This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Central District News has the raw data on the trolleybuses. The cost savings of diesel buses rely on the relatively cheap diesel fuel price of $2.30 per gallon.

They also include this bit of analysis:

The problem is that the core of the county’s possible decision to abandon the trolleys is driven not by operational costs, but by capital costs. The existing bus fleet will be worn out in 2015, and new trolley buses are much more expensive than diesel hybrids. The Seattle Times reported that it’s at least $280,000 more expensive per bus. That adds up to $44 million to replace all 159 trolley buses.

Making this long-term decision (the current trolleys are at least 30 years old!) based on short-term capital problems would be a mistake. Fortunately, the FTA recently announced a $775M federal program for upgrading bus fleets. One assumes this is on Metro’s radar.

Click over to the CD News post for a nice chart on the cost difference between electrics and diesel buses over time.

One Reply to “Raw Numbers on Trolleybuses”

  1. Gotta wonder about some of this stuff. If I’m paying $3.50 for diesel, how is KCMetro paying $2.30? If big purchasers can get that discount, why doesn’t a gas station undercut their competitor by 20 cents? They could do that, and still be making $1 profit for every $2.30 spent, not too shabby a return.

    Second, a hybrid is basically an electric bus with a diesel engine. How is it cheaper to add a diesel engine (with the space for the engine and fuel tanks)? Presumably this will be waved away as “economies of scale” etc, but really, most of the pieces of the bus, of whatever kind, have been manufactured for years, or even decades. In all probability most of the bus, or the various pieces, will be made on an assembly line that has made hundreds, or thousands, of similar vehicles.

    Agencies, of course, are pretty good at talking their way past the facts when they really want to do something. Costs are usually something that affects the results of the decision rather than the nature of the decision.

    And over the long run, we have no doubt what the big cost will be- global warming. Carbon emissions must drop, and electricity, to date, is way out front in terms of delivering carbon-free energy to buses- especially in Seattle.

    And switching to diesel-hybrids could have a pretty stiff opportunity cost. That’s 15 years of commitment to a step backwards- a bold move, even for a ‘cutting edge’ city like Seattle.

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