With the debate about full electrification timetables out of the way, Metro is moving ahead with its plans for ordering 120 battery buses this year:

In 2017, Constantine and Metro General Manager Rob Gannon called on the industry to invest more in battery-electric options, including the creation of coaches that could travel farther and handle the varying terrain requirements of the region.

New Flyer, based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada with four manufacturing plants in the U.S., stepped up to the challenge, producing both a 40-foot and 60-foot battery-electric bus that met Metro’s specifications and timeline needs. These long-range battery-electric buses can travel approximately 140 miles on a single charge. The 11 existing short-range battery-electric buses in Metro’s fleet are 40 feet long and can travel 23 miles before requiring a 10-minute charge.

Metro announced the vision of buying 120 electric buses back in 2017. At the time, Proterra seemed to be in the lead (Metro operates a few Proterra buses on the Eastside) but New Flyer – which provides 60′ articulated coaches for LA Metro – seems to have won the bake off.

Buses will be run out of a temporary base while Metro brings online a permanent electric base.

This is all good news, of course, but it still saddens me that we seem to have stalled out on running new trolley wire in this city. Trolleys have their quirks, for sure, but they don’t require heavy batteries strapped to them and can climb hills quite well.

58 Replies to “Metro picks New Flyer for big electric bus purchase”

  1. You’re seriously endorsing trolley wire? Because that’s a pretty big investment in something that will be increasingly unnecessary as battery technology improves.

    Metro should stop installing the wire entirely and use the money they save to buy more battery buses, which they can run anywhere.

    1. My guess is wire probably pays for itself just because the trolleys are cheaper and don’t need a special place or special equipment to charge. This would make for an interesting article — exploring all the issues with each technology.

      1. One thing I really don’t like about trolley wire is that it has the practical effect of setting the current bus route in stone, nearly forever. In theory, trolley wire can be moved or added. In practice, the marginal benefit of moving a bus from this street to that street is almost never enough to justify the up-front capital cost of adding/moving the wire.

        This is why the 13 ends at SPU, rather than connecting upper Queen Anne to Fremont. This is why the 7 has failed to connect to Rainier Beach Station for so long (11 years after the line opened, SDOT is finally proposing half a mile of new wire to make this possible). It’s also why there are no serious to proposals to have the 44 continue all the way across the U-district on 45th St.

      2. trolleys are cheaper and don’t need a special place or special equipment to charge

        I thought the trolley buses were more expensive? The cost of maintenance on the wire is what lead most cities to abandon them. And there’s plenty of specialized electrical equipment dispersed throughout the city to maintain.

        That said, the battery equipped trolleys provide a significant advantage in reliability and network flexibility. It seems like the two technologies can complement each other. Using the trolley “grid” to create fast charging stations would mean lighter, and less costly buses in the city where the advantage of hauling heavy batteries up hills is a big deal. And regen on the trolley buses saves on brakes and energy cost.

      3. I read a little blurb about capacitor powered busses. However that tech seems to have fizzled some, so maybe it just doesn’t work out in the real world.

        It *theoretically* is kind of a middle ground. Capacitors can’t hold nearly as much charge as batteries, but they can be charged in tens of seconds. So you have a bus charge at stops.

      4. I also can’t imagine installing trolley wire on new routes to be anything but a huge NIMBY fight.

        It is quite ugly strung over streets.

      5. Copper wire theft Affecting street lights and signals appears to be rampant in the past several weeks. Is there an issue about supplying the wire, or making sure it doesn’t get stolen one night?

      6. My guess is that trolleys are cheaper today but won’t be for much longer. Batteries got 84% cheaper from 2010-2018 (https://about.bnef.com/blog/behind-scenes-take-lithium-ion-battery-prices/), which is just absurd – and the trend is expected to continue.

        We know that trolleys today are roughly the same cost as or a little more expensive than diesel-hybrids (including wire, logistics, capital, political costs, etc), just based on how they’re used by transit agencies today. They’re only used on particularly hilly terrain or high-frequency routes; if they had major cost savings, they’d be used more widely. Trolleys, diesels, and diesel-hybrids are mature technology; none of those prices are likely to change dramatically (except for the cost of fuel, of course).

        For battery electrics, as I’ve argued, it’s a matter of time. If you wanted to electrify today, you’d want to string trolleywire everywhere, and you’d have to eat a lot of costs on low-frequency routes, or when Link expands and it’s time to restructure. But if you want to be in a good spot in 5-10 years when the crossover point happens, you’d buy 150 battery busses now, so you can start figuring out how to run your operations most efficiently with the different constraints of charging infrastructure vs. fueling infrastructure.*

        *New things you need to think about: where do you build bases to balance cheap land vs. proximity to major grid infrastructure (the load of 200 charging busses is… massive) vs. deadheading? What’s your charging schedule nightly, nightly and between peaks, topping off at the beginning/end of every route- and how does that relate to electricity costs, bus costs, infrastructure costs, and labor costs? How much buffer do you need, and how does that relate to the particular hills/weather/traffic profile of your city? How do you rethink routes for ease of charging? etc.

      7. JANUARY 22, 2020 AT 11:50 AM

        The costs are on page 42 of the report, and interestingly the loaded trolley buses cost much more than either diesel-hybrids or battery-electrics. I’m not sure why this is the case. I don’t think this includes wires. Example:
        60′ hybrid: $1.1M
        60′ trolley: $1.9M
        60′ slow-charge (big battery) battery-electric: $1.3M

      8. Why would a trolley be more expensive than a battery powered bus? They both have the same engine. One has a bunch of batteries, the other has some wires and a couple of poles.

        Anyway, just as the cost of wire has to be factored in, so too does the cost of charging stations. That is why I think a follow up article makes sense, especially since we have a complicated system (with three forms of buses now). Is the new bus now within the range of every daily route, now? If not, then sending the bus back to base (to charge up) seems like a waste. It also means that investing (a little bit) in wire until the batteries improve to cover all the buses seems the way to go. It would seem silly to replace a trolley with a battery powered bus while we are still running diesel. There is bound to be some overlap, and I see nothing wrong with running under wire indefinitely, even if there are some advantages to electric.

      9. One thing I really don’t like about trolley wire is that it has the practical effect of setting the current bus route in stone, nearly forever.

        I don’t think you can blame the wire entirely for that. As mentioned, in the case of the 7, it could easily just run on battery power over there. But there are other issues, like layover space, turning around, and whether the city has approved running a bus on that street. Likewise with the 13. If you extend it into Fremont, that is great, but then what? Where do you layover and turn around? Meanwhile, you’ve just taken a fairly reliable bus and suddenly made it late halt the time, creating bus bunching from the drawbridge and all the students at SPU trying to get over the hill.

        In general, Metro is simply very reluctant to alter bus routes. If I’m not mistaken, years and years ago someone wrote a solid essay about changing the route of the 5, to make it faster, avoiding the little turn at the south end of Phinney Ridge (https://goo.gl/maps/e7ZcaWewmWeJnQDr7). Has anything been done about that?

        I’m not saying we should. There are winners and losers with every change — but it seems like the main time we change the routes is when we have a cutback, or with a Link expansion. I think we should redo the bus network every two years. That is enough time to get used to the changes and see if they are working, but not so long that we are stuck with poor — or simply outdated — decisions made twenty year. Of course having wire makes us a little less nimble, but that is a pretty small amount of money compared to everything else. And it plays only a tiny part in our inability to alter the routes.

      10. Trolleys are more expensive to buy, but cheaper to operate. They are lighter than diesel/hybrid or battery-powered buses, and thus easier on the streets. School’s out on how all-electric buses, lugging heavy batteries, will do on our steep hills, although I suspect trolleys will continue to ply those routes. I don’t find the wires to be unsightly – they are much less obtrusive than they were many years ago. They do need their own barn.

      11. Of course, trolley wire isn’t the only resistance to changing bus routes. But, it’s still a rather significant part.

        In the case of Queen Anne, yes, there is the reliability issue of the Fremont bridge. But, it’s also ridiculous that Queen Anne has no bus to any of the adjacent neighborhoods, except for downtown. The current bus network made a lot of sense back in the 1990’s, when downtown was pretty much *the* purpose of having a bus system in the first place, and if you want to get from one non-downtown neighborhood to another, you were expected to buy a car and drive.

        The focus-on-downtown idea is great if you’re just trying to get the transit modeshare from 0% to 10%, but if you’re trying to get much more that, at some point, simply focusing on downtown isn’t enough anymore.

        In the case of Queen Anne, pretty much the only logical extension northward (e.g. one that doesn’t entail running redundant service for nearly the entire length of the route, just to reduce transfers) is to extend the 13 at least as far as the Fremont/34th transit hub, with connections available to the U-district, Roosevelt, Ballard, Green Lake, and other options. Of course, the bus would need somewhere to layover and turn around. But, I can think of a few options off the top of my head:

        Option 1): Send the bus straight up Fremont Ave., and carve a layover zone out of the Woodland Park Zoo parking lot.
        Option 2): Bus turns right on 35th and uses Stone Way to go around the block. On-street layover on 34th, removing a few parking spaces to make room. (Southbound route would begin with a new bus stop on 34th, rather than the existing one on Fremont Way).
        Option 3): Send the 13 to the U-district, replacing most of the 31. Replace the remainder off the 31 (the Magnolia section) with a Magnolia->Ballard bus.

        But, the current routing is lousy. Needing a transfer to travel between two major activity centers 1.5 miles apart is excessive and unnecessary. Needing to transfer twice (3-seat ride) to reach anywhere north of the ship canal, not along route 31/32, is even more excessive. Getting from Queen Anne to Ballard, Green Lake, and upper Wallingford should not be a 3-seat ride. If the 13 hit the Fremont/34th transfer point, these trips would all be 2-seat rides, which, with frequent service on all sections, I feel, is reasonable.

        Of course, if such a restructure were proposed, there might be objections. But, because of the trolley wire issue, Metro is never going to propose it, nor even seriously think about it for the foreseeable future. Because, whatever the benefit is, it’s not enough to justify the capital expense of building all that extra trolley wire over the Fremont bridge, to whatever layover spot they might pick (I’m sure, building wire over the bridge has extra complications and expense, just from the bridge being moveable).

    2. There is a significant environmental cost to building and disposing of large batteries. I wouldn’t suggest a massive wiring of roads around the county, nor starting a trolleybus network where one doesn’t exist, but it absolutely makes environmental sense to make incremental extensions to the existing wire network.

      1. I read somewhere that there were proposals to sell used Tesla batteries, no longer suitable for transportation, to power companies, allowing them to store solar/wind energy for 24/7 power when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. Because the power companies aren’t as concerned about space/weight efficiency as vehicles, you can have a whole bunch of old vehicle batteries and, even at 60% their original capacity, they’ll still do the job.

      2. Exactly what Bruce and Frank said. We’re building batteries at an unprecedented rate, and that means that people (in general, who aren’t thinking about it) are throwing those batteries into landfills at a similar rate. It’s a huge, huge issue that’s gonna hit us in about twenty years and we’re going to have to deal with reclaiming or dealing with those metals and chemicals if we don’t start now.

        Trolley wire is way more sustainable in the long run.

      3. Yep. Rare earth material mining for batteries and such is something out of the sci-fi concept of “strip mining” planets. Then you’ve got to dispose of them when they die. Not pretty or environmentally friendly.

      4. The problem with the Tesla batteries is they are still lithium batteries. They are really sensitive to charge and discharge rates and for stationary use you really want something with a lot of charge per unit cost. Lithium is also terrible in the way it performs at lower temperatures.

        There are various other battery chemistry combinations that have far more attractive features for stationary use. Among them are sodium (far more common element) and iron.

    3. While batteries are getting better, Seattle’s hills aren’t getting any flatter. I wonder what grinding up James Street or the Counterbalance would do to that estimated 140 mile range between charges.

    4. Trolley wire is more efficient because you don’t have to transport batteries and you don’t lose energy in the two-way electrical/chemical conversion.

      1. I think it remains to be seen how much electrical efficiency matters in terms of what causes decisions to be made – the efficiency of dollars. I suspect that given how cheap electricity is, how much less weight matters with regenerative braking, how efficient the chemical to electrical conversion is, and how expensive electric buses and trolley wires are, it will be a small part of the cost equation.

        I will say this, though: heavier vehicles are hell on roads (damage is highly non-linear with weight, because it occurs by exceeding the elastic strain of the pavement. Cars cause congestion, trucks and buses cause pavement to wear out). But I sure do look forward to the upside of a heavier bus; the ratio fo full weight to empty weight is smaller when the always-there weight is higher, so the ride shouldn’t be so harsh when the bus is totally empty or totally full.

    5. There is one advantage of trolley wires – it demonstrates a commitment to maintaining service which gives people confidence that a run will continue to exist. This is why some people favor rail – even more permanence.

      1. “Permanence” is often identified as benefit of building a streetcar vs a bus route, and I can see how that applies here too. Not really a transit improvement, but perhaps something to value.

    6. Is there any research into making other parts of the bus capable of storing energy? Then you wouldn’t need separate “batteries”, you’d just store the energy in components that are necessary anyway. For instance, the underchassis could have a layer of some kind of lightweight material, or a space with liquid, that can hold latent energy like a battery.

  2. I sure hope they work better than the New Flyer electrics in Minneapolis which are having charging problems. Orange Line in LA will be the real test.

    1. We got some of these New Flyer electrics in Portland and they’ve been unabashedly AWFUL.

      Hope this new batch is significantly better than what they gave us last year…

    2. The difference being that unlike Minneapolis, LA rarely ever has sub-freezing weather conditions, which are batteries’ Achilles heel.

      140 mile range on a single charge for an artic is pitiful compared to 280 miles for the equivalent hybrid diesel-electric model with a 100 gallon tank and assuming a mediocre 2.8 mpg or unlimited miles for a trolleybus.

  3. Frank, I expect SDOT and Metro are adding key segment of electric trolley bus overhead: NE 43rd Street and 12th Avenue NE in the University District; 23rd Avenue in the Central Area; and, South Henderson Street between Rainier Avenue South and MLK Jr. Way South. Please ask about it. Before the initial Link segment opened, Metro added overhead to extend routes 14 and 36 to the Mt. Baker and Othello Link, stations, respectively. In the aughts, Seattle and Metro could not agree on South Henderson Street layover, so Route 7 was not extended by 2009. Better late than never. Per Bruce’s point, new overhead may make fiscal sense; the agencies could do a life cycle analysis considering federal assistance; some of the BB costs are unknown. keys for trolley bus are service density, grades, and common pathways with existing ETB routes. SDOT is proposing new ETB overhead in their overly long Roosevelt line. the new ETB of both SF Muni and Metro have batteries. so, there are batteries in the ETB, the hybrid, and the BB; they are of different sizes.

    1. Metro will surely add one block of wire to serve a Link station’s entrance. The 23rd Avenue gap is unfunded at this point, although SDOT installed the mounts for the wire to attach to. The 7-Henderson reroute is in Metro’s 2025 plan. Both the 48 and 7 were in Move Seattle for RapidRide+ upgrades but the budget was too optimistic; they have now been reset to “some improvements sometime”. This will surely include the Henderson wire; otherwise Metro would have to dieselize one of the highest-ridership trolley routes or defer the connection to the station. I assume it didn’t happen in 2009 due to status-quo protests from the Prentice Street tail; that was the restructure that had the same thing happen with the 48. Metro’s 2025 plan deletes the Prentice tail without replacement, so I guess that’s where Metro is going. From the map it looks like a short flat walk to parallel routes.

      1. Metro will surely add one block of wire to serve a Link station’s entrance.

        Isn’t that exactly what the off wire capability is supposed to provide? Especially in a congested station area the added maneuverability would seem to be just what the doctor ordered.

      2. Not really. Certainly not as long as switching between wire mode and battery mode requires the driver to physically get out of the bus to make sure the poles are aligned. My understanding is that the off-wire capability is intended for use in emergency/unplanned detours only. Like a major accident blocking the route, forcing the bus to go around a block. In that case, making everybody wait while the driver removes the poles (and puts them back) is much faster than having the bus just sit there for however long it takes until the accident clears, or Metro sends out a diesel bus to replace it.

      3. According to this article (https://seattletransitblog.com/2014/11/10/metro-test-driving-off-wire-trolleys/) “Metro plans to keep battery runs to a mile or less during revenue service. Further, the new trolleys will allow the operator to raise and lower the poles from their seat. This video shows unracking at the beginning and racking at the end. Pans would be installed wherever re-racking is common.”

        Seems to me it would be pretty easy to end your trip off wire, and then hook back in towards the beginning of the run. My guess is it is just inertia that stops them moving on that change, just like it is with dozens of other changes that people have suggested (most of which have nothing to do with wire). Last time I checked the 50 goes through the V. A. parking lot every time it drives by.

      4. “Isn’t that exactly what the off wire capability is supposed to provide?”

        For some unknown reason Metro has been reluctant to use the short off-wire capability in regular route planning; only in short-term outages or construction. For instance, when a block of wire is deenergized for construction, traditional trolleys require a diesel truck to haul it to the other end of the outage, while off-wire trolleys can drive through it on their own.

  4. Frank and everybody else, ’til somebody can come up with a better example of a made-up conflict, this discussion takes the prize.

    Need fact-check here, so someone who knows the newest trolley fleet on the street: Am I right that battery life would let the Route 13 be extended from the Seattle Pacific University to Fremont with a phone call?

    And on our new coaches, do you even have to leave the driver’s seat to drop and re-wire the poles? Put a “wiring pan” (little transparent plastic house) at Seattle U and you should be “ready to roll”.

    Our streetcar voltage probably forbids, but in San Francisco, pretty sure PCC streetcars and trolleybuses at least used to share positive wire. Same for Toronto when they still had the buses.

    Think I’ve mentioned that during DSTT construction, Metro detailed several of us on the Joint Union-Management Advisory Committee to see working drawings for a plan to wire the Route 7 into the tunnel. Special ramp to the corner of Rainier and Dearborn. The years have seen $12 million spent on worse.

    Best argument for keeping trolleywire could be instructional. Smoothness, timing, coach-positioning…Metro, passengers, and drivers would all benefit by a special rodeo to demonstrate. Fair argument that trolleybus driving should pay more. Though being addicted, which liberals are afraid to talk about, I’d been willing to settle for much more extensive and intensive training.

    Ideologically, all things considered I think it’ll eventually pencil out that anything hard you’ve got people who really love to do, is for that reason worth keeping. Like with price of hours lost to on-board fare-collection, what is the cost to the system of every fiercely-dedicated jobless person?

    And tell the truth- isn’t a battery just a box full of corrosive poison? So let’s finish the wire on the 48 all the way to Golden Gardens, continue wire from 85th NW down to existing 44 wire at the Ballard Senior Center, and restore the 43 for a no-cost bus-bridge as well as single-seat Group Health Hospital service from 23rd Avenue.

    On the radio this morning, heard somebody blame Downtown crime on fact that Third Avenue is bus-only. Used the term “Wall of Buses”, which I haven’t heard since 1990. So we’ve got bigger fish to barbecue. Could be our chance to get DSTT back ’til the Route 41 becomes a train as designers intended.

    Mark Dublin

    1. <>

      Not how it is working with the #44, with deadwire west of 24th due to tearing up Market between there and 32nd – most of the time drivers, in front of Ballard Hospital, are having to run to the back of the bus to re-wire the poles, after failing to do it from their seats.

      1. Maybe they are using the “old” trolleys — the ones that don’t allow you to operate the wires from the seat. Both could run off wire — the new ones can run a lot farther.

      2. I talked to a driver about that when they came out a few years ago. Lowering the poles is easy. It is just a switch. Raising the poles requires not only a pan set up above the wire but a painted line to help the driver line the bus up. There are no rear windows on new busses so lining up can be more difficult. Drivers used to use the rope angle as a guide. They can’t see that now. Some veteran drivers can just tell where to stop. But I can see the difficulty.

      3. I’ve been amazed that newer buses can automatically find the wire and reattach to it at all, without having the driver outside positioning the trolley.

  5. Also little-mentioned transit truth: The kind of thing a Route 7 driver thinks about during a 2AM layover at 62nd and Prentice. Putting the “7” in the DSTT really almost happened. But in addition, serious unmentioned example existing overseas since 1959.

    I’m asking readers to make sure their Republican Senators incorporate this Black Sea link into the Impeachment records:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6792nwi8hQ

    Substitute Ellensburg for “Alushta,” and the “7” could have run I-90 from Rainier and Dearborn Street east. Know I’ve linked this before, but think main thrust of it is very important, especially concerning current railroad-building events out of China. Being the kind of thing I’d LIKE to see the United States of America be “FIRST” at.

    Snark about batteries misplaced- every tool to its use. Though idea of automated road-transit vehicles, too many vectors and variables to be allowed. Limit should be right of way completely closed to intrusion- model being the SkyTrain.

    Mark Dublin

  6. Electronics and battery storage are in a state of technical advancement. It’s hard to decide how to make long-term commitments in this era.

    I really think the best choice is to not commit to buying too many buses until demos are run in Seattle. There are several horror stories of how agencies bought articulated buses that couldn’t handle slopes over the years. It’s particularly important to do field testing of battery-powered buses on Madison before we spend tens of millions ripping up the street.

  7. Also worth mentioning to those who say “just use trolleys”. The trolley network only covers a tiny fraction of King County Metro’s service area (e.g. where the bus routes ran, back in the 1930’s, when nearly all of what is today the Puget Sound Metro area was just forest). The cost of putting up trolley wire across the entire King County bus network would be prohibitive. So, practically speaking, the alternative to battery buses to use diesel forever, outside of the Seattle neighborhoods that happen to already have trolley wire, along with a few handpicked additional routes.

    All that said, continuing to run trolley buses still makes sense in some situations. Where the wire already exists, and there’s no reason to change the buses, running a trolley makes since. Even some very strategic adding of new trolley can make sense, particular for hilly, frequent routes like the 48, which already has trolley wire running most of the way, and doesn’t need that much more. (The 48 also runs in a nice straight line, hence is unlikely to change). But, it’s not a substitute for battery buses for all the rest of the routes, if we don’t want to be stuck on diesel, forever.

    1. No one said “just use trolleys”. That is a ridiculous straw man argument.

      What Frank wrote was that “it saddens me that we seem to have stalled out on running new trolley wire in this city”. The point being that judicious investment in trolley wire (yes, in the city, where the bulk of the service hours are spent) would pay dividends, while the diesel buses are replaced by battery powered ones. No one is suggesting we run wire on SR 520. But running it on the 48, for example, would probably be a good value.

      1. I absolutely agree running wire for the 48 would be good value, and I, in fact, said so much, in my previous comment.

    2. We don’t have to wire every route; we just need to prioritize strategic expansions. The planned RapidRide routes are already in Metro’s long-term plan. The 48 only needs a one-mile fill-in.

      In the mid 2000s there was a years-long debate about whether to renew the trolley fleet (which was long past its end-of-life) or dieselize it entirely. The decision was made to renew the fleet, but expansion decisions were deferred. Metro does fill in short bits of wire for reorganizations, but generally not more than a block or to to reach a strategic stop. Anything beyond that requires a separate capital measure for funding. The 3/4-Yesler was long bandied about and finally withdrawn. The 3/4-SPU finally went through, although the delay may have been more about building a larger terminus because the 13’s wire was already there. The 48 was going to be electrified with Move Seattle but that has now been deferred indefinitely. The 44-Children’s is a nice long-term idea. The debate is still unresolved on whether electrifying routes like the 45 and E is even worthwhile.

      My biggest fear is that some sensible reorganizations in east Seattle would invalidate existing trolley routes and significantly contract the trolley network. For instance, extending the 47 north/northeast or restructuring the 49 or 12. I like trolley buses because they’re (sometimes) quieter and smoother than diesel buses, and the wires make it look vaguely like a streetcar, as well as showing where the bus goes. (Sometimes when I’m in a car giving directions I say, “Follow the bus wires.”)

  8. I would like Metro to show a report on the disposal or recycling process of the batteries. It is important to have zero tailpipe emissions. But it is also important to not create a hazardous waste site with products we don’t yet know how to dispose of. The same should be done for hybrids and batttery cars also, for that matter.

  9. I am so glad Metro is finally moving forward on battery buses. Since the slow-charge pilot testing was announced in late 2018, there has been very little news about which buses they are testing and their performance. I was worried it would keep getting delays, new rounds of pilot testing announced, etc. It seems some staff within Metro aren’t fully onboard and want to through up issues, obstacles, high costs, etc. in order to not move forward or continue delaying.

    Shenzhen operates 16,000 electric buses, LA Metro ordered over 2 years ago the exact model Metro is now ordering. Its a solved problem; at current costs, lifecycle cost is almost a non-issue, and battery prices are likely to continue dropping. King County Metro’s big budget issues are expanding base capacity and filling out the service in the long-range plan; transition to electric isn’t driving that. The sooner Metro stops contributing to the destabilization of the world’s climate, the better.

  10. Hoping the ride is a little smoother than the current batch of new flyer articulated hybrids. Riding those things, you’d think our streets were riddled with potholes… oh, wait

  11. A few points in respose to various sub-threads above.
    1. According to KC Metro’s own statistics, trolleybuses are cheaper to operate on a cost per service hour basis but not an a cost per mile basis. Cost per service hour is the fairer comparison because trolleys are mostly concentrated on slower, heavily loaded routes, while the diesel average is weighted to a lot of higher speed longer distance commuting routes.
    2. The high capital “cost” for trolleybuses quoted above aren’t so much the inherent cost of the vehicles as what a company like New Flyer will charge you. Either they don’t want to make trolleybuses at all or, if you insist, they have you over a barrel because it’s a specialist product and there’s no competition. High quality articulated trolleybuses in Europe cost around $1 million.
    3. Nobody explicitly mentioned In Motion Charging (“IMC”). The standard in Europe is to fit trolleybuses with batteries with a range of up to 20km. New routes or extensions can be added, where the trolleybus runs under the wires and is charged up, and can then branch out over unwired sections to new destinations. Seattle’s trolleybuses also have IMC but a fairly limited potential range (5 miles?). I’m not sure why KC Metro is so cautious about actually using the buses’ battery function.
    4. Some people say: “look, no wires!” and think battery buses are cheap and just run straight out of the box. When you scale up, the costs of all the electrical plant to support the battery buses can be quite considerable.
    5. Conversely people look at trolley wire construction and think it is prohibitive without thinking about its effect on whole life costs . Amortise it over a 30 year service life and between all the trolleybus-miles run under it, and the cost per bus mile is tens of cents, far outweighed by the savings of lower fuel and vehicle maintenance costs.

    Im not arguing for one moment that trolleybuses could be fix-all for the whole service area. That would be ridiculous. There probably will be a big role for battery buses in the future though I don’t think the technology is fully mature yet. But it is frustrating that everything trolleybus – like route 48 electrification- seems to be on hold at the moment. It would be good if somebody senior could champion them again for the roles that they are suitable for.

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