on the road. Mechanics, who also received special training on this type of drive, acknowledge the vehicle’s reliability and the pleasure they derive from learning more about it. Clients reap their rewards with smoother handling and significantly lower noise levels.
The final report for this first study on the efficiency of hybrid buses in a city environment under extreme weather conditions was recently completed. The next step will depend on the conclusions reached by the study. So stay tuned as the story unfolds…
The most rapid system in town
The STM wants to reward people who use sustainable means of transportation. Faster travel times are certainly a major draw for clients. And public transit has been made easier than ever for them… thanks to the bus rapid transit (BRT).
Any and all measures that can speed up travel times for passengers along the island’s busiest roadways become a priority for the STM. In accordance with the city of Montréal’s transportation plan, the STM is committed to a BRT that will make it one of the island’s fastest, most on time, sustainable and user-friendly components of the network development plan.
Imagine… a BRT alone on the road! Running in a dedicated lane, with no other vehicles to slow it down, it’s now a fast-moving bus! And often a big one too, especially when these lanes are handling articulated, making it possible to carry an even greater number of people. With buses running frequently throughout the day—every two minutes during peak periods and every eight minutes the rest of the time—and fewer stops along these routes, the BRT is without a doubt a winning proposition for the environment. All the more so as it will be deployed along arterial roads with strong ridership, where transit service is on the increase.
The Pie-IX corridor is one of the major bus transit corridors on the island of Montréal. Some 40,000 bus rides are currently taken each weekday. However, buses do not have any advantage over cars. In an effort to reward those people who have chosen to use public transit, the city of Montréal and the STM are moving to deploy a BRT service along the Pie-IX corridor.
In essence, a BRT is a number of independent, yet complementary measures, that lead to improved performance for the bus network. The BRT along the Pie-IX corridor is supported by newly-created bus routes, making it possible for residents of the East End of Montréal to take full advantage of the metro’s blue line extension and of a modernized Notre-Dame Avenue. In fact, the BRT is only one option among a number of measures under consideration. With a sustainable development approach, the STM is implementing several preferential measures, thereby increasing the number of kilometres of corridors along which buses have priority. The first step will be to increase the number of reserved lanes, easy to introduce by adding ground markings and traffic signs. Priority measures at traffic lights will be added, such as extending the green light so buses can cross an intersection, extending the green light after passengers have boarded, and activating a white light, called “candle,” that allows buses to depart ahead of other vehicles. As part of an integrated approach, the BRT calls for the inclusion of safe pedestrian crossings, comfortable and pleasant bus stations providing shelter in bad weather, as well as a well-lit space where people can wait until boarding.
Thanks to its performance on the road, to its efficiency as a system, to the operation savings it generates, and the many advantages it can offer passengers, the BRT is gradually mapping out the future for a new city public transit system.