King County Metro
Photo by Busologist on Flickr

King County Metro Transit is preparing to add several hundred new buses to its fleet over the next few months.

It’s welcome news for most regular Metro riders, who know there are a lot of old buses still running on the streets of King County.

Budget pressure, mostly from the 2008 recession, forced Metro to hold off on any bus purchases the last few years. But now that Seattle voters have passed new taxes to fund more bus service, the agency can’t wait any longer.

Over the next year Metro said it will add 174 all-electric trolley buses and 105 hybrid buses to the fleet. All of the hybrid buses and 64 of the trolleys will be 60-foot long and bend in the middle.

Twenty of the hybrids will be dedicated to the RapidRide C and D lines, which are slated to be split up next year, sending them to South Lake Union and Pioneer Square respectively. These new buses, expected to be delivered early next year, will make that split possible.

The other 85 hybrids will replace buses in Metro’s fleet that are over 15 years old and lack air conditioning. Metro spokeswoman Rochelle Ogershok says these new buses will be delivered by November 2016 and will be equipped with three doors for faster unloading of passengers.

Meanwhile testing continues on Metro’s new fleet of trolley buses.

Back in November, KING 5 went along on a test run and now Metro expects the 40-foot trolleys to start going into service within the next month. The first 60-foot articulated trolley arrived in Seattle a few weeks ago and just started doing test runs on the streets of Seattle.

These will be Metro’s first trolley buses to have low floors, a wheelchair ramp (instead of a lift), air conditioning and a battery pack that will allow them to operate off-wire for up to 3 miles.

61 Replies to “New Metro Buses Coming”

  1. Looks like I better binge ride on the Bredas and 1998 new flyers then. I love those buses except getting outdated.

      1. Kill them with fire. I cannot wait until it ceases to require courage, an immune system of steel, and competitive breath-holding abilities to go anywhere on the 44.

      2. Not exactly with fire, but maybe you could have a fundraiser auction to allow a certain group of passengers and drivers to be trained in how to do this to one:

    1. Yep, if you like me went to the UW in the late 90’s through the end of the last decade the New Flyers were “the bus” to downtown as a 7#. Lots of good memories of being with friends and then also crammed in them with 60+ other UW students plus a few other unfortunate souls headed further north as we came back from a movie/concert/whatnot downtown. In another few years the bus will go the way of the dodo from the u-district to downtown and it’ll be North Link instead which is a vast improvement. :-)

      1. Not to mention it often takes a while for recently retired “historical” vehicles to be used in historic rides (in general, I can’t speak to MEHVA). The much-beloved/bemoaned redbirds here in NY first showed up in a nostalgia ride more than 10 years after they were retired (as far as I know)

      2. MEHVA has preserved 3374 and it has already been used on several excursions. Last I saw it still had a fare box and ORCA (and it never got OBS so its still original in that regard).

  2. The first 60-foot articulated trolley arrived in Seattle a few weeks ago and just started doing test runs on the streets of Seattle.

    Does somebody have pictures of this? I really want to see pictures of the new 60′ Bendy Bus (in my house, we call them “double-longs,” coined before we knew that CT called their double decked buses “double talls.”), preferably in ultra high resolution…

    1. In several countries overseas, they’ve got three-section artics. Guess you could call them “double jointed.”

      MD

  3. Just 10 minutes ago I saw one of the 60 foot purple trolley busses test driving on Broadway near Seattle U

  4. The history of our original DSTT fleet is probably worth at least one long posting. Meantime, one breath on boarding a Breda without a respirator is worth a thousand words of explanation and excuse. That’s what willful disregard of a massive default on a vehicle performance contract smells like after thirty years.

    It’s a high-school-girl caliber eye-roll to repeat my pride in the dual power and joint use phases of the Downtown Seattle Transit Project. 1983.For a part time trolley driver of two years’ seniority, the chance to be part of the experiment of a lifetime.

    And a union member on a pioneering advisory group. Giving me the freedom to speak in public that a whole crew of experienced vehicle mechanics should have had but didn’t. I’m allergic to mold and can’t stand to ride the damned things. The smell of the whole condition of our country’s attitude toward anything public my for whole adult life. Pure distilled airborne shame.

    Judging from a few rides under Vancouver’s longest, heaviest hauling wire, everyone who’s stayed with the 7 and the 49 and the 44 all these years will finally have the machines you deserve. Along with the Congressional.

    Mark Dublin

  5. The introduction of low floor buses here made a huge impact on some of the most frequently stopping connector routes, such TriMet’s 70 and 75. I hope Seattle sees similar schedule improvements on its trolley buses now that low floor trolleys are starting to arrive there.

    1. I’m really looking forward to Seattle’s new trolleybuses even though (not being in Seattle) I will probably not ride them for a long time.

      The thing is, they are going to be the nicest trolleybuses in the US.

      Seattle has the second-biggest trolleybus network in the US. The others are:
      — Dayton, which is tiny. They’re using Skodas, which are perfectly good, but old-tech, and high-floor. 57 trolleybuses here.
      — Boston (32 trolleybuses) / Cambridge (28 trolleybuses), whose systems are also tiny. The Neoplan trolleybuses are modern enough and low floor, but Neoplan went bankrupt so there won’t be more of them. The dual mode version rides quite poorly. The styling is also remarkably old-fashioned.
      — Philadelphia, which is using fairly stylish New Flyer “trackless trolleys” but again has very conservative design choices. The small diesel engine for off-wire operation also makes them feel old. Only 38 trolleybuses here.
      — San Francisco, which has the biggest fleet at 273 trolleybuses. They are currently running high-floor Skodas like Dayton, and are replacing their trolleybuses jointly with Seattle.

      There are also no trolleybuses in Canada. The next closest place with trolleybuses is Mexico City (with 264 operating, so it’s a big system).

      Anway, this is a BIG order — 174 trolleybuses for Seattle + 273 for San Francisco, versus 157 in the whole rest of the US put together. And it’s the first order to have battery backup for off-wire operations. It is a big deal for trolleybuses.

      New Flyer is also producing pure battery-electric variants for Winnipeg — I hope these work out as they will be a big deal for the whole country.

      1. Huh, you’re right; it didn’t pop up on immediate research. I guess I tend to look at eastern Canada. Of course that’s New Flyer’s first market for the low-floor trolleybuses, and they’re running 262 of them.

  6. There is only one bus type that I despise with intense hate in the Metro fleet – it’s those all diesel articulated ones with the slightly angled back (New Flyer D60HF?). Oh man, I wish whoever okayed that order would have to do community service forever! They ride so, so horrible, seem dark and claustrophobic, and often make me carsick. That has to be the worst bus model in the history of Metro. New rule: before an order gets approved, the purchasing team has to ride around on that bus for 24 hours straight on the worst roads in freezing conditions and blistering heat (plus, they should have to go through the equivalent of an architectural design review process).

    And, it seems like two of my routes (8 and 11) are the unlucky recipients of that particular model. I can’t wait until I never see (and hear) those ugly monsters again. I think whoever designed them was playing a joke on everyone.

    1. Really out of line to ask why you let the rest of them get away, ‘six. But really no deterrent effect, because for the people responsible for a lot of rolling misery, like the NRA always say in the movies, you’d have to pry their cold dead fingers off whatever they’re holding onto to avoid getting on the bus.

      So to protect an innocent driver from having to put up with worse behavior and complaints than from the average passenger load, might be better, and more savagely vindictive, to have a driver, a mechanic and a maintenance employee announce their findings on regular TV. Not the public channel.

      Really hate this loss of professional objectivity, but is it just in the movies to say “Get ugly early?” Hate being so slow off the mark. Even worse, being forced to completely agree with d.p, would make a jury acquit Stagger Lee for breaking the bartender’s glass. (Lloyd Price around 1957.)

      Mark

  7. Now if only Seattle would repave the streets these new buses will operate on, maybe they wouldn’t be shaken to pieces over the next decade. Rough rides are not only tough on riders, they are tough on equipment.

    1. The potholes on Woodlawn at 71st are so bad that my foot once got stuck in one crossing the street. The 16 does not look very happy having to navigate these sinkholes.

    2. Right on, Roger. Tracks or concrete, fast heavy machines need extra maintenance on running surface.

      Mark

    3. People say this yet don’t want to support street rail. If you were to regularly repave a road for a smooth bus ride it would cost more than laying and maintaining rail (think 20 year cost), without buying the potential to carry higher loads in the future.

      The political reality in Seattle is that we will not be getting smooth roads any time soon. The new Move Seattle levy doesn’t even replace failing bridges, so if you want a smooth ride, we’d either have to get buses with amazing suspension or lay down rail.

      1. Street rail is still going to be more expensive than buses even with road maintenance budgets factored in.

        Furthermore without exclusive lanes street rail will slow down transit as every route converted will have to wait any time other road users decide to block the tracks.

      2. No, just wrong. For *high volume* routes, street rail is cheaper than buses when you figure in road maintenance. They’ve done actual calculations on this, you know.

        You’re right about exclusive lanes of course.

  8. Will all those old buses be rounded up, parked end to end in rows on some vacant lot in Georgetown, get electrical and plumbing and declared Metroville: Seattle’s newest hipster neighborhood?

    1. Most of TriMet’s buses seem to have migrated to southwest Washington, where they may be seen participating in world class junk vehicle collections in various farm fields.

      Now imagine how much more prestigious a junk vehie collection would become if it added one of those big Breda buses! Why, you wouldn’t even have to wait for the mold collection to grow!

  9. Those look like the 60 footers that sound transit purchased for use on their federal way-Seattle service (and trippers on tacoma-lakewood for events).

  10. Why isn’t Metro more definitive about the what, when, and where of the type of bus serving a particular route? I realize there aren’t as many ferries as buses, but WSDOT does an excellent job of telling you exactly which ferry is operating on each departure on every route, and really update the changes and generally know far in advance precisely when a new boat enters service. With Metro, it’s all so fuzzy…and I wonder if that’s because they don’t really know the details (and make them up on the fly), or if they think we don’t really care (and so don’t provide the details)? I should be able to go on the Metro website and find out exactly when (or if) new vehicles will start on my route.

    Speaking of which, shouldn’t they know by now when exactly revenue operations will start on the new streetcar route? My god, just make up a precise time far enough ahead to at least create an illusion of hope, and then surprise us with an early opening. My reflexive support of Nordic styled socialism dwindles when I see such incompetence, perceived lack of urgency, or no accountability. Even just weekly updates would be nice.

    1. To your first question…
      To my understanding Metro dispatches buses a bit more randomly than WSF dispatches ferries. Each route/run gets a certain type of bus (35-foot, 40-foot, 60-foot, RapidRide, hybrid tunnel bus) but the actual bus thats sent out depends on what’s ready and what’s at the front of the line (at Metro’s bus bases there’s dozens of buses parked in rows nose to tail). If you’re really interested in knowing what type of bus you’ll have, you can look it up under “vehicle info” or “more info” on OBA.

      As to your second question on the streetcars… KING 5 did a story on the delays yesterday. Short answer is that SDOT hopes to have them running by August, but that’s if there are no hiccups in testing. The other big news is that the builder of the streetcars, Inkeon could end up paying more than $418,000 for the severely delayed delivery.

  11. >>Twenty of the hybrids will be dedicated to the RapidRide C and D lines, which are slated to be split up next year, sending them to South Lake Union and Pioneer Square respectively.<<

    Wait what? Who is this supposed to benefit exactly? This will just make it take even longer to travel between West Seattle and Ballard if you are forced to transfer to do so.

    What are the details on this split? Are they at least going to up the service frequency of each line? Are there any maps showing exactly where each line will go?

    1. The split’s been talked about for a few years, and Metro’s previously committed to doing it when they had the funds. The main benefit is sending the C to SLU; secondary benefits include sending the D to the stadiums and increasing reliability.

      Myself, I’m equivocal on whether it’s a good thing in itself, but it definitely doesn’t sound like a good use of limited dollars. If there’s one place that should not be near the front of the line for more buses, it’s downtown. (Though if you’re extending the D south, I might send it to Yesler Terrace instead, like Metro’s been thinking of doing with the 40?)

      1. The longer the route, the better the chance of a problem causing bunching and other service issues.

      2. Splitting the routes is good especially if a good transfer exists between the c and d, and if there is a strong contingent of people travelling through downtown (west Seattle – Seattle center or north). The routes make a great candidate for a split.

    2. Chris, It benefits most riders through improved reliability. For example, folks going from downtown to Ballard won’t have delays because of a collision on the West Seattle Bridge.

      Also, the two routes are so frequent that transfers should be painless, at least during the peaks. The routes would also would continue to share the same bus zones for a segment of 3rd Ave (near Pike), so the transfers would not require a walk.

  12. I’ll always remember the summer/fall I spent commuting on the Breda to CapHill. They are terrible, but character filled boxes. Incandescent bulbs, actual bells…

  13. I do hope that this will end the practice of sending diesel coaches out on trolley routes on weekends. Certainly no construction event would require a reroute longer than three miles off wire.

    1. Also depends on maintenance needs. newer buses will require less of it certainly but one reason they pull a lot of these routes on the weekends is because of maintenance in additon to construction.

      1. This is incorrect.

        They do not keep the trolleys in the base “due to maintenance” on weekends.

        It is solely driven by construction projects and events. With the way the city has been booming, it seems like there’s always “something else.”

      2. i thought it was a staffing thing, not operating the trolley base on weekends. its almost a given that the trolleys wont be out on weekends. no doubt theres construction and parades and such but I haven’t seen a trolley on a weekend in 6 months

  14. KH is correct – weekend construction is the primary factor driving the swap of diesels in place of trolleys. Construction may require a reroute or lane closures that trolleys can’t operate on. More often it’s a contractors request that the overhead lines be de-energized at the construction site because the equipment or crew can’t maintain a 10′ clearance from the live lines (L&I requirement). Special events can also require a swap.

    1. FWIW the three-mile off-wire capability *might* allow the new trolleybuses to go through areas with the wire turned off, if the area with the wires de-energized is short enough.

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