KCM Gillig Phantom 40' Trolley 4114
Photo by flickr user Wings777

King County is hosting an open house to discuss the results of the recent trolley study. More information here.

Wednesday, April 27
5:00 – 7:00  p.m.
Plymouth Congregational Church (Hildebrand Hall)
1217 6th Ave., Seattle

10 Replies to “Trolley Study Open House Tomorrow”

  1. Where was that photo taken? It looks like it was on a county road in the Skagit valley.

    How much longer will the 70 be dieselized?

    1. My guess would be near Beacon Ave S and S Dawson St, adjacent to the Chief Sealth Trail. Note the utility towers in the background.

    1. I attended – it was made clear at the beginning that the meeting was ONLY about replacement (on a one-for-one basis, apparently) of the electrics KCM currently own. I had to leave at 6:00 – so perhaps some other STB folk may have had one-on-one discussion w/ some of the many KCM staff members attending on this and other topics .

      1. I talked briefly with one of the people there (not sure if she was KCM or from the consultant) about trolley system expansion. I confirmed with her that this study was solely about the replacement of the existing system and did not address any possible expansions or extensions.

        She did mention that the any trolley order wouldn’t necessarily be a 1-for-1 replacement of the current fleet. They’ll be looking at ridership and using that to decide on the number of 40-footers vs. artics.

        For the number junkies:
        – Metro currently uses $1.5 million/year of electricity powering the trolleys.
        – Although they make up 10% of the fleet by number, the trolleys carry 20% of Metro’s ridership.
        – One audience member pointed out that with the “savings” over the annualized cost of hybrids, Metro could afford to purchase an additional trolley every year.

      2. What Bruce said, specifically to the ‘make sure the contract has expansion option’ piece. That’s one worth mentioning to County Council members as well in my opinion.

        And the APU stuff is pretty exciting for regular trolley riders, both for providing flexibility and for decreasing weekend dieselization.

  2. OK, so here’s my takeaway from the trolley meeting.

    In three words: Metro gets it. I came away very satisfied that they had the facts right and everyone I spoke to — planners, mechanics, higher-ups — were, in the light of these (preliminary) findings, very positive on trolleys. Moreover, while the possibilities of expansion were explicitly beyond the scope of the public presentations and Q&A, the staff are well aware of the possibilities there, and the routes they mentioned (unprompted) as compelling candidates are the same three that everyone on here always talks about, the 8, 11 and 48. Other routes mentioned by various staff as possibilities include the 5, 15/18, and RapidRide E.

    So there is reason to be optimistic, very optimistic, about the continuance and expansion of the trolley network. That said, it’s much too soon to talk about hanging new wire. The lack of layover space downtown is only part of the reason for the partial dieselization of the 36. The next shakeup will bring the almost-complete electrification of that route, but that will tap out the platform hours available from the current trolley fleet (more on this below.) Moreover, any significant expansion of the trolley fleet would require either an expansion of Atlantic Base or setting up Ryerson or Central to handle trolleys. Tim (AtomicTaco) pointed out that the APUs make make this much cheaper than it would otherwise need to be.

    Some more esoteric points that were of interest to me:

    * The long tail of the 4 down to Judkins Park is considered by planners to be as pointless as most of us here think it is. That part of the route was put there in the ’40s because the streetcar line it replaced went there, and for no other reason; it’s never been changed since. The weird couplet between Dearborn and Judkins exists because those streets, at the time, were too narrow for two-way streetcar operation.

    * Metro expects the trolley APUs to almost eliminate weekend dieselization. Most dieselization is due to construction, not maintenance of the OCS, and doesn’t require the poles to be taken down, just for the power to be off. This is trivial to work around with an APU.

    * Metro evaluated trolley vs hybrid maintenance costs using expected costs for the Orions. This matters because serial hybrids like the Orions climb hills much better and with far less wear on the drivetrain than parallel hybrids like the current New Flyers.

    * Metro used no speculative factors in this analysis. The fact that electric traction might induce ridership was left out. Similarly they did not guestimate increased maintenance costs for the hybrids for the same reason, although as I note in my previous point, serial hybrids geared down for hillclimbing would perform pretty well on our hills, and I doubt it would be that much more than the fleet average.

    * Metro has a specific pot of money for small trolley modifications like passing and layover wire. If lots of people bitch about trolley platooning, for example, we might get some extra wire at 1st & Mercer or maybe on Beacon Hill. I pointed out that passing wire does no good if drivers don’t #$$#%@! use it.

    * Spokane is seriously thinking of purchasing a handful of 60′ trolleybusses as circulators for its downtown core. I have no more details on that, only that they might be interested in piggybacking on our contract.

    * The reason artics aren’t used on the 2/3/4 is stress on the artic joint as they pass over hill breaks downtown. Those joints don’t like flexing in the vertical plane.

    So, the one thing that is important to make sure we get on the agenda is ensuring that Metro locks in options for plenty more trolleybusses in its contract. Adding any new route to the trolley network will require an expansion of the fleet from its current size, and although this study is expressly limited to replacement of the fleet and continuation of the existing network, there’s no reason we can’t tell the county to put those options in the contract.

    So, I encourage those who want to see more trolley routes to do as I’m about to do, and email the outreach person, ashley.deforest@kingcounty.gov, and express your support for buying more trolleys, and asking the county to include options in the contract for many more trolleys than the 159 to maintain the current levels.

    I picked up a few other good bits of info at the meeting, but they’re not trolley-related and I’ll post them tomorrow in an open thread.

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