With the rollout of double-decker buses next month, Ottawa is one of a handful of Canadian cities incorporating the London-style vehicles for municipal use.
An Alberta transit authority was in town last week taking notes.
“Ottawa and OC Transpo have really been leaders on this kind of project,” said Strathcona county’s director of transit Matt Carpenter.
He was checking out the new Transpo fleet “because they’re pretty much exactly what we’re going to buy,” said Carpenter.
Strathcona provides suburban commuter express service to downtown Edmonton from Sherwood Park, serving about 4,000 riders daily.
After a one-year pilot project using a leased bus, they’re buying seven double-deckers at about $800,000 apiece, making Strathcona the first in Alberta to adopt them.
“We’re going to base our order with the same manufacturer probably a lot on what we saw with these new (Transpo) buses,” Carpenter said.
They should be in use by late 2013 and over 15 years, Strathcona is expecting to save $10 million in operating costs, versus articulated buses.
“There are fewer buses required to haul the same number of people, therefore fewer drivers are required,” Carpenter said.
“And out here in Alberta where labour shortage is a constant issue, that makes a big difference to us.”
Carpenter is hoping — in “our wildest dreams” — to one day have 30 deckers.
In comparison, Transpo serves an average 400,000 passengers each day and has 75 double-deckers.
The deckers could save up to $9.6 million annually, versus smaller buses.
The buses are already a success out west.
BC Transit spearheaded municipal use of double-deckers in Canada back in 2000, when 10 were purchased for Victoria.
The fleet has grown to 58.
“We find the double-decker is a highly efficient and effective part of our fleet, especially at peak times during morning and evening commutes and on long distance routes that serve our ferries and airport,” said spokeswoman Meribeth Burton.
They’re also used during the back to school rush and on busy tourist routes.
The BC fleet seats 84 people and 28 standees – more than double what a standard bus carries.
At 40 feet, they’re the same length as a traditional bus.
Deckers are also used in Kelowna, BC, and GO Transit operates 22 double-decker highway coaches in the Greater Toronto Area.
Aside from Transpo, “to the best of our knowledge, we know of no other municipal transit system that is currently operating double deck buses in Ontario,” said a ministry of transportation spokesman.
The appeal, across the board, is “just pure numbers and economics, cost effectiveness,” said Carpenter.
Transpo’s entire fleet is set to hit streets by April.