Sunday, October 19, 2008

No Typewriters?

With gas prices coming down many transit agencies might be feeling a bit better about their balance sheets. But it's a short term deal. The oil cartel is looking to boost prices again. I feel like we need to invest more in electric transit including trolleybuses on core routes. Unfortunately, a trolleybus revolution does not seem to be upon us. Wires baby wires?


Jon said...

i'd love to see more trolley buses. unfortunately the cities that have them are lucky if they can keep them, edmonton just decided to scrap their system, philadelphia almost lost theirs but now theyre replacing them on their northern routes and just scrapping the south philly routes. and you dont see the few cities that have them expand them much which i'd like to see. there's a handful of transit fans in portland who advocate for them but nothing has come of it recently (they did get trimet to study them in the 70s and 80s several times). if any city can reintroduce them i would bet it would be portland, afterall they reintroduced the classic in-street streetcar as a regular form of transit and look how the modern streetcars have caught on nationwide.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

It's a shame that Edmonton got rid of theirs. And I hope when gas prices go down again people don't think it can't happen again.

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Alon Levy said...

From what I hear, the existing trolleybus systems in the US are terrible (and so are legacy streetcars). They have all the problems of buses, plus they're stuck in their lanes and can't go around slow cars.

Steve said...

alon levy-

I used to live in Seattle, which still has an extensive trolleybus network (and even expanded it slightly in recent memory).

Trolley buses are okay but not great -- they can pass normal traffic (they just can't pass other trolley buses), and they're much quieter than diesel buses, which is very nice. On the other hand, they still bounce around like buses, and they come off the wires fairly frequently, which is an irritation for all.

In general, I'd argue that if it's worth putting in trolley wires, it's probably worth putting in a modern streetcar, too, for the smooth ride, higher profile and the capacity. This is contentious, of course.

Jon said...

i am a big streetcar fan but i actually think in portland, trolley buses would be better suited to the eastside neighborhoods that are being studied for new streetcar lines. ETBs are cheaper and easier to build and they can electrify the entire length of the existing bus lines not just a truncated portion like would be the case with streetcars.


I was trying to find out more info on the 1992 Los Angeles' proposed ETB system and stumbled on this video...

which led to a treasure-trove of old videos about recent history Los angeles transit like building the subway and light rail lines circa 1980s and 90s...

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

I think that trolleybuses can be precursors to streetcars. With the wires there, all that is needed next is tracks.

arcady said...

Trolleybuses do have some advantages over buses, but also share many of their weaknesses. The vehicles are generally smaller than streetcars, and of course have a bumpy ride. They can go up steeper hills than streetcars, and do so more effectively than buses, but they have to cross other trolleybus lines very slowly and carefully to avoid dewirement. Modern trolleybuses have battery backup, so at least they can make small off-wire detours, and there exist ones with diesel motors (or generators) that are effectively plug-in hybrids that can stay plugged in while they're running.
In Eastern Europe, where trolleybuses are common, traditionally their role was as a sort of intermediate step between streetcars and buses, and in cities with subways, there is often a surface trolleybus line running parallel to a subway, rather like the 14-Mission and the BART in SF.

Alon Levy said...

I think that trolleybuses can be precursors to streetcars.

They definitely used to - the BMT considered buses precursors to trolleys, trolleys precursors to streetcars, and streetcars precursors to rapid transit.

However, nowadays the first two and a half are just too slow and uncomfortable to compete with cars. Successful light rail and BRT often have partially grade-separated rights of way, longer cars than legacy streetcars and buses, and subway-like boarding and fare-paying systems.

You note this yourself: light rail built from scratch tends to succeed in the US, while bus system expansions tend to fail.