Trolleybus going up Main St without wires

Last Wednesday in Pioneer Square, officials from King County Metro took a test ride in one of Vancouver’s modern low-floor electric trolleybuses to see how it works on the wire and off the wire. Vancouver’s TransLink loaned the bus to Metro for examination as part of the Trolley Bus System Evaluation. Representatives from the bus and propulsion system manufacturer and Vancouver bus operator Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC) mingled with Metro staff to discuss operation and maintenance of the bus. Among the key people from Metro are their chief vehicle maintenance supervisor, trolley bus maintenance supervisor, and General Manager Kevin Desmond. They liked a lot of the amenities found on the bus. County Councilmember Larry Phillips, who sponsored the transit audit which led to this evaluation, was also present. Phillips is in favor of retaining the electric trolley system and modernizing the fleet.

Much more after the jump

The E40LFR bus is manufactured by New Flyer with electronic propulsion provided by Vossloh Kiepe. A 60-foot articulated low-floor version is also running in Vancouver. It is equipped with an Emergency Power Unit (EPU), a Nickel-Cadmium battery, that allows the bus to move for a short distance without being connected to an overhead power source. The battery is charged while the bus is connected to the overhead wire.

The bus performed two test runs. The first run had the bus run on wire from 2nd & Main up to 4th Ave, then wireless running the rest of the way to 5th Ave, S Jackson St and back to 2nd & Main (watch video). The second run followed the same path, entirely powered by the EPU (watch video of entire run). The bus was able to travel a distance of 8 city blocks (about 0.5 mile) with some hill climbing, off-wire, using 75% of the battery’s charge. On level ground, the maximum range is about a mile. After the test runs, someone jokingly called to run it up James St with its very steep incline. Another joked about running the bus in service during the evening rush hour but Metro’s lawyers would not like that.

The EPU on this bus is designed for emergency use only, due to the limitations of the battery. Technology has advanced since the bus was procured in 2003 with lithium-ion batteries and supercapacitors now available. They would allow greater range, reduced weight, faster charging and allow regular use. For example, Rome’s trolleybuses traverse a 3 km section of the city center off-wire. Their buses have a maximum range of 10 km off-wire.

The off-wire capability offers great flexibility in operations. Trolleybuses would be able to go around obstructions on their own power or turn around without a wired turnback loop. Diesel substitution to avoid construction work would be avoided, like Route 70 going diesel due to Mercer St construction or the frequent weekend motorization. With greater range, trolleybus service could even be extended beyond the overhead network. The poles can be lowered and raised automatically without the driver ever leaving the bus (kind of like how our old tunnel buses worked).

Other features of the Vancouver bus include ABS, traction control, roll-back protection, automatic hill holder, dewirement detection with quick pole lowering, more compact electronics and motor, and a stated capacity of 77 passengers. Passenger amenities include a low-floor design for easy boarding, slim profile seats for more leg room (rumors that we may be getting new style seats on the new buses), a spacious interior layout (2+1 seating), kneeling function and 1:4 slope wheelchair ramp (1:7 slope in future buses), rear-facing passive restraint system and a hook and strap system for two mobility device users, bike racks, passenger-operated rear doors, and an automated stop enunciator.

Many of these amenities are already on some Metro buses, like the low-floors and bike racks. Automated stop announcements are coming to all Metro buses within 18 months. On new seats, rumors are that newer Metro buses will be getting them. Some features, like 2+1 seating and a passive restraint system should, in my opinion, be standard on the urban-focused trolleybuses. I talked to a member on Metro’s Accessible Services Advisory Committee (ASAC) who liked the new trolleybus. I asked her about ASAC’s position on passive restraint systems and she told me they had a positive opinion on the system. In testing they’ve done and from other cities’ experience, most users who intially opposed it, liked it after actually using it. Addendum: The CMBC bus trainer also told me of the passive restraint’s popularity among riders over the hook system in conjunction with the automated stop enunciation system. The point I’m trying to make is they are not discriminatory as some critics make it to be. People who don’t like it continue to have a choice.

Aside from the vehicles, the existing overhead wire network will be considered in the evaluation. Rehabilitation of the network is ongoing. The current infrastructure is in good condition and is expected to last another 50 years.

Since Metro doesn’t have any experience with modern trolleybuses and only with hybrids, Trolleybus System Evaluation acting project manager Katie Chalmers said Metro learned a great deal about them from this borrowed bus. The project is studying two propulsion technologies to replace Metro’s aging trolley fleet: diesel-electric hybrids and modern electric trolleys with capability to go off the wire. The results from the project are expected to be released next March, followed by a public review process. The County Council will use the results to make an informed decision on the trolleybuses future by November 2011.

You can view my photos from the event and VeloBusDriver’s photos from the day before at Atlantic Base.

124 Replies to “Metro Evaluates a Modern Trolleybus”

  1. When I first read that these buses have NiCd batteries, I scoffed. Reading on, either ultracapacitors (light, durable, and long-lasting) or lithium ion (high-capacity) seem like a much better choice.

    I do hope they keep the trolleybus network, and even extend it.

    1. NiCd batteries would be fine for emergency use – They are more durable and relatively inexpensive. Lithium Ion has more capacity but that comes at a price. If they go the Li-Ion route, somebody needs to look carefully at the costs involved over time – including replacements.

      I’ve wondered whether they could use an ultracapacitor to get us through dead spots without a jolt when the driver doesn’t know the wire. Having an experienced driver helps but I’m still learning – I give a nice smooth ride on the 14 wire. Other routes, not so much :(

      1. Do they not mark the dead spots? I know in SF there are circles painted on the road to indicate where they are. I think the way it works is the front of the bus hits the circle when the poles hit the dead spot, and there are separate marks for the artics. In Boston, I know they have little yellow diamond signs hanging from the suspension wires that say CUT OUT next to section isolators.

      2. No, dead spots are not marked. Experienced trolley operators learn to ‘read the wire’ by looking at the overhead. Some isolation spots are marked, but not nearly all or even most.

      3. The wire is easy to read during the day, but I like the circles painted on the roadway idea better. Looking up while moving is a really bad idea in a busy urban area. I prefer just to move slowly and deliver a slightly bumpier, although safe, ride for everybody when I’m in unfamiliar territory.

    2. Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. NiCad is pretty much dead. Cadmium is frowned on for environmental reasons. The technology has a rather low recharge cycle life and although it’s light it’s rather bulky as far as charge density. With something as heavy as a bus I wonder if just good old lead acid in one of the gel or AGM forms would be better and cheaper than Lithium ion or NimH. I think super capacitors are better suited to rail, although I think some companies are experimenting with them for buses. With rail you have much more control over the need for off wire capacity. You don’t start the train or try to pull a grade unless you’re tied into the grid.

      1. China has supercapacitor powered buses, running alongside but separate from trolleybuses. They recharge at stops using a retractable pantograph. YouTube has videos of them.

  2. I will say this about passive restraint (both TransLink and SWIFT): I feel much better being hooked in and facing forward, especially if I’ve never been on the route before. I like to sit opposite the driver so I can look outside and see when my stop is.

    I’ve tried it the other week when I took an Epic Bus Journey to Vancouver and I’ve tried it when riding SWIFT, and I honestly didn’t like it (but I can say I did try it).

    1. Jessica,

      May I ask how you traversed the service gap between the WTA bus and Translink? I’ve thought about doing the trip but instead of crossing at Blaine, crossing at Sumas, where the walk is more akin to crossing a parking lot and going through a building to the bus to Abbotsford. I think, perversely enough, that the Sumas bus even runs more frequently than the Blaine bus does.

      Brian Bradford
      Olympia, WA

      1. It’s about a mile walk from Blaine to King George/8 Ave in White Rock where I’ve caught the (peak only) 321 express to the Surrey Central SkyTrain station. The east shoulder of the highway is plenty wide for safe walking. I did it in 30 minutes. If you’re willing to transfer in White Rock Centre you can get from the border to Vancouver anytime, limited only by the schedules of WTA 55/70x.

      2. I know about the usual Peace Arch-Pacific Hwy crossing. I think I was one of the first people to ever speculate on the idea back around ’99

        I know that Jessica is in something of a unique situation, so I wanted to get an idea of if she’d come up with a workable solution.

        The WTA Sumas bus to Mission/Abbotsford BCTransit to Aldergrove Translink seems to be a very workable alternative, the only concern is timing.

      3. While I’m sympathetic to your preference (obviously arrived at through a great deal of personal experience and research), one problem with “active” restraint is that you hand all of your agency over to a driver who may not be able to understand your individual needs and circumstances.

        Someone close to my heart has, in addition to her permanent disability, a related spinal issue that can be aggravated by being jerked in certain ways. She finds it less worrisome to ride a transit vehicle sideways than forward. On vehicles where she has complete agency, she can position herself however will work best. With active restraint, she has to try to convince the driver to hook her in perpendicular to the front — drivers have been known to refuse, as they only accept one “proper” way.

        Suddenly, her long-term spinal health is in the hands of a random individual, how (s)he positions the hooks, and how (s)he drives. This is not a good thing.

        If passive restraint works for a wider swath of bodies and situations than strap-in, saving everyone time and no longer singling the disabled rider out for lateness-scapegoating, it should be the default option. (Perhaps the other should be available as a back-up.)

      4. “I like to sit opposite the driver so I can look outside and see when my stop is.”

        I like to ask passengers in a wheelchair where they are heading so I know to switch onto the siding wire, if available. I’ve also had concerns about backward facing passengers not knowing where they are and having to rely more on my memory for their stop. (My wife would warn against relying on my memory, BTW. Not to say it can’t work, but there are legitimate reasons why backward facing may not be a good idea.)

      5. Takes about a half hour walk from the Blaine crossing to the “Pink Palace” on King George. There is where I catch the Van. buses to either Surrey, Delta or downtown.

      6. Brian

        I took the usual way as described by Epic Transit Journeys. I used my motorized scooter instead of my manual wheelchair (which really helped my arms). The CBSA (and ditto for the US border patrol on my way south) was quite surprised as it’s not every day someone using a wheelchair crosses the border as I did.

        I had surprisingly no problems riding and motorists were very considerate (I was doing my part by keeping as far to the side as safely possible)

        The only thing I didn’t like was I had to pay regular cash on the bus – then I bought a Day Pass when I arrived on SkyTrain.

        Vancouver has it made with Day Passes (except, unless I misunderstood instructions, that you can’t buy them on the bus) – and we need to do the same (yes, it’s been argued on this blog plenty of times).

        Humor: Listened to Bob & Doug McKenzie’s “Take Off” when heading north and Crosby/Nash’s “Immigration Man” heading south

      7. If I remember right, Vancouver starts selling the day passes at 9am, so peak-hour commuters can’t use them. But the price is the same as a round trip.

    2. Fearing that I’l rehash that long pointless discussion from the previous thread on the topic I will say this, people have their personal preferences and the combination of it with stop enunciators don’t make it discriminatory like some people make it to be. The ASAC member said some people actually preferred sitting backwards because they can see better (however silly that may sound but you can’t argue with personal preference). A sense of independence by not depending on the driver to secure you and ease of use was one the key factors many users liked it. The Coast Mountain Bus Company trainer told me the passive restraint position is “the spot people compete for” suggesting to me that they are much more popular than the hooks. Of course, you do still have the choice to hook in

      1. It should not matter what anyone’s preference is. If it has been determined to be safe, then passive-restraint wheelchair seating should be the only option on buses where it is available. It makes no sense to delay a bus, and everyone on it, because someone “prefers” to be tied down. Safety should be the only consideration. “Preference” should not even be considered.

      2. I apologize to JW on the “tell that” at his expense, however, I still disagree with him given the overwhelming evidence that passive-restraint works and many of its users like it. Yes, it has some drawbacks and issues but the benefits outweigh the drawbacks enough for it to be offered as another way to make riding the bus easier and faster for everyone.

      3. There is no option on Link. Why should there be on buses, if passive-restraint is considered safe? How could anyone not be able to use the passive restraint system? Does this mean they can not travel on Link? If so, so be it. I don’t see ST making any special provisions for people on Link trains.

      4. There isn’t any type of restraint system on link, due to the theory that it won’t ever make any sudden stops and a wheelchairs brakes should hold the chair well enough. Passive restraints on buses may not work for everyone due to chair design. Some chairs and especially scooters simply wouldn’t be able to back up to a passive restraint and be held properly, thus the need for hooks.

      5. Better yet, tell it to Jessica Clark. She actually uses a wheelchair. Or say – ask anyone else who uses a wheelchair. Seems to me that their perspective counts more than that of those who don’t.

        I agree with JW. Passive restraints can be used in a forward facing manner. Forcing a person in a wheelchair to be eyeball to eyeball with the entirety of the bus (and have their back towards their destination) doesn’t seem in line with the concept of accessibility.

        As to “making no sense to delay a bus” – does it make sense to “delay a bus” while a cyclist loads their bike? While someone fumbles for change? While a person using a walker uses the ramp or lift?

        Not seeing how your minor inconvenience translates into forcing others to be singled out. Someday (if you live long enough) you yourself will rely on accessible transportation and other facilities. Think about it.

      6. Beavis,

        I thought I made it clear in my article that: Metro’s Accessible Services Advisory Committee has a favorable opinion on rear-facing passive restraint. The CMBC bus driver trainer says most of their wheelchair using customers prefer the passive-restraint (they have a choice).

        “Or say – ask anyone else who uses a wheelchair. Seems to me that their perspective counts more than that of those who don’t.”

        See the above.

        “Passive restraints can be used in a forward facing manner.”

        Current industry practice and academic research suggest otherwise.

      7. Beavis has a valid point on the bicycle loading, though. What an infuriating waste of time.

        If you can’t get it on there in 30 seconds, you should have to wait for the next one. Or you could, y’know, ride that bike about which you’re so self-righteous!

      8. My impression of “passive restraint” is that there is a partition to keep the wheelchair from moving forward in case of a sudden stop — the brakes on the wheelchair are not needed for this. That is also why the wheelchairs face backwards — so the person in the wheelchair is not thrown forward in a sudden stop, but is pressed back against the back of the wheelchair, which is up against the partition in the bus to keep the wheelchair from moving in a sudden stop.

        If passive restraints are safe, then there is no reason to offer any other “options”. There is no other option for wheelchairs on Link or on the SLUT. And it is not just “my” inconvenience that is at issue — it is the inconvenience of EVERYONE on that bus, some of whom may even miss a transfer because of a couple minute delay while a driver have to tie down a wheelchair (or several minutes if more than one wheelchair boards and/or deboards before the bus reaches your stop where you are attempting to make a transfer).

        Over and over on this site posters complain about buses being slow and/or late. This is one significant reason why this happens — drivers forced to tie down and untie wheelchairs. This takes longer than using the ramps, from my experience.

        And, no, I don’t beleive buses should be delayed by people putting bikes on or taking them off buses. However, that takes a lot less time than a driver tying down a wheelchair, and can often be done while other passengers board or deboard, in which case the bus is not slowed at all.

      9. I’ve been on buses that have missed three light cycles thanks to a single bicycle-loader!

        No one group has a monopoly on sluggishness in this city.

        But you’re not wrong about the laboriousness of current wheelchair loading and then many transfers missed as a result.

      10. I believe that the perceived time of loading a wheelchair is a lot longer than the actual time. Usually when I board a bus I will instruct the driver to stow the ramp before coming to help me secure my chair. On most days (as long as the straps aren’t stuck), I will have the seat up and my chair restrained by the time or shortly after the driver is ready to leave and the driver never has to leave their seat. Why shouldn’t I have the option to hook in and face forward?

      11. The way to avoid having a wheelchair loading or other event delay the schedule is to build time into schedules for the slowdowns that routinely occur.

        As to being able to load/unload, both can be done simultaneusly. All but the 30 footers and the new vans have 2 sets of doors.

      12. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, not in a million years.

        Nothing is worse than having a bus threaten to get you there early for once in your five years in Seattle, only to have to wait 5 minutes at a damned time-point.

        Core routes: very high frequency, no f#%king time-points, problems don’t compound, transfers don’t suck, everything works for once.

        (Note: “high frequency” is actually 30-50% higher than anything RapidRipe intends to offer.)

      13. Theoretically RapidRide does not have strict timepoints mid-route, only estimated ones, which means the driver doesn’t have to wait at a stop. That’s one of the things Metro got right. If service runs frequently enough, you can toss out the schedule and just try to maintain headways.

      14. Indeed, Oran.

        The point of my last comment was that RapidRide doesn’t actually have the frequencies to make schedule-less service work properly.

        West Seattle and Ballard RapidRide frequencies will drop to 15 minutes after 7 PM (and if history is any indication, that probably means after 6 PM inbound). Just wait and see the disasters they will be!

        But Bernie’s suggestion of not only keeping the hard-and-fast time-point system, but padding it in anticipation of the “routine” delays (that should never be so routine in the first place)… noooooooooooooooooo!!!!!

      15. @d.p.,

        If “nothing is worse” in your life than having to wait 5 minutes, the you must lead a charmed (and high anxiety) life indeed.

      16. Whatever, Beavis.

        Five minutes here. Five minutes there. It adds up.

        I lose hours of my life every week to Metro (versus owning a car, or versus better transit in another city).

        In five years here, compounded hours represent weeks of my life unnecessarily spent in transit.

        And you want to lengthen the printed schedule to ensure that their are no breath-of-fresh-air exceptions to our molasses pace!????

      17. The thing to remember when comparing driving to riding transit is that the headway of a car is zero.

        Five minutes here and there may not sound like much, but it’s five minutes that a whole ton of car users would *never ever* spend. In my experience, that’s one of the main reasons that people don’t ride the bus more. Even if it would be an equal-time ride, and much less time spent parking, they don’t want to wait the 5-10 minutes for the bus to arrive; they want to leave *now*.

        Every person has their own objective function with respect to transportation. Personally, I’m perfectly happy to spend 15-20 minutes longer waiting and travelling, if it means that I can avoid the very unpleasant (to me) activities of driving and parking. But I believe that, for a large number of people — none of whom (by definition) are current bus riders — these “5 minutes here, 5 minutes there” delays are the biggest reason they don’t ride the bus. And so, if we want to attract these riders, we’ll need to focus on fixing those minor delays, and drastically improving frequencies.

      18. “Personally, I’m perfectly happy to spend 15-20 minutes longer waiting and travelling, if it means that I can avoid the very unpleasant (to me) activities of driving and parking.”

        Precisely. Are you me, by any chance?

        Unfortunately, Metro — and by extension anyone who defends any part of the status quo, and certainly those who suggesting slowing it down further for sheer methodology — asks us to spend 30, 60, or frequently up to 90 minutes longer.

        Metro steals your life away in 30 minute intervals.

      19. I have to agree with Norman. If the passive restraint systems are proven safe (which apparently they are) then they should be used exclusively.

        However, this is of little consequence when we have much larger fish to fry when it comes to wasting time, lack of Orca adoption. I’m about ready to just cut off cash payments. People will learn quick enough.

      20. d.p.,

        You’re (again) missing the point. By having schedules that are impossible to keep, Metro is CREATING delays and missed connections. If schedules accounted for slowdowns that inevitably occurred, you’d spend LESS time waiting for LATE buses, because you’d arrive at the stop closer to the time that the bus does and not spend as much time standing around with the riff-raff at 3rd and Pine. You’d make more of your connections and not have to wait for the next bus because you’ve missed the last.

      21. Sorry to seem so cantankerous, Beavis, but you’re the one missing the point.

        I arrive at the first bus of any trip as close to OneBusAway’s prediction as possible. That doesn’t make it any less of a nightmare for the travel speed to be 1/5 of driving.

        So let’s say we slow the schedules down, as you suggest. Now my bus is slow 100% of the time, as opposed to 90%.

        Now my bus arrives downtown, perfectly on-time, at :30 past the hour. And my connection leaves, perfectly on-time, at :30 past the hour. I’m still screwed, and at the transfer point I have no warm, dry place to go.

        If I could make a transfer in the general direction of my destination that would always come within 7-10 minutes, I’d be infinitely better off.

        Timed transfers don’t work unless you’re dealing with extreme infrequency and a central coordinator is holding all departing buses until all transfers are made. This works for the night owls. It’s a bad idea for real urban transit service.

      22. And please understand (as Seattle is resistant to doing) that there are literally thousands of precedents out there in the world for what works and what doesn’t.

        There is no urban transit system on Earth that functions as you suggest. Rural transit systems, sure. Commuter rail systems (like BART in its off-hours, or British rail on its smallest branches). But no urban transit.

        By the way, I thought of something more infuriating than finally having a fast ride, only to stop and twiddle thumbs for 5 minutes at a time point…

        That would be finally having a fast ride, only to stop and twiddle thumbs for 5 minutes at a time point and then have all of the time-wasting slowdown crap happen after the time point.

      23. “West Seattle and Ballard RapidRide frequencies will drop to 15 minutes after 7 PM”

        15 minutes in the evening, yippee. That’s the minimum for frequent (ie., non-irritating) service. RapidRide A has it but I heard Ballard might be less. 5 or 10-minute headways would do more to make Seattle into a transit-oriented city, but 15 minutes is a good step forward for Metro.

      24. Um, no. That’s not frequent enough the deal with the externalities of traffic and the institutional stupidities of still-mostly-on-board payment and non-dedicated lanes.

        Combined 15/18 frequency is currently 15 minutes after 7:00 (6:00 inbound), so this represents a whopping 0% increase.

        RapidRide is a total failure not only because it barely improves in any measurable upon the routes it directly replaces. It’s a failure because it does nothing to mitigate our fractured one-seat system… You will never convince someone along the 56 or the 17 to walk or to take a feeder bus to RapidRide. The average time penalty would greater than the current 30-minute intervals and snail-slow service on their current routes. It just isn’t frequent or fast enough. Period.

      25. [typos affecting legibility]

        RapidRide is a total failure not only because it so negligibly improves upon the routes it directly replaces (54, 15/18). It’s a failure because it does nothing to mitigate our fractured one-seat system…

        You will never convince someone along the 56 or the 17 to walk or to take a feeder bus to RapidRide. The average time penalty would be greater than the 30-minute intervals and snail-slow service on their current routes. RapidRide just isn’t frequent or fast enough to justify behavioral change. Period. And that’s a whopping failure.

      26. @d.p., yes I agree. RapidRide will not improve evening frequency but at least it won’t make it worse as I’d heard. And it’s a small advantage to have all runs coming to the same stop rather than having to guess whether to walk to 15th or 24th.

        Metro needs to understand that frequency is the #1 factor in whether people ride the bus and are satisfied with it. If it’s not frequent, they’ll drive or wait until it is frequent (e.g., the next weekday morning) or not make the trip.

        @Norman: “If it has been determined to be safe, then passive-restraint wheelchair seating should be the only option on buses where it is available.”

        My concern is whether it’s really safe and not an undue burden. Just because a government agency says it’s safe, is it? Drugs are approved and then get pulled off the market. Plastic particles are changing animal hormones. Countries are banning incandescent light bulbs yet some people get dizzy with the flicker of flourescents — and the government refuses to listen to their concerns because they’ve determined it’s “safe”. Having two restraint options gives people a choice if the new one is later discovered to not be so safe after all.

      27. Mike,

        Various documents have claimed the RapidRide frequency will drop to “less than” 15 minutes after 10:00.

        So if the 18 gets truncated to 15th & Leary or disappears entirely — which already amounts to a time penalty for current 18 riders thanks to RapidRide’s non-rapidity — this will constitute a net drop in service after that time.

        As far as I can calculate from the information available, here is the net service comparison for the switch from the 15/18 to RapidRide:

        Daytime (excluding rush hour) = 0% increase
        Rush hours = undefined slight increase vs current local service; possible decrease vs current combined express/local service
        7:00PM – 10:00PM = 0% increase
        10:00 PM – Midnight = up to 50% decrease (if 30-minute rumor proves true)
        Midnight – 1:30 = 0% increase

        Pretty sad, huh?

    3. [Oops. Meant for this to post here.]

      While I’m sympathetic to your preference — obviously arrived at through a great deal of personal experience and research — one problem with “active” restraint is that you hand all of your agency over to a driver who may not be able to (or care to) understand your individual needs and circumstances.

      Someone close to my heart has, in addition to her permanent disability, a corollary spinal issue that can be aggravated by being jerked in certain ways. She finds it less worrisome to ride a transit vehicle sideways than forward. On vehicles where she has complete agency, she just positions herself however will work best. With active restraint, she must try to convince the driver to hook her in perpendicular to the “normal way” — many drivers refuse, accepting only one way as proper.

      Suddenly, her long-term spinal health is in the hands of a random individual, how s/he sets the hooks, and how s/he drives. This is not a good thing!

      If passive restraint works for a wider swath of bodies and situations than strap-in, saving everyone time and no longer singling the disabled rider out for lateness-scapegoating, it should be the default option. (Perhaps the other should be available as a back-up.)

      1. Since I couldn’t find a Reply link, I’ll post here:

        For me: when using either my manual chair or my motorized scooter, it takes longer to deploy a high-floor lift than to strap me in (I usually already hooked myself in (hooks, seatbelts, and all done properly) while the operator is still stowing the lift)

      2. I think both options should exist.

        It also wouldn’t hurt to eliminate (at least one of) the folding seats. They waste time — asking people to get up, pulling the release — and the belts could be better-designed and position in their absence.

        Removing one seat would also create additional standing/passing room, another huge Metro problem. (It’s still faster for standing riders to move out of the way of a boarding chair than a lazy person sprawled out with bags on that seat).

        BTW, aside from entrenched “policy,” why would a scooter or a power chair need to be strapped in at all? When not being driven, they automatically have brakes engaged, do they not?

      3. Physics. Buses make tight and sometimes sudden turns and stops, the resulting centripetal force and forward momentum could tip some scooters over. With Metro’s slippery seat cover I have to brace myself from falling off the seat many times.

      4. Oran,

        Then wouldn’t “physics” dictate that the safest configuration was having ALL seats facing the rear?

      5. Beavis,

        Please remember why wheelchairs need to restrained in the first place. Wheelchairs are on wheels, which easily roll. The round wheels also make tipping easier. People in wheelchairs cannot use their feet to hold themselves from moving forward unlike everyone else. If you really want to talk safety, why aren’t there safety belts on every seat on Metro buses and a requirement that everyone buckle up before the bus moves? That’s what the folks in wheelchairs AND the bus driver need to do, so why not everyone else? Think about it.

      6. Oran,

        You didn’t answer my question.

        Shouldn’t ALL seats face the rear – for optimum safety?

        Wheelchairs aren’t unicycles, by the way. The wheels lock (especially power chairs), and there are forward sets. The type of “tipping” you mention does not occur, as the center of gravity is low and towards the rear of the chairs, bolsterd by the front sets of wheels, not to mention the leg bars.

        So – why shouldn’t all seats face the rear of all buses?

      7. Beavis,

        Even if it were safer, it really isn’t practical to make all seats facing backwards, just like why there aren’t seat belts on every Metro bus seat. Only the driver and wheelchairs users have them because they are the most vulnerable in the event of a crash, for whatever reason.

  3. When I first read the tweet about the positive opinions among ASAC, I thought about your comment on a Swift-related post ages ago regarding it. I wonder if other passengers feel the same way.

  4. So many questions…What is the unit cost of these trolleys (
    regular and artic) and how might that compare in general terms with hybrids and diesels? And does anyone know the back-of-the-napkin geometry as to whether or not the low floors could handle James/Marion/Madison/Spring/Seneca without bottoming out?

    I know from living in Vancouver that these trolleys are wonderful to ride, and the open seating plan makes a huge difference.

    1. Yes,they can handle James/Marion/Madison/Seneca, just fine. They use 3600’s on the 3/4,10/12 sometimes and they don’t have a problem, unless you go pretty fast (3/Marion) And 3/MArion, you get buses scraping alot, because the operators such slow down so they don’t scrape, but need to go fast enough to clear the dead spot in the overhead. And in my opinion, the Gilligs do more scraping than the low floors. When I drive the 5, at the farside of the intersetion of 2/Seneca, the Gilligs, usually scrape even at walking speed. The other coach types don’t usually scrape at the same speed. And of course, they aren’t the exact same buses, but a diesel Gillig and trolley Gillig are the same body and wheelbase as well as the same wheelbase and frame as a 3600(D40LF) to the BC Trolley(E40LFR)

      1. Hey Casey do you know someone that works with the overhead system that would be interested in talk/write about it with us. I’m sure myself and others would like to know more about the ins and out of the current system.

      2. Reminds me of the California St cable car shuttle in San Francisco a few years ago with some New Flyer D40s. The Operator floored it up california scraping the front pan at every hill. Did the AMGs scrape at these locations? Sometimes the overhead location will have an effect on if you bottom out or not since your turn is based on the overhead vs if you have a motorcoach and can turn at will.

  5. Hot sexy bus! I hope we get some of our own. Speaking of which. did anyone else notice the new model of Sound Transit bus on the 545 this morning? I haven’t seen one like it before.

    And I don’t mean to nit-pick, but it should be “Metro borrowed the bus from Vancouver’s TransLink” or “Translink loaned the bus to Metro.”

    1. I like them too! Finally we are getting with the times and getting Restyled coaches. I think there a 4 in service now, but a total of 11 by the February shakeup. Then 4 more for the June shakeup and 11 more sometime in 2012. Not sure if the rest coming in June or 2012 will all be this style or not. I hope so. Also hoping since ST piggybacks on Metro’s contract with New Flyer, that mabye Metro will make the switch to restyled coaches for the 70 6800’s coming for the Oct 2011 shakeup.
      Going back to ST….haven’t seen one yet, but a First Transit operator told me that some of the new 9500’s are at CT’s base and they also are the restyled version, by I don’t know for sure….total of 24 9500’s to come in 2011.

      1. Thanks, Oran. I knew about those. I was actually speaking of the new ST 9500’s coming for CT to operate.

  6. “The poles can be lowered and raised automatically without the driver ever leaving the bus?”

    How does that work? I assume there’s a motor that can raise or lower the poles, but how can they be guided to the wires from inside?

    1. There are inverted V-shaped throughs that guide the current collectors to the wires. This actually isn’t new technology. Seattle used to have them for the old tunnel buses (see beginning of this video clip). One of the Metro guys mentioned the possibility of using them again.

      1. Now that I see it, it’s so obvious :-)

        Combined with off-wire capability, this could make the ETB network simpler and cheaper, allowing easier coexistence with streetcars and removal of overhead wires from raise-able bridges and other complex junctions.

        Honestly, the more I see of these new ETBs the more I think it’s a slam dunk. I just hope we can come up with the extra cash somehow.

      2. I don’t know if removing the wire from the raisable bridges would be a good idea. It’d slow buses down too much, since even motorized poles take time.

      3. @47hasbegun: ETBs aren’t allowed to go faster than 5mph through the special work on the University & Montlake bridges. I think the time saved by allowing buses to cross those bridges at the speed of traffic (up to 30 mph) would more than compensate for the time it takes to raise & lower the wires, especially if the raising and lowering is done at a popular spot where the bus will already be stopped to pick up or drop off passengers.

      4. I highly doubt it’d be any faster; it would more than likely be slower and less reliable. Also, nobody wants to stand on a cold, breezy bridge in winter.

        Lowering the poles at speed might mitigate that, but could be potentially dangerous. A wired bus doesn’t have to traverse the whole bridge at 5 MPH, either. Only a few spots. Wholly stopping at either end to raise or lower the poles (probably would take upwards of five seconds) and accelerating to speed again just wouldn’t allow for maintaining even that speed.

      5. Surely the raising and lowering of poles could be done at a regular stop on either side of the bridge. According to Oran these trolleys can run for a mile or more without wires, so unless you’re trying to take a trolley wire-free across 520 or I-90 I’d think you could make it between stops over most of the bridges in Seattle.

      6. Why is everyone arguing about the slow order on the Montlake and University Bridge. It’s a draw bridge, so the span is very short and really how much extra time does it take to cross the draw span at 5 mph. The Montlake bridge section of the slow order is 100 ft and the Univ Bridge it 218 ft. Very short distance to even worry about whether it would be faster to lower and raise the poles to save time.

      7. I think a good use of the off-wire capability would be extending the 13 to Fremont so people there can get to Queen Anne without having to go through downtown.

      8. But being able to travel between two adjacent neighborhoods without detouring miles out of your way and wait 30 extra minutes for transfers might, y’know, actually make some sense n’stuff.

        (So don’t count on it happening.)

    1. I find it amusing you think people here don’t already know that. I’m talking about the many occasions when power to wire needs to be shut down, forcing entire lines to go diesel, or cases where buses need to be rerouted to streets without wire. That is a problem that Metro acknowledges as a limitation of the current trolleys.


    2. Of course you are always going to have pro’s and con’s when arguing over this issue. I don’t think I’ve read anywhere on here that has said trains are perfect and the only way to go. [off-topic, ad hominem]

  7. I just have to say that from my own personal experiences, I love this bus. I usually take about 3-4 trips to Vancouver a year so I can experience the Amtrak Cascades and SkyTrain, I almost go now to experience this bus.

    My first experience was in January 2008 before the new Canada Line went in to the airport. From downtown, I took two of the buses to the airport. I had a 50 pound siutcase and it rolled effortlessly onto the low floors. I was able to stand in the front and not obstruct any passengers, it was spacious, quiet, clean, comfortable and I loved the voice anouncements.

    Now when I’m up there, I always take these buses along Robson and Davie to get around. They would be a nice addition, or shall I say replacement, to our dated trolleys.

    1. I am wondering about a combination of RapidRide technology and these things. I’d LOVE to see a RapidRide trolley line with Express wire (think opposite of siding wire).

      Question is, what route?

      1. The 44. It’s super slow, but also super high ridership, and lots of people take it for relatively long journeys. Wouldn’t ETBs with RapidRide styling just look so cool?!

      2. For some reason when you mention the 44, I think of the 99 B-Line rapid bus; both run crosstown on a congested street, serves a University and the end of a rapid transit line.

      3. The 358. Perfect for a trolley: straight, frequent, and heavily used. The Aurora Bridge used to have trolley wire; no reason it couldn’t once again.

      4. The 8 (Capitol Hill section). Super-straight route in a dense area that’s already mostly wired.

    2. Just a reminder, when Vancouver decided to build the Canada Line, they added a Swift-style bus with large stations on Granville in the interim, to provide better service immediately rather than making passengers wait several years to see any frequency and speed improvements.

      1. It wasent really SWFIT styled, it was actually a fairly simple system. The 98 B Line featured a busway down the middle of No. 3 road in Richmond, and travelled in traffic along Sea Island Way and Granville St. The line used conventional New Flyer D60LFs in dedicated service which were pretty beat at the end. It also had a fairly modest price tag for what it was too, only $52 mil CAD.

      2. Well, I’d never seen anything like it before, and Swift is the closest thing in my experience to it. The stop spacing may have been wider, but it did run swiftly on Granville and stopped at “stations”. And I had to transfer in Richmond to the airport shuttle, it didn’t go all the way to the airport.

    3. Now I’m really curious about this bus. My first impression is that getting any advice from Coast Mountain I take with a grain (or two) of salt, and has suspect written all over it. I am less than impressed with their running of the Vancouver bus system.

      But the bus in and of itself may be another story.

      1. @Tim: Sorry for the late reply. I say that just from my own experiences on riding the buses in the lower Mainland run by Coast weren’t all that spectacular.

        In fact, my appreciation level for ST and KCMetro went way up after that. I think our level of service is superior here, they just have Skytrain to offset the bus aspect.

        Disclaimer, I ran on the southern half of the system, where its like a no-mans land.

  8. “Other features of the Vancouver bus include ABS, traction control, roll-back protection, automatic hill holder, dewirement detection with quick pole lowering, more compact electronics and motor, and a stated capacity of 77 passengers.”

    Is that a capacity of 77 passengers for a 40-foot bus? Or is that bus longer than 40 feet? Also, do you know how many seats are on it?

      1. I would like to know how they calculated a capacity of 77 for a 40-foot bus with 30 seats. That is over 2.5 passengers per seat. Sounds like nonsense to me. I would think the capacity of a 40-foot bus is actually about 60 passengers, using accepted N. American standards. The number of seats and their arrangement does not make that much difference to total capacity.

        That does look like a nice bus.

      2. With so many less seats, they’re able to hander far more people standing. That being said, I’m sure 77 people on that bus would be extraordinarily uncomfortable.

      3. Which would acceptable under special conditions, like during the 2010 Olympics where the agency got record breaking ridership when everyone did their part to take transit to ease congestion. Since the capacity is printed on the exterior, I suspect it to be the “legal” capacity.

      4. A baby is a person. Babies can sit on a parent’s/relative’s/friend’s lap. That’s two to a seat right there.

  9. I want to know why buses still have the giant steering wheels. I can understand why they were big back in day when steering was mechanical but it’s all hydrolic now. My rotator cuff would enjoy a smaller wheel.

    1. More a personal prefrence than anything. I prefer 17″ and larger wheels. Of course i’d also take an old fishbowl any day…

    2. The giant steering wheel is first and foremost a safety feature, and secondly a convenience.

      You see, there still IS a mechanical steering linkage, the steering’s only hydraulically ASSISTED. By design, there’s a ton of slop in the linkage, giving it a 10° or 20° “dead zone”. If the power steering is working properly the hydraulic system picks up the slack, and wheel stays in the center of the dead zone so the operator never has to muscle the wheel around. But if the power steering should fail (throw a belt, blow a hose, etc.), the wheel spins freely to the end of the dead zone, and good old arm muscles once again power the steering. In that case, the driver needs the leverage of the large-diameter wheel to safely keep the bus under control, at least long enough to get off the roadway and park it.

      I was once a passenger on a 3000 series Gillig where the power steering went out. Thanks to the giant steering wheel, the driver was able to not only keep the bus under control, but also to finish the route.

  10. I saw one of those RapidRide buses today on 3rd.

    There was a cardboard and marker sign on the front door saying “broken, use other doors”.

    How long have these jack wagons been in service? 3 months?

  11. Anyone considering hydrogen buses in Seattle?

    Hydrogen buses to be rolled out in London

    LONDON — A new hydrogen bus will roll onto London roads next week in a drive towards the UK’s first “zero-emissions bus route”.

    Mayor of London Boris Johnson hailed the “marvel of hydrogen technology” as he unveiled the new bus that emits no polluting gases.

    The buses use the latest hydrogen fuel cell technology and have no emissions except water vapour, Transport for London (TfL) said.

    The first of eight vehicles will take to the roads on December 18 with the rest to be phased in gradually in the first half of 2011 to create the largest hydrogen bus fleet in Europe.

    The RV1 route which the buses will travel on takes in Covent Garden, the Tower of London and the South Bank and passes through some of the capital’s most polluted areas.

  12. I was told at the open house for this evaluation that any new trolleys would be air conditioned, thank god!

  13. If I recall correctly, I believe this is the exact same bus that Translink leased to Edmonton Transit in 2008 as a part of an evaluation project to determine whether ETS would keep it’s trolleybus system. Needless to say, Edmonton subsequently decided to end trolleybus services and switch to an all-diesel fleet.

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