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Electric Buses

by rdf Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 04:09:29 PM EST

When I was young there still were some electric buses on the streets of NYC. They got their power from overhead wires and a shoe system on the roof of the bus. There was enough reach that they could swing over to the curb to make stops and still maintain contact.

There were two drawbacks. First, if the shoe came off the driver would have to get out of the bus and do some fancy pushing and pulling with a long rod to get things hooked up again. If things really got snagged the bus could be disabled for an extended period of time.

Second, at busy interchanges there were wires running in all directions with fancy (and unsightly) switching devices to allow the bus to change routes.


They did have two positive aspects. They didn't pollute and they didn't make much noise. With the revived interest in inner city mass transit (especially light rail) it seems to me that electric buses should be reconsidered.

First, the improvement in battery technology (and small auxiliary fossil fuel motors) could allow them to operate over a few miles without overhead power. This means that the interchange switches could be eliminated. The bus would just disconnect at the route change and reconnect after entering the new route. It could also allow them to continue on if they got disengaged and stop at a suitable point to reconnect, or perhaps a better shoe system would reconnect automatically after the bus had moved on some distance.

Second, it would be much easier and cheaper to start such a service compared to light rail. There is no need for laying track nor for a special right of way, although a dedicated bus lane could be established if desired. All that is required is to string some power cables along the new route and perhaps some special traffic signals.

I can't be the first to think of this, so if it is being done why haven't we heard more about it, and if it isn't then why not?

Display:
Why not streetcars?

While light rail may be seen to be a problem, Toronto has maintained its light rail - streetcars. These run on the busiest routes through the down town core.

TTC [Toronto Transit Commission] foresaw the end of streetcars by 1980. This policy was dropped in 1972 in the face of widespread community opposition by citizens' groups who succeeded in persuading the TTC of the advantages of streetcars over buses on heavily-travelled main routes.

I have found streetcars quite enjoyable to ride. Definitely more pleasant than busses. The tracks are a bit of a hazard to bicyclists though.

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 10:45:30 PM EST
source for quote:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toronto_streetcar_system

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 10:46:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Because, as RDF just said, it's fairly expensive to create a new light rail where non exists.

Now, I agree, for the lucky cities who did not tear down their tracks in the fifties, the story is different and streetcars are better than busses.

by Francois in Paris on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 02:38:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
long time no see!

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 10:36:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Salut, Jerome. Yes, it's been a long time. My owner^H^H^H^H^H employer yanked my chain a year ago and brought me back me for good to the Great Den of Inequity and Silly Wealth, the Babylon of Sand also known as California Bay Area, and since then, between the move and the job, it's been very busy for me, bordering on straight-jacket insanity. It's cooling down a bit, so I may pop up now and then.
by Francois in Paris on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 03:36:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Toronto has done limited building of new streetcar lines, but it has done some. The on going maintenance to rebuild existing streetcar tracks is expensive. I would not be surprised if it is actually greater than the cost of laying down new track. Part of the cost is trying to keep streetcars moving as much as possible when laying down new track. This includes workers being interrupted regularly to let streetcars go past.

The TTC's proposal for the St. Clair streetcar reservation is modelled on the spectacular success of a similar project on Spadina Ave. some seven years ago. The 6.7-km (4.2-mile) Spadina project prompted sharp controversy at the time - hailed by some merchants and residents along the line as boon to the area, but bitterly resisted by others as a disruptive intruder.
[Toronto Star, 18 Sep. 2004]

Yet, seven years later, the Spadina streetcar line with its mid-street reservation is recognised as a huge benefit. For example, a survey of about 60 area merchants conducted for the city and TTC showed that 34% believed their business had improved since the line opened, while only 19% said it had declined. About 47% believed the project had had little or no impact on their business. The same study found major positive economic impacts in the Spadina corridor compared with the rest of the city.
[Toronto Star, 18 Sep. 2004]

In addition, the TTC found that the LRT streetcar attracted significantly higher readership than the previous bus service on Spadina. Readership on the new Route 510 streetcar soared to about 35,000 a day, compared with about 26,000 on the previous Route 77 bus.

http://www.lightrailnow.org/news/n_newslog001.htm

to over 45,000 per day in 2005-2006
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/510_Spadina_%28TTC%29

Before the dedicated streetcar line was re-introduced to Spadina rush hour traffic on busses was brutal. In some cases it was quicker to walk than take the bus. It was not a problem of a lack of busses, but traffic congestion at a stand still.

I believe, but am not sure that the Spadina streetcar line was instead of another subway line - being so close to an existing line. It truly is difficult to come up with the money to re-set-up streetcar lines, but that does not necessarily mean that it is not worth the money. There is no way that I can see of increasing readership from 26,000 to 45,000 using busses. Light rail or subway was the alternatives.

The region I live in is considering plans to install its first streetcar line (since they were all physically removed). I don't think that we should overlook the possibility of re-creating the wonderful streetcar lines we once had. The long term cost may be cheaper.


aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 07:13:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In Budapest, after the last wave of closures around the time of the regime change, a couple of new lines have been built:
  • a longer extension to and into the last big eighties concrete block housing project
  • finishing the third(-from-city-center) orbital tram line
  • connection of two run-down lines into a new fourth orbital tram line
  • the most recent, a branch to a new mall


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jun 30th, 2007 at 02:31:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To get ridership up by that amount using buses, you'd have to use even more streetscape than light rail, like every third street dedicated to buses:

Street 1: > > > one way car, two way bike > > >

Street 2: < > < > busway only < > < >

Street 3: < < < one way car, two way bike < < <

... when, of course, Aerobus type light rail could be elevated above it all, without the expense and noise of elevated heavy rail systems.

And this is more labor intensive than a light rail system, so the operating costs look more attractive in a low income country than in a high income country.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Jun 30th, 2007 at 06:40:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... in the early days of the 20th century, in the US, trolley/streetcar lines (as we yanks had various regional disputes what to call them) and interurbans were part of establishing local and regional transport for an area.

However, getting them re-established is a capital-intensive proposition, and in the US will be focused for a long time along routes that can support high frequency operations.

With modern enhancements to battery technology and especially to controller technology, trolleybuses (Wikipedia)could simply lower their trolley poles when deviating from the line of travel under the wires ... or passing through intersections or leaving the electrified portion of the route.

So trolleybuses with batteries are an appealing option for extending the reach of dedicated transport corridors ... and indeed would best if there is a train station to interchange with, or a trolly line to cross, which serve as traffic anchors for the trolley buses while the trolley buses serve as recruiters for the light rail and high capacity rail.

And further, they can help trolley lines be built out incrementally, with installation of modern in-pavement light rail along the route. When the track is in place for the new trolley line, convert the overhead power lines from the cantenary to two power lines instead of one power line and one return, and you're good to go. Meanwhile, new power lines have been established for the next trolleybus route.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 10:22:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, yes, yes, yes!

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jun 30th, 2007 at 02:24:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a huge possibility that Barceloan will go for trms in the 2015-2025 decade after the ten lines of udnerground are finished...

Right now ther are two big lines of tram (subdivided in three and two lines respectively)

http://www.trambcn.com/phtml/recorregut.phtml?IdiomaWeb=ing

But where the money will be invested from 2015 is still int he air.. (until then.. only underground).

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 08:43:48 AM EST
is bus lines with dedicated roads. See this project in the Paris suburbs.

This uses normal buses, and they mention the possibility of converting the line later into a tramway, but electrical busses might do the trick too.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 10:39:50 AM EST
This diary got some interesting comments on DailyKos:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/6/28/162055/404

It even got "rescued".

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 10:51:44 AM EST
As long as I've been in Paris ( 17 years) there have been small (about half size) electric buses running in Montmarte between Pigalle and the City Hall of the 18th arondissement. If it stops raining (we are in one of those periods in Paris where you don't see the sun for a month) I'll walk over and take a photo.

Hey, Grandma Moses started late!
by LEP on Sat Jun 30th, 2007 at 03:26:40 AM EST
Here's a photo I took, about 14 months ago, of the beautiful new tramway in Strassbourg.



Hey, Grandma Moses started late!
by LEP on Sat Jun 30th, 2007 at 03:47:14 AM EST
the construction of the tramway was accompanied by an explicit plan to prevent car driving into the city. Thoroughfares that crossed the city were transformed into dead end streets (i.e. that gave you access to certain parts of the city, but did not allow you anymore to go elsewhere); real (i.e. physically separate) bike lanes were set up, and the whole bus network was rearranged and expanded around the tramway.

Car traffic went down 20% in the metropolitan area, IIRC.

The mayor was re-elected triumphally. Local stores that had been bitching against the tramway for years started calmoring for more lines. The third line is now about to be inaugurated.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Jun 30th, 2007 at 04:07:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All those advantages and, in addition, it's beautiful to look at. A project close to perfection.

Hey, Grandma Moses started late!
by LEP on Sat Jun 30th, 2007 at 04:24:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
An interesting view on public transport and the rush to tramway in France sparkled by the strasbourg tram.

http://metrotramrer.ifrance.com/

Behind the france/bad, germany/good, its interesting point is: why relative small cities in Germany (Nürnberg) can have a couple of lines of metro, or tunnels in the city centers where it is much less common in France. Or in Italy, Spain for that matter. Feel free to complete with point of view about other countries.
Is it a cultural attitude to public investment? a federalist vs. centralized state question? A nimby problem by the shopkeepers?

La répartie est dans l'escalier. Elle revient de suite.

by lacordaire on Sun Jul 1st, 2007 at 11:33:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Unsightly, yes, but beats the hell out of diesel pollution and noise.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Sat Jun 30th, 2007 at 04:11:34 AM EST
The cantenary intersection complexes are exactly what battery trolleybuses can address.

We will never be able to design trolleybus overhead lines with a visual impact as low as the best trolleys, because they need both a power line and a return line. But we can do better than that.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Jun 30th, 2007 at 08:51:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
First, the improvement in battery technology (and small auxiliary fossil fuel motors) could allow them to operate over a few miles without overhead power. This means that the interchange switches could be eliminated. The bus would just disconnect at the route change and reconnect after entering the new route. It could also allow them to continue on if they got disengaged and stop at a suitable point to reconnect, or perhaps a better shoe system would reconnect automatically after the bus had moved on some distance.

The Solaris Trollino trolleybuses in Rome must have auxiliary power units, because I saw some at the bus station outside Termini station, which doesn't have any overhead wires.

by Gag Halfrunt on Sat Jun 30th, 2007 at 12:54:28 PM EST
Solaris-Ganz Trollino :-) Co-production of a Polish bus maker and a Hungarian electric equipment maker with long experience with trolley buses.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jun 30th, 2007 at 02:22:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Budapest still has an extensive trolley bus network: there are 13 lines at present. Pictures of active types (you'll find more at RailFan Europe):

The most modern, Solaris Ganz Trollino T12 (Solaris: Polish maker, Ganz: formerly big Hungarian electrics company):

An also new Ikarus-Kiepe-Obus IK412T (Ikarus was the big bus factory supplying all the East Bloc):

A newer Ikarus-Ganz IK-435T articulated:

An eighties Ikarus-Ganz IK-280T articulated:

An old Soviet ZIU-9:

A few years ago, someone got the 'bright' idea to replace all trolley bus lines with normal fossil-fuel-eating bus lines. But there was sauch a storm of local protest that it was buried, and the city major learnt from it: the newer types above were purchased after the row.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Jun 30th, 2007 at 02:10:55 PM EST
First, if the shoe came off the driver would have to get out of the bus and do some fancy pushing and pulling with a long rod to get things hooked up again.

Observed it myself a couple of times. But here that didn't took longer than the wait before a traffic light. While with normal buses, I also experienced engine breakdowns, more frequently.

wires running in all directions with fancy (and unsightly) switching devices

That's true. But soot clouds aren't any sightier :-)

it would be much easier and cheaper to start such a service compared to light rail

That is not a good argument. The two aren't for the same traffic load and speed. A light rail line can carry up to 100,000 passengers a day (or even the double of that), a bus line can get near only at satruration load. I have experienced several times how it is when a light rail (or, worse, a subway line) is closed for repairs and buses do auxiliary service: buses follow in close succession yet are chock-full.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Jun 30th, 2007 at 02:19:49 PM EST
On the last: the most extreme case is the total renewal of metro line 2 here. It normally carries 400,000/worday, though closures are timed at times of low traffic (e.g. weekends, holidays). Pairs of articulated Volvo buses started every minute or so and ran on reserved lanes. When this was done the first time, there were big traffic jams in the rest of the lanes, but then car drivers learnt to use other routes or to leave the car and add to the crowds crammed into the buses.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jun 30th, 2007 at 02:41:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... as part of a plan to re-cluster outer suburban sprawl, as is so common throughout the US now, the establishment of a system a step up in percieved status from a city bus ... and with some of the planning stability of a fixed guideway ... can help build the demand that requires the light rail.

Horses for courses ... meeting the needs of an urban core and re-urbanizing suburban sprawl into suburban villages are both important tasks. "One size fits all", under the Autodystopia approach endemic in the US, is precisely "one size fits many badly".


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Jun 30th, 2007 at 06:50:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Quite right, and introducing light rail itself can build the ridership for a future heavy metro or rapid transit. I think I'll add this point explicitely into the local rail series somewhere.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jul 1st, 2007 at 05:52:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am not sure if this has been mentioned, but in Helsinki one of the advantages of the tram routes, which by and large have special tracks built in the centre of the streets, apart from other traffic lanes, is that ambulances, fire trucks and police cars have a free run through the city.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Jun 30th, 2007 at 03:11:31 PM EST
For this we must thank the Russians, and the original street plans for downtown Helsinki, and the early establishment of tramways, which in turn defined the development of outlying areas with wide streets.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Jun 30th, 2007 at 03:14:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I saw these in Hangzhou, Suzhou, and Shaoxing, China.  They may or may not have been in Shanghai, too.

I'd never seen something like it, and thought it quite odd - although the logic was readily apparent.

by Zwackus on Sun Jul 1st, 2007 at 01:52:21 AM EST
Nancy can simply not be absent of a discussion about Trolley versus tram...

http://www.lightrailnow.org/features/f_ncy001.htm
http://tramateurs.free.fr/tb_nancy/tb_nancy.shtml

They went trolley from scratch in 1983, for after that going tram (official version for the subvention?) or better Trolleytram (real version for the poles and cables hater).

The jury is still out, but the start was not very encouraging.

La répartie est dans l'escalier. Elle revient de suite.

by lacordaire on Sun Jul 1st, 2007 at 11:23:12 AM EST
Sorry, I posted the comment before I had read the treatise of Dodo, and made probably some confusion with the denomination. Nancy had electric buses buses (no light rail) with a trolley, and changed to guided buses with catenary, but still no rail.
And I am confused which appellation is the right one for that strange beast.


La répartie est dans l'escalier. Elle revient de suite.
by lacordaire on Sun Jul 1st, 2007 at 03:42:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The electric bus with overhead electric wires and the driver ... well, driving it, that's most often called some version of trolleybus in English.

The guided-bus, you can call that a misguided effort of the bus industry to try to replace light rail rather than work on complementing it.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Jul 1st, 2007 at 09:27:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Lyon still has the widest network of electric buses (we call them trolleybuses or "trolleys") in France. In addition to three tramway lines (and a fourth under construction), seven of the main bus lines are equipped with modern electric buses and three more are planned (2 new lines and the equipment of an existing one with "trolleys").

Here is a picture of a recent articulated electric bus (line n°1):

And here is another model equipped with a small auxiliary diesel engine:

And here is a web site dedicated to French electric buses and trams.


"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Sun Jul 1st, 2007 at 05:34:03 PM EST


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