I’m fairly sure that no STB writers were at Metro’s trolleybus open house tonight, but if you were, feel free to share your impressions in the comments.

28 Replies to “Trolley Meeting Thread”

  1. I was there briefly. Here’s my understanding:

    The purpose of the meeting was to gather public comment on trolleybuses and talk about schedule and the process. “Results” were not discussed.

    There were three different board areas – one dealing with issues with trolley buses, “obsolete parts, etc.” of the current fleet, another area showing the existing route network, and a third talking about the need and schedule.

    There were multiple areas to write down comments.

    The AGM, Jim Jacobsen, did a presentation – but I didn’t stick around to to hear it.

  2. I was at the meeting up through the end of the presentation and, although there wasn’t really anything results-related as 2Tall mentioned, I was glad to hear a lot of positive talk about trolleys from both the attendees and Metro representatives. I am biased towards the trolleys and would like to see ETB’s stay in Seattle. I had a chance to talk to one of the Metro representatives at the open house and asked point-blank if the results and feedback from the previous surveys and townhalls that SDOT did towards the beginning of the year regarding trolleys has gotten back to Metro. I got a somewhat vague reply implying it has been relayed on but that makes me feel that, even if someone at Metro has this information, it’s locked away like the ark was at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I hope that the feedback SDOT got is utilized by Metro to help improve things down the road. Does anyone know anything about what SDOT found out a few months back?

  3. I was there. I wish when they say a meeting’s going to be at a certain time they’d just do it!

    Like pretty much all public meetings when people made comments many were timid speakers so you couldn’t hear what they said. When someone asked the presenter to repeat what was asked he did it for one person then didn’t do it for anyone else so the question/answer period was less than satisfactory (at least for me.) For these types of things they should either let people come up to the front and ask questions on a mic or pass a mic around. Many people it seems are rather timid so you cannot hear them.

    1. The “conspiracy theory” side of my brain thinks:

      Timid speakers are a plus for entrenched bureaucracies’ hearings because timid criticizers make terrible teevee, thereby making the entrenched bureaucrats look knowledgeable and leaderly on teevee.

  4. I was there for about 45 minutes. The purpose of the meeting was to inform the public that the King County Council has directed Metro to do an evaluation study of potential alternatives to trolleys so that the Council can make the best technology choice when it comes time to replace the existing trolley fleet. Metro had several high ranking employees from the maintenance department present who made it clear that the trolleys are becoming a maintenance nightmare and that there is no question that they will have to be replaced by 2015. Larry Phillips (King County Council) also spoke and made it clear that he will be the point man on the Council for trolley supporters. The moderators asked the audience to contribute suggestions about what factors the study should consider when evaluating the various possible replacement bus technologies.

    Metro has created a website with information about the study and a link to provide comments: http://metro.kingcounty.gov/up/projects/trolleyevaluation.html

    There is an existing fleet of 159 trolleys that carry about 25% of Metro’s riders. The trolleys traveled 2,906,297 miles in 2009 and provided 597,459 hours of service. On average that means each trolley travels about 50 miles per day and provides 10.3 hours of service per day. The cost of maintaining the overhead power distribution system is estimated at $2.75 million per year.

      1. Sounds about right especially when you consider layovers, *lots* of stops, and slow speeds required for special work. Top speed is only about 30mph.

      2. This low speed is one of the reasons I think trolleys are being singled out.

        Trolley recovery times are higher than all other bus types operated by KCM.

        There are reasons for the recovery times – however, that average speed is simply unsustainable.

      3. The slow average speed is a function of the routes. Steep hills, narrow streets, congested streets, frequent stops. Diesels running the same routes don’t go any faster. In fact the trolleys can accelerate faster.

    1. The cost of buying 3 hybird articulated is $2.7 million.

      Which ETB’s are becoming a nightmare to maintain?

      The Bredas? No duh.
      The Gilligs? Why? The bodies are compatible with other Gilligs. The chassis are also no older than the other Gilligs and should be supported by the folks in Hayward, CA. The motors were supposed to have been completely rebuilt by Alstom. What warranty is there and is it being pursued?

      And when is KC Metro going to be borrowing the modern New Flyer ETB from Vancouver, BC Translink?

      Or is this all a scheme to bust the unions associated with the ETB systems at KC Metro?

      1. Also, how come there isn’t this level of navel gazing performed when KC Metro goes to bid out for other equipment? Will we be able to comment this amont on a future bid for, say, station turnstiles? Office computers? Fleet tires?

    2. “the trolleys are becoming a maintenance nightmare”

      The trolleys? Or the Bredas? I only had one breakdown on A Gillig while I was at Atlantic, caused by overheating in the controls. (Apparently this used to be more of a problem, but maintenance has installed fans to improve things)

      The Bredas, on the other hand, were *very* troublesome with lots of breakdowns and mysterious warning lights. On more than one occasion I was sent out to exchange my working Gillig for a Breda with a maintenance issue.

      1. The bodies of the Gilligs are new but the electronics and the motors are from 1979 and many of the parts are wearing out and difficult to replace or fix. The maintenance workers said that working on the Gilligs is like trying to fix a computer (or other electronic gizmo) from 1979. It’s time to stick a fork in ’em.

        The Bredas are still using their original electric motors and there isn’t much wear on them because they were only used in the DSTT, but the bodies are worn out from all the years of rough running on the freeways and over the city street potholes.

    3. So buy some MODERN trolleybuses. Idiots, even considering getting rid of them…. Replacing them with anything else (except possibly streetcars) will just make them go SLOWER and be MORE EXPENSIVE.

  5. I attended part of the meeting. I learned a couple of things that you may want to provide as input to the evaluation process:

    No one seems to know where the $1.2 million cost estimate for replacement trolleys comes from. 160 buses is a sufficiently reasonable sized order to get good prices. It is likely that much of the electronics of a series hybrid bus is similar to that of an electric trolley bus. It is unclear how aggressively Metro will try to price out a new generation of ETBs. They don’t have any firm prices and can’t really get firm prices without writing specs. We need to provide the input that Metro really needs to develop some firm prices and perhaps some competition among manufacturers. Apparently Orion, who are delivering new series hybrids have communicated interest in bidding on ETBs. Remember that we are still in a very weak economy so prices for an order today may be better than what SF or Vancouver paid. So we need to push Metro to get some real competitive prices for ETBs so that the capital cost comparison can be fair.

    A lot of the current maintenance costs that are being incurred for electric trolleys are on the converted Bredas. Metro hasn’t bought new ETBs since the MAN articulated coaches in the 1980’s. There may not be much institutional knowledge of the true maintenance costs of new ETBs. Metro personnel agreed that bus maintenance costs should be very low, but that today the Breda’s are a problem. We need to make sure the neither the Bredas nor the Gilligs are used as the baseline for maintenance costs because neither are new, and that instead the maintenance experience of new buses in Vancouver or SF are used.

    Metro apparently doesn’t currently have a plan to do a real head-to-head evaluation of the performance of a diesel or diesel hybrid on the current trolley routes. Metro pushed back that all their hybrids are articulated, and the toughest routes are run with 40-foot coaches. However, they are getting new 40 foot hybrids right now. We should push Metro to run a couple of these on the current 40-foot trolley routes on a continuous basis for the remaining period of the study so that they get experience with the true maintenance cost, fuel burn, reliability, etc. on the true trolley routes. I heard Jacobson say that was a good idea, but I don’t know if there is any commitment to actually do this. It seems like the only way to get objective data, and if it were to turn out to be the case that the diesel hybrids don’t perform well on the ETB routes, it would be better to find that out now, before the wires are gone.

    It was acknowledged that most operating and maintenance employees at Metro like the ETBs and don’t want to see them go. Quite a number of employees were in attendance. However, I don’t know how well management listens to them.

    1. Am I right in thinking that the union representing the trolley overhead maintainers is IBEW?

      Who represents the Diseasel bus mechanics? Is it a different union from the ETB mechanics?

      1. I believe that both the line crews and the mechanics are represented by ATU 587, the same union that represents drivers.

    2. “No one seems to know where the $1.2 million cost estimate for replacement trolleys comes from.” A King County auditor told me in an e-mail that this number came from previous experience, adjusted for inflation. That’s like basing the cost of a batch of iPods on what you paid for a Walkman in the ’80s.

      It sounds like someone was too lazy to pick up the phone and ask manufacturers for prices, and that one screw-up has biased the entire report (capital costs are the largest cost difference between ETB’s and hybrids).

    3. Except that all hybrids are NOT articulated. There are 40′ hybrid low-floor coaches.

    4. Yes, it sounds like someone really needs to light a fire under Metro to price out and examine the performance of *new* trolleybuses. Anything else will be a mistaken of monumental proportions….

  6. I thought it was pretty lame, so I left pretty quick. It felt like one of those meetings that they can say they did public outreach, but you don’t actually gather much input from the public nor do they offer much education.

    In looking at the boards, I heard one senior citizen say she was upset there would be no debate because she wanted to express how opposed she and other seniors are to the trolleys. This seemed somewhat odd to me until she continued that the trolleys break down all the time, are too hot, and feel unsafe to go in and out of.

    I took the Metro rep to task for not better explaining to the woman that the study isn’t about old trolleybuses vs. new hybrids/diesels but new trolleybuses vs. new hybrids/diesels.

    In my submitted comments, I pointedly requested boards at future meetings detailing the technology options under consideration.

Comments are closed.