Friday, May 02, 2008
Time to consider REAL Trolley Buses?
Trolley buses have been around almost since the time of the first streetcar, although the became very popular in the 30's and 40's but like streetcars disappeared by the 60's due to cheap diesel prices.
A few cities kept their Trolley buses including Vancouver, British Columbia; Edmonton, Alberta; Seattle, Washington; San Francisco, California; and Dayton, Ohio.
Los Angeles looked into starting new trolley bus routes in 1992 and 1993 but NIMBY's in one corner of the route decided they did not want the trolley buses in their neighborhood due to the wires, despite the fact it would have eliminated diesel exhaust from their neighborhood. Otherwise except for a few extensions of the San Francisco and Seattle systems there has been little thought about the trolley bus.
Besides NIMBYism, the other factor that kept new systems being put in was the initial capital cost and the higher price paid for trolley buses over standard buses.
Lets look at some of the advantages of trolley buses over standard buses:
-First of all they are quiet when compared to standard buses.
-Second, electrical components will last longer. About 5 years ago Seattle replaced their 25 year old trolley buses. However, they did not replace them with entirely new vehicles. While the bodies on the buses were worn out, the electrical components only needed refurbishing. So their ordered new bus bodies from Gillig (shown in the picture) and refurbished the electrical components thus getting new buses for substantially less than a new bus.
-Third, if a bus route has service of every 15-minutes or less trolley buses save money over diesel. Now that comes out of San Francisco with higher energy cost than Utah and back when diesel was down right cheap, so the cost savings would probably be even higher now. .
-Buses are limited to routes with wires
-Need to have off-wire capability for emergencies such as road closures and other events that would cause them to have to "leave the wire".
Would Trolley Buses be more attractive to riders than standard diesel buses? They are quieter as noted so they actually could attract more riders but that cannot be quantified.
Instead of spending money on Bus Rapid Transit, putting money into Trolley buses could be an alternative worth looking at especially on the many UTA routes that now run every 15-minutes.