Great news from Metro yesterday: the agency has selected a builder for its next big batch of trolleybuses, and the 60′ coaches will have three doors. From the news release:
King County Metro Transit announced today it will replace its aging trolley fleet with new all-electric New Flyer coaches that will take about one-third less energy to power. Metro is second only to San Francisco in having the largest electric trolley fleet in the nation.
Metro plans to initially purchase up to 141 trolley buses – about 10 percent of its entire fleet – under a contract with New Flyer totaling up to $164 million. Future bus purchases will be dependent on fleet needs and whether Metro is able to avoid service reductions in the coming years.
“Electric trolleys have a lot of fans, and I’m one of them,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “They’re quiet, they run clean, they’re part of our transit heritage, and studies confirm they’re the best for moving riders in our very hilly and dense urban environment.”
The trolleys also will be able to operate off-wire on battery power for short distances – a feature that will allow the bus to reliably reroute around collisions without calling for a Metro push truck. It also will reduce the need to substitute diesel buses when construction affects routes along electric bus corridors.
The new buses will have low floors for easier and faster boarding and exiting. They include an updated system to secure wheelchairs, and the 60 foot buses will have three doors, air conditioning and the ability to kneel the full length of the bus.
The selection of New Flyer Industries is not a particular surprise: NFI is the dominant seller of transit buses in the US, and (I believe) the only domestic manufacturer with an off-the-shelf trolleybus propulsion system. While I’ve heard off-the-record that three-doors and RapidRide-style interiors (less seating, more standing room and wider aisles) were favored for 60′ coaches, official confirmation that those coaches will have three doors — a feature whose importance is hard to overstate — is a relief. I have a question in about interior layout, and also about air conditioning, which the wording of this press release seems to suggest may only be featured on 60′ coaches.
The new trolleybuses will start to arrive in 2015, and they can’t come soon enough for me. The Breda articulated trolleybuses are 23 years old already, and they look, sound and smell every day of it. I’m convinced that a certain amount of American anti-bus prejudice, particularly in the west, arises quite reasonably from the fact that so many transit agencies operate so many terribly-designed bus routes with awful rolling stock; whereas rail systems tend to be newer, and mostly built out in straight lines with low-floor vehicles and sensible stop spacing, so they don’t provide the experience of sluggishness and decrepitude that is the unfortunate hallmark of many bus routes. Both aspects of this experience are completely fixable, and they have to be fixed if we’re to stand a chance of moving the needle on transit ridership and Greenhouse Gas emissions.
UPDATE: After the jump, renderings of the new buses. Also, all models (40′ and 60′) will have A/C.