a bus on the street.

Transit Procurement Initiative hits milestone in Ontario

How Metrolinx helps save Ontario transit agencies money by buying buses in bulk.

Jun 8, 2021

A milestone vehicle – the 2,000th vehicle in Ontario acquired under the Transit Procurement Initiative (TPI) – was recently delivered to St. Catharines Transit.

It’s the result of a small team at Metrolinx working with local transit agencies across Ontario to get good deals on buses and related equipment.

a bus on the street.

This 12-metre clean diesel conventional transit bus, delivered to St. Catharines transit, was the 2000th acquired in Ontario under the Transit Procurement Initiative. (Photo courtesy of St. Catharines Transit.)

Shoppers know they get a better value when they buy in bulk – whether it’s at a wholesaler, Costco or the club pack section of the local grocery store. But, you could have even more bargaining power if you were negotiating for everyone on your street.

That’s why Metrolinx works with transit agencies across Ontario on joint purchases of buses and other equipment. By joining forces, transit agencies get more volume discounts and efficiencies than they could negotiate on their own.

“We pool everyone together and to go the market saying, ‘give us your best deal,’” said Yolanda da Silva, manager of the Transit Procurement Initiative (TPI) at Metrolinx.

The local agencies are not obliged to join the TPI.

“They are doing this based on true merit and value of the program,” da Silva said. “They see the advantages of being part of a larger scale purchase.”

On a joint procurement there can be as many as 21 agencies involved.

“With a bigger group buying the same thing, we’ve got more leverage than we would have on an individual basis,” da Silva said.

a small bus.

Minibuses are used by several transit agencies, showing that vehicles come in all sizes. (Photo courtesy of Milton Transit)

Before issuing a request for proposals, Metrolinx works with agencies to make sure the specifications of the new buses meet a high, common standard.

“Imagine trying to get 21 agencies to agree to a common specification,” da Silva said. “The collaboration is huge and our transit partners trust our process.”

The TPI approach ensures that commercial and technical expertise is shared across municipal boundaries.

“We try to bring commonality across the transit agencies’ bus specifications, which adds stability to the manufacturing supply chain and in turn brings the price down,” da Silva explained. “One’s experience spills over to the others.”

a small bus

This 8-metre, low-floor model improves service for passengers using specialized transit services. (Photo courtesy of Thunder Bay Transit)

Since the program was established in 2006, it’s created $34 million in overall program savings for transit agencies across Ontario. Ten years passed before the 1,000th bus was delivered in 2016, making the speed at which the team doubled that output even more remarkable.

“The amazing fact that it took us just under five years to reach the 2,000 milestone is a true recognition of partnerships we’ve built with all the stakeholders,” da Silva said.

The 2,000 vehicles include a variety of bus sizes and styles from minibuses to accordion-style articulated buses. The program also covers related purchases, such as vehicle batteries and intelligent technologies, like the system that makes stop announcements and tracks bus location.

Across Ontario, the TPI program has purchased buses for 42 transit agencies, from Windsor to Ottawa to Kenora.

The TPI team is a small group that works with transit agencies of all sizes on these purchases. They also oversee and manage the contracts from start to finish.

“We are transit geeks, with a passion for transit,” da Silva said. “That gives us a strong focus on customer, as we work with our partners from the procurement phase right through to the contract management stage”  

Their technical expertise keeps them focused on the end goal.

“This job is all about giving the rider the ultimate experience on a comfortable bus, while delivering value for money.”

Editor’s note – Now that we have you, if you’re interested in a good transit story, with a feel-good element, check out this recent post.

by Mike Winterburn Metrolinx News senior writer