Diesel buses could replace quieter trolley buses

Ever noticed how much quieter the 44 buses are than other buses in town? You can thank those overhead wires — and the electric trolley buses they power — for that respite from noise pollution. The trolley buses also produce much less air pollution than diesel buses.

Despite those benefits, Metro is considering whether to replace its aging fleet of trolley buses with diesel ones, which cost less.

Our news partner The Seattle Times covered this story last month. On Tuesday, June 22, the public will have an opportunity to learn more about the Trolley Bus System Evaluation, a study that will examine the 14-route trolley system and “help the county make an informed decision about the best vehicle technology to use on these routes as the current trolley buses wear out.”

The open house will be held downtown at Plymouth Congregational Church (1217 6th Avenue) from 5 to 7 pm.

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Sarah
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Sarah

Diesel engines may be cheaper in the short-term, but I’m surprised to hear of the city moving to sacrifice more efficient engines to cut costs. I don’t see where they define what “wear out” means, and I wonder why repairing the current units isn’t an option? They don’t even mention trying to purchase more hybrid units, which are still more efficient than the diesel buses.

Nora Charles
Guest
Nora Charles

You are dead wrong about the trolley buses making less noise – maybe when they are actually moving they make less noise but when they are parked at nw32nd and nw market street (which is their “rest stop” location) they make a ton of noise…roaring, hissing, chorteling. I live at the Lock Vista and my windows face 32nd Avenue. For 2 years I have lived with the noise of those damn buses and FINALLY I’m moving away.

So…less noise when moving but MUCH MORE noise when parked with engines running. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve emailed METRO in the middle of the night begging them to tell the drivers to TURN OFF YOUR ENGINES.

John Watt
Guest
John Watt

Nora doesn’t seem to know what she is talking about — her line about “with engines running” showing this. Trolleybuses DON’T HAVE engines, they have electric motors, and are silent when stopped for any reason.

Any other type of coach will result in a 100% increase in air pollution.

Denny's bowler
Guest
Denny's bowler

Hi Nora.
They make more noise when they’re parked? So you’re comparing them against themselves?
You so crazy.

Annamatopoetry
Guest
Annamatopoetry

@Sarah – I am sure they are repairing the buses continuously, but eventually they will be worn out. Keep in mind that they run throughout the day, most days, for years. They take a ton of daily wear, and I suppose it’s smart of the city to think ahead about what they’ll do when they eventually run out. But I agree that switching to diesel for cost reasons sounds short-sighted.

pParkerT
Guest
pParkerT

No, Nora is correct. They have air brakes and when they stop the compressor for those air brakes starts running and it is MUCH MUCH louder than the diesel buses. I lived in an apartment that overlooked a stop on the 49 route and I was oh so happy to move away and get away from those loud trackless trolleys.

I wouldn’t want to see them eliminated; I like that they’re so much cleaner. But quieter? Not so much.

mike
Guest
mike

Any other type of coach will result in a 100% increase in air pollution.

the trolley’s don’t run on love. the lines they run on do utilize some non-green power. the particulates created by diesel, however, would be pretty horrid. this is a short sighted solution and a push away from CO2 neutral.

Joshua Daniel Franklin
Guest
Joshua Daniel Franklin

I highly recommend that Ballard residents attend the meeting and/or submit feedback to Metro. The 44 does not climb as steep of hills as Queen Anne or First Hill so it is one of the routes most likely to be dieselized. In my opinion one of the biggest issues is that Metro would be spending money on diesel fuel that currently goes to local living wage jobs for workers maintaining the wire.

There is also lively discussion of the issues at Seattle Transit Blog.

Jonathan
Member
Jonathan

Bring back the traditional trolley the trackless trolley replaced! I’m hoping the transportation system my grandparents knew as teens and young adults back in the ’20s and ’30s is one we will have rebuilt by the ’20s and ’30s.

snoopy
Guest
snoopy

The trolly’s of long ago will never work on todays car clogged streets.

Cosmo
Guest
Cosmo

Will they be able to re-enable these trolley lines when diesel fuel goes to $10 a gallon? I think electric will be a lot cheaper at that point… and they will want all buses electric. By all means save money for now while the economy is down, but let’s make sure we plan for the future as well…

Nora Charles
Guest
Nora Charles

To John Watt – Okay, Okay…no engines, I get it …but like a subsequent post said its the air brakes…call it what you will but I call it NOISY! Oh, and by the way…you don’t think the trolleys cause pollution? Think again diesel breath…black soot all over and around windows of my apartment facing 32nd. Dang, I can’t wait to move!

Foo Barolo
Guest
Foo Barolo

Uh, Nora, that black soot is from diesel powered vehicles and vessels, not the electric trolleys. The electric trolley buses are electric, including their compressors.

motorrad
Member
motorrad

At John Wyatt- You spoke prematurely Wise One. Some if not all of electric buses also have engines for running segments of a route without overhead electricity. When I lived on Queen anne they would connect to the lines and switch modes, then disconnect and go back to diesel.

Anonymouse
Guest
Anonymouse

@motorrad: I’m pretty sure that when Metro got the hybrid diesels, they got rid of the dual-mode trolleys. Remember how some buses, when they got to the downtown transit tunnel, would put up their trolley lines and go electric for the tunnel, then retract the lines and go back to diesel when they got to the other end? They don’t do that any more. All the buses that serve the DSTT are hybrids that simply switch to quiet hybrid mode, which runs them on electric only so they don’t choke up the tunnel. When they get back out, they resume their regular hybrid mode, getting a whopping 3.5 MPG.

Trolleys that can run on batteries for a half mile or so do exist and would make a great addition to the fleet, but Metro doesn’t own any right now. All our trolleys are pretty much useless if they get off the wires.