City can use infrastructure grant to purchase two smaller buses instead of one standard-size coach

The City of Thompson will be able to use a federal-provincial infrastructure grant to purchase two mini-buses instead of one regular-sized coach after the other levels of government approved a request to change the scope of the funding application.

“Previously administration had put in for one large bus and then council … decided that they wanted to have the smaller shorter buses similar to the ones that are seen in the city of Calgary,” city manager Anthony McInnis told finance and administration committee members May 19. “Both Canada and Manitoba have finally approved that, now allowing us to purchase the two smaller buses.”

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The request to change the scope of the funding application and to ask for the end date to be extended from March 31 to Dec. 31 of this year was approved by council last November.

The funding - a total of $235,681 for a handivan, a bus, two bus shelters and transit - was originally announced March 31, 2017. The grant was intended to cover about 30 per cent of the cost of a bus worth about $400,000.

The City of Calgary shared the specifications of its mini-buses - manufactured by Arboc Specialty vehicles - with Thompson. The buses are about 24 to 27 feet long and can fit 14 to 19 passengers and two to three wheelchairs.

The city announced a plan to establish a weekday-only transit system using smaller buses in late October 2019, nearly a year after Greyhound Canada shut down its Western Canada operations and stopped operating the transit service in Thompson on Oct. 31, 2018. It awarded a tender to provide transit services to Maple Bus Lines in December, but city transit has been suspended since March 20 as a COVID-19 precaution and because most of the riders are students and schools have been closed since that date.

“The procurement deadline has Dec. 31, 2020 on it which will be a challenge for us  to get them ordered in time depending on the manufacturing status of the company under COVID,” said McInnis.

Deputy mayor Les Ellsworth said the city is also looking at whether it might be possible to purchase buses that had started being  manufactured before the communities or organizations buying them cancelled the orders.

“What we saw with the Zamboni [the city recently purchased] was that there were a few manufactured already, other communities have cancelled their orders, we were able to purchase the Zamboni immediately,” said McInnis.

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