I attended Transportation Choices Coalition‘s “FRIDAY FORUM: Trolley Buses – What Lies Ahead?” meeting at lunchtime Friday (25 Jun 2010). Christina O’Claire gave basically the same presentation as at the Seattle City Council meeting and Tuesday’s open house (which they said had “huge turnout”), so most of the time was Q-and-A with both Christina and Metro Deputy General Manager Jim Jacobson.
He emphasized that last year’s audit was done very quickly and the main recommendation was to do a full study with wider scope, which they’re beginning now. It sounds like Metro cannot fully spec new buses so they are relying mainly on consultants to get probable pricing information on various technologies including traditional ETBs such as used in Vancouver, Orion series hybrids modified for trolley operation, fuel cells, etc. They will also use consultants to figure out how to include possible carbon taxes, credits for zero emission, and risk assessment for fuel price spikes.
In response to a question, Jim also said that King County Metro is limiting the evaluation to the current trolley system routes, with no new routes and no comparisons to suburban routes. He said direct comparisons are too complex to make; Metro tries various modifications to gearing, transmission, and brakes to get the best performance, so it is not as simple as running a current diesel hybrid on a trolley route.
A few other random notes: Metro already needed to look at low-floor buses on steeper routes since new buses are all low-floor, and they will retain the low-voltage DC trolley power system. They are also quite aware that the evaluation page is mostly about the old fleet, but they don’t have much to put there yet. For the next couple of weeks, King County Metro will continue collecting ideas about scope for their Trolley Bus System Evaluation, and present a plan for approval to the county council in July. If everything goes according to plan, when next year the county council approves the Metro biennial budget for 2012-2013, it will include money for a procurement contract to deliver 50 new 40ft buses in September 2014 and 50 new 40ft and 59 new 59ft buses in September 2015.