They are purple and we think they’re pretty cool.
By now you may have gotten a glimpse of our two 40-foot prototype trolleys on Seattle city streets. They are the vehicles that will replace our existing aging electric trolley fleet beginning late in 2015.
But before full fleet production begins, we will be testing both our new 40-foot and larger 60-foot prototype New Flyer trolleys to simulate actual service. The testing will last about three months, and will allow us to identify the need for any minor adjustments.
When factors such as capital cost, fuel consumption, maintenance and available grant funding are considered, this electric trolley system is expected to be cheaper to operate than our hybrid fleet during the projected life of the vehicles.
We’ve teamed up with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority (SFMTA) to purchase replacement coaches from the same contract – a move that ensures both Metro and SFMTA get highly competitive pricing. Approximately $138 million in federal grants will help fund the trolley purchases – that’s about 75 percent of the total cost of the new fleet.
About our trolley fleet
Did you know Metro operates the second largest electric trolley fleet in the nation? We plan to initially purchase 141 New Flyer trolleys that will operate on 70 miles of two-way overhead wire in Seattle. Of those, 86 will be 40-foot trolleys and 55 will be larger 60-foot vehicles to replace Metro’s aging fleet of Breda and Gillig trolleys. This purchase represents about 10 percent of Metro’s entire fleet.
More amenities, fuel efficiency
The new trolleys will be quiet and energy efficient, with zero emissions. Studies confirm they are preferable for moving riders in our very hilly and dense urban environment. Amenities will include:
- The ability to operate off-wire for an estimated three to five miles – a first for our trolley fleet. This feature will allow the trolleys to reliably reroute around collisions and reduce the need to substitute diesel buses during construction.
- Filtered heating and air conditioning
- Low floors for easier and faster boarding and exiting
- An updated system to secure wheelchairs
- Three doors on larger 60 foot buses and the ability to kneel the full length of the bus
- The electric trolley buses will use an estimated 20 to 30 percent less energy than our current electric trolleys, and use regenerative braking that puts power back into the energy system.
So come next year, we think our riders will also get sweet on purple when these new clean and quiet trolleys roll into downtown!
Note from the editor: @Josh’s comment, “Priorities seem mis-aligned. So Metro is slashing bus service but has money to buy fancy new trollies?” on Nov. 7, 2014 was moved from the Comment Policy page to this post.
Good question, Josh, you’re not the first person to ask about our fleet investments, given we have had to reduce service.
This purchase is good investment for Metro in the short and long term. By purchasing the replacement coaches off a contract we’re sharing with San Francisco’s transit agency, we’re getting highly competitive pricing. And we received about $138 million in federal grants that will fund about 75 percent of the total cost of the new fleet.
When you consider life-cycle costs that include capital investment, fuel consumption, maintenance and available grant funding, this new fleet is expected to be cheaper to operate than our hybrid fleet.
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