This week has good and bad news for lovers of the city’s electric trolley bus network.
The good news: King County has budgeted $238.6 million to replace Metro’s aging fleet of 155 electric trolley buses, CHS reports.
A statement sent out by County Council member Larry Phillips, head of the transportation committee, says the funding will ensure “trolley buses will keep rolling in Seattle for decades to come.” CDN reported last spring on the reasons Metro chose to move forward with new trolley buses versus changing them to diesel buses. Metro has said its 25-year-old fleet needs to be replaced by 2014.
Passage of King County’s 2012 budget by the Metropolitan King County Council settles once and for all the debate over whether to replace Metro’s aging trolley bus fleet. The budget includes $238.6 million to replace Metro’s fleet of 100 40-foot trolleybuses and 55 60-foot trolley buses, ensuring that Seattle’s urban neighborhoods will continue to benefit from clean, quiet electric buses.
“I was pleased to support funding to keep our popular trolley buses rolling in our urban neighborhoods, cutting down on noise and pollution,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips, Chair of the Council’s Transportation, Economy, and Environment Committee. “A lifecycle cost analysis showed that replacing our existing aging trolley buses with new off-wire capable trolley buses is the most cost effective and beneficial investment for the people of King County.”
Metro’s trolley bus fleet has reached the end of its useful life. A performance audit of Metro raised questions about whether replacing the trolley buses with diesels could save money and recommended further study. Phillips sponsored a proviso in the 2011 Budget directing Metro to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of replacement options that would work best on current trolley routes. The evaluation concluded that electric trolley buses with off-wire capability to avoid construction and traffic blockages were the lowest cost, most beneficial option for replacing Metro’s trolley bus fleet.
With the passage of the budget, Metro will be issuing a Request for Procurement for new trolley buses by the end of this year and should have a contract in place by fall of 2012.
The bad news for trolley buses is that Seattle Transportation Benefits District Proposition 1 was defeated in the polls 60-40 (count as of November 10). Prop 1 designated an annual pool of money to be spent on trolley bus wire expansion, and 23rd Avenue through the CD was high on the priority list. This would have allowed for the 48 to run as an electric route between Mount Baker Station and the University District.
Metro’s grant proposal for electrifying route 48 depends on about $9 million in local government funding and nearly $7 million in Federal grants.