In mid-2010, when the east phase of the Mercer Corridor Project began construction, the trolleybus wires on Fairview used by Route 70 were removed, and the trolleybuses which have worked that route since 1997 were temporarily replaced with motorcoaches. Then last November, while Fairview itself was reconstructed, buses were detoured away from the heart of South Lake Union over to the far east side, on Eastlake. Finally, however, the eastern phase of the MCP is essentially done with Mercer and Fairview, and is moving on to the last major component, reconstructing Valley Street, which will not impact Route 70 (although it looks like it will impact Routes 40 and 62).
I asked Metro when we could expect to see Route 70 return to Fairview and re-electrified. Metro spokesman Jeff Switzer responded:
We’re still coordinating when the 70 etc. buses will return to Fairview, but know the city is aiming for March 9 weather dependent. The current schedule could see the 70 re-electrified about a month or so after buses are back on Fairview, putting in the April or May ballpark. I can share more details as the city schedule firms up, and we start restringing wires; [there will be a] period of testing once the wires are up, too, and that takes time.
Route 70 has been motorized since I moved to Seattle, so for me, it’ll be like a whole new trolleybus route; I’m looking forward to it. Trolleybuses have always appealed to my instincts as an engineer, delivering quiet, almost-fossil-fuel-free transit with a moderate, low-risk investment in overhead and substations.
When I last checked with Metro in December, trolleybus acquisition was proceeding as expected, with a supplier expected to be announced in late March.
More trolleybus and Metro news generally after the jump.
Why are all the trolleybus routes being motorized all weekend, every weekend?
We occasionally get this questions similar to this via email. Metro has always done full or partial motorization when needed for public or private construction under or adjacent to overhead wire, or for maintenance of the wire itself, but rarely was the entire network motorized all weekend. Current full motorization is caused by the First Hill streetcar construction on Jackson Street, which interferes with the deadhead route that all trolleys must use coming to or from Atlantic Base; so this situation will persist until construction on Jackson is complete.
Trolleybus Passing Wire Project at Seattle Pacific in Jeopardy
There is one possibly-bad piece of trolleybus news: a Metro project to install a passing wire near Seattle Pacific University may be cut from the budget. This passing wire is needed to execute a very desirable trolleybus restructure in Queen Anne, namely eliminating the quaint vestigial terminal loops of Routes 3 and 4 and sending those buses to Seattle Pacific University. This would triple the amount of service received by SPU, a place that generates quite a lot of all-day ridership, and make Queen Anne much less of a transit dead-end, all for about three-quarters of a million dollars, plus one extra coach in the consolidated 3/4 schedule. It’s something Metro should keep if at all possible.
Trying Again for a Battery-Powered Bus
A couple of years ago, Metro was awarded an FTA grant to purchase and operate a battery-powered (or technically, a “battery-dominant”) bus, as a part of a study to see how they can work in a transit system. Metro spokeswoman Rochelle Ogershok had this update:
We did issue an RFP a while back and received three proposals, but none of them were viable. So we plan to go back and issue another RFP early next year with some modifications that include fast charging capabilities.
Future “Short Buses” to be 35′
A while ago, I wrote about how Metro was deciding the type of vehicle to purchase to replace the current “short bus” fleet of 30′ and 35′ Gillig Phantoms (and the infamous, now-withdrawn Workhorse vans). Here’s Ogershok again:
After analyzing some of our routes (which included field test drives), Metro determined that 35-foot buses would best satisfy the ‘small bus’ fleet needs. We have been using older 30, 35 and 40-foot buses on these routes. The 35-foot bus offers more versatility and flexibility — and will be able to carry anticipated passenger loads on these smaller routes. We are currently working on an agreement for the purchase of 60 of these buses. Since our current vendor (Daimler) is no longer building buses in North America, we are working to assign the 40 & 35-ft bus contract to New Flyer. We hope to begin taking delivery of the new buses in the fall of 2014.
This is great news for Route 50 riders, as these newer buses will be quieter and more roomy than the 30′ Phantoms now assigned to that route.
Future 35′ & 40′ Coaches to be New Flyer Xcelsior
As alluded to in the previous answer, Daimler, who manufacture Metro’s newest model of coach, the Orion, have exited the US bus market:
The Xcelsior bus is the bus model we plan to fulfill our needs for 40-foot and 35-foot buses. New Flyer makes both 35 and 40-foot models of the Xcelsior bus. Since our current vendor of 40 & 35-foot buses (Daimler) is no longer building buses in North America, we are working to assign their contract to New Flyer. Assigning the Daimler contract to New Flyer would allow Metro to acquire the 215 buses (155 40-foot and 60 35-foot buses) we anticipate needing in the future.
Uptown-Belltown Project Still on Track
Finally, in better trolleybus news, the Uptown-Belltown trolleybus project is still on track. The project finally has a blurb on the SDOT transit project webpage.
Feel free to talk about anything Metro- or trolleybus-related in this thread.