With King County Metro still studying its options for replacing the aging fleet of electric trolleys that ply the streets of Capitol Hill, the Central District and other lucky Seattle neighborhoods, a special guest was invited to town this week to give the transit agency’s engineers and staff an opportunity for a real world examination of a state of the art electric coach. Of course, the bus is from Canada, eh.
Metro borrowed the trolley coach from Vancouver, BC for a one-day trial in Pioneer Square on Wednesday. Among other magic things like kneeling capability and lots of standing room in the interior configuration, the coach also is capable of traveling short distances off wire. On Wednesday, the driver was showing off by completing an entire city block on off-wire power. The current ancient fleet of King County bus trolleys require a tow for any off-wire activities. And, no, skeptics, we didn’t ask whether these magic buses were any better at keeping their hooks on the overhead wires. We kind of like those zen pauses in our travels.
Metro says it must find an alternative as the lifespan of its current electric fleet is coming to an end. Representatives say there is no room for working to extend the life of the existing trolley fleet because key systems are facing parts shortages and other maintenance issues on both types of trolley buses currently operated by Metro. Without having access to spare parts from the bus manufacturers, keeping the existing vehicles would force Metro to do their own engineering and fabrication of replacement parts, something that has been deemed to difficult and costly to pursue any further. Metro faces the replacement dilemma as it also struggles with necessary budget cuts to continue offering its service as revenues show no signs of near-term recovery.
You can read more about Vancouver’s electric trolleys in this Wikipedia entry on BC’s TransLink system.