16 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Metro’s Battery Buses”

  1. I wonder if KCM is looking at NewFlyer witch they have, Nova or Vanhool as all build 60 plus foot busses. I know there also Gilligs in the fleet, but those only come in 35 & 40 foot lengths as far as I know.

    1. In the various videos, it indicates that the 40 ft options come from Proterra, BYD, and New Flyer.

      60 ft buses will be from BYD and New Flyer.

  2. I’ve commented on this over-the-road eletrification for semi’s in Sweden before. One method, double-wire pantograph. Another setup, strips in pavement.



    Not ideological about this. Pretty sure I know the reason we don’t do this at all, let aone more often. Argument is that if we’re going to the expense of either overhead or power strips, we might as well save it ’til we get the trains.

    Which have unbeatable advantage over buses. Since buses can’t be coupled, safe following distance offers open air where a train would have seats. And the faster the platoons go, the less seating and me diesel-scented air.

    But since the future could be less predictable than usual right now- and usual is pretty unpredictable- I’ve also noted there could be cases where we can get rail-structured groove- rail right-of-way so we can start high speed transit in advance.

    Though if we did, could be unbridgeable gap between voltages, as was case with our DSTT fleet. Rechargeable buses, we’ll undoubtedly have. But do we have one that will pull standing loads up Queen Anne Counterbalance and Jefferson Street?

    What’s everybody think?

    Mark Dublin

  3. My preoccupation with over-the-road electric bus operations is oriented a lot more to the future than with the past. Because I wonder what Metro’s plans would’ve been if in 1983, we’d known the first load of passengers would take 26 years to leave Westlake Station.

    At least two considerations made it good that we did. One, we knew there was no way regional transit could get through the Seattle CBD on streetcar tracks, even through a mall like Portland. Two few north-south avenues. And very short blocks.

    We we also had it on good information that if we didn’t start building fast, someone had plans for a skyscraper whose foundation and underground parking would have done same for our tunnel plans as a stake would’ve done for a vampire.

    But I think if we’d known how long it would take to get the trains, we would have put a lot more energy into getting max advantage out of our buses while we waited for the trains.

    Good chance that the Breda fleet would have either gone back to Italy or been brought up to what we’d paid for. Starting with a diesel engine which would have at least powered a golf card at freeway speed.

    But worst of all, I don’t think it took a month to abandon plans to coordinate bus operations underground. As long as they went in one end and came out the other, the company decided that since this wasn’t water quality division, might as well trickle like a drain than pulse like a pump.

    After all, the whole bus phase was planned to be temporary. Of course, planned or not depending on accepted theology, so was the Pleistocene Epoch, a lighting-flash of a brief 2,576,300 years.


    All whose animals, especially the Giant Sloths, could have outrun a Breda downhill with a tail-wind. Haven’t yet found evidence of Giant Sloths or Woolly Mammoths equipped with “pans” but would’ve been no harm putting idea on Twitter. If the Internet had been invented yet.

    Tenth floor Archives of the Downtown Library has some interesting material on construction of the Downtown Seattle Transit Project. Evidence is that though it was unwise to play poker with them, a team of Dire Wolves would’ve been a lot better than malamutes for keeping a bus lane clear.


    Point isn’t that ST-3 needs to plan specifically for buses with pantographs. But ST-3 should definitely have a constant aggressively active ongoing program to keep researching and preparing for whatever new technical and operational advances come available while work’s in progress.

    Request, though. Despite all temptation….”Murder Somebody Else!”


    1. “I wonder what Metro’s plans would’ve been if in 1983, we’d known the first load of passengers would take 26 years to leave Westlake Station.”

      Your expectation was different from mine, so not “everybody” was surprised by it. I was doubtful we’d ever get trains by now, for the same reason we didn’t build a subway with the DSTT: everyone thought the public wouldn’t tolerate the cost, that trains weren’t worth billions of dollars. And even if we did get a train it would most likely be watered down with stations at Eastlake & Mercer and I-5 & 45th, and surface like MAX and San Diego and VTA because people want to be cheap rather than have first-rate transit. So I thought the buses were for the foreseeable future and I thought Metro did too.

  4. I’m really annoyed with Sound Transit’s lack of foresight. Stations such as Capitol Hill Station have no straightaways on either side, which will make any platform extension significantly harder if we ever want trains longer than 4 cars. Now I’m not saying such a thing will ever happen, but that we’ve burnt the bridge before the possibility is even considered is pretty disappointing. Perhaps someone can shine a light on the reason the tunnel between Westlake and CHS takes a random turn to briefly align with Broadway. Seems like an unnecessary thing to have done when the tunnel could have just continued under the original direction of Pine St (prior to its turn on Melrose) to end up roughly in the same place.

    Also, second question – why does the the UW-Ballard HCT study not feature a Ballard, Lower Fremont, Upper Fremont/Aurora, Wallingford, UDistrict, Children’s Hospital tunnel alignment? It seems kind of arbitrary why ST didn’t study a tunneled version of that alignment – it covers all major employment and residential centers (lower fremont especially) immediately north of the cut. I’d personally love this alignment, perhaps even with an interlined bonus bit roughly along the Burke Gilman through gasworks, the east bit of lower fremont, plus south & east UW campus (UW’s master plan features millions of SQFT of development through these parts, which are largely parking lot right now) to link up at children’s.


    1. Though that being said, after writing this I think perhaps much of the uw E-lot is landfill (don’t quote me on this though). Maybe it’d still be okay, but there could be some challenges.

    2. Also, second question – why does the the UW-Ballard HCT study not feature a Ballard, Lower Fremont, Upper Fremont/Aurora, Wallingford, UDistrict, Children’s Hospital tunnel alignment?

      I would guess the problem is cost. That sort of alignment would simply cost a lot more.

      In general it is tough to cover all of the “good stops” in the area, with just one line. Aurora (or the zoo, if you will) is an excellent stop because it connects well with Aurora and Phinney Ridge buses. But if you have a stop there, then it is tough to cover the stops down below.

      One thing to consider is that growth has spread along the canal. You have offices and apartments from Wallingford Avenue to Phinney Avenue. Eventually that will spread further west, along Leary. So even if you swing down low, you can’t serve it all with one stop.

      It is fine, as long as you have good connecting bus service. That is why station details are important. The Aurora stop, for example, should be designed so that it can serve the E line, but also connect well with Fremont Avenue. Once you do that, then you simply run frequent buses from Phinney Ridge to Fremont (there appears to be room for a bus lane there as well). That in itself is an improvement to transit mobility. Right now you have to walk up the street half a mile just to catch the 5 if all you want to do is go up the hill.

      The same is true for serving the offices and apartments close to Gas Works. Run a bus down Wallingford and then turn towards Fremont, and you’ve served Tableau, Brooks and a fair number of apartments.

      1. Perhaps it is cost, but that it wasn’t even studied? Disappointing.

        I get that region would be too large for a single station to be served via walking, but you could definitely cover all that with bikeshare or something no?

    3. The Downtown tunnel is only large enough for a 4-car train, correct? Expanding to 5-car trains would require expanding all stations, not just the future stations. We are very, very far away from Link having capacity issues because 4-car trains are too small, so it would be a wasted investment at this time, in my opinion. By the time the region has grown that much, I’d rather built an entirely new line that serves a different set of stops than simply double down on our existing stations.

      An east-west tunnel serving both upper & lower Fremont would be expensive given the incline difference, likely resulting in very deep stations in upper Fremont/ Wallingford. Also, it’s generally bad design to built a line that swerves all over the place – Ross is right, it’s better to have a reasonably straight line and expand connections with perpendicular bus service.

      1. I know, which is why I said “Now I’m not saying such a thing will ever happen, but that we’ve burnt the bridge before the possibility is even considered is pretty disappointing.”

        Also true, the incline would definitely be an issue. I was just reading the study and I saw that there was a surface alignment, so I was curious why there wasn’t a underground option for that route.

      2. Exactly. When cities reach capacity they build a parallel line, in this case Aurora. That diverts some people from the primary line relieving pressure and also brings high-capacity transit to another area. If you merely lengthen the trains, then the other area still has nothing and people will deprioritize living there or shopping there.

        Capacity might be an issue between Westlake and the U-District. ST staff have been concerned about that for years, that it might reach capacity within the 2040 planning window when it’s not supposed to. It’s uncertain, but the fact that this is even a possibility means we’re not planning sufficiently ahead. We should have an Aurora line on the books, and ridership thresholds on the main line that would trigger construction of the second line at least ten years before the main line reaches capacity. Because it takes ten years to construct a line with tunnels, and we don’t want to be in the situation like the DC Metro where it’s at capacity and can’t fit still-growing demand. That’s why London is building Crossrail now and already plans to have Crossrail 2 in construction when Crossrail 1 opens, because if it doesn’t then the Underground will melt down with overcrowding, which it can barely escape today. The US keeps underestimating mass transit’s demand and potential: it keeps saying some small amount is enough and people will drive beyond that. But half the drivers drive not because they prefer it but because the transit isn’t there, or is so minimal that a trip takes 1-3 hours, even for something simple like Lynnwood to Northgate or Lake City.

  5. Durkan and Moon have different ideas to speed up ST3, says a Times article ($). They agree on most transit-related issues, but Moon wants to lend ST money to speed it up, while Durkan believes the bottleneck is not money but process. That’s an odd thing to say when more money would allow it to front-load spending like Los Angeles did. But interestingly, the article says ST isn’t interested in a loan from the city. It quotes ST CEO Rogoff saying, “debt that we have to repay is still debt and would count against our agency debt limits.” In other words, it would hit ST’s debt:asset ceiling. The legislature imposes one ceiling, and ST imposes a stricter ceiling on itself. ST’s financing is very conservative, so that it can repay bondholders even if another crash like 2008 occurs — this also gives it a low interest rate. So money from the city is still money, but it runs against that ceiling. In other words, the problem is neither money nor process, but ST’s ultra-conservative debt ceiling. Which Seattle Subway suggested, at the beginning of ST3, that ST should blow away. Raise all the bonds up front like Los Angeles did, and then you could shave years off the projects. But ST said no to that. And it looks like it’s also saying that city money would be ineffective. I’m not entirely comfortable that Durkan’s “just streamline the process” is enough. We should be streamlining the process anyway: that’s known to shave 1-3 years, as ST said back last year. But we should be looking at doing more than that, whatever else we can do. Because 2035 is a long time to wait for Ballard; a long time that the west half of the city has a band-aid of transit, when the population is exploding and people can’t find housing and they can’t live in areas with a 30-45 minute overhead to get to the nearest edge of regional transit.

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