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  #1  
Old Posted Jun 4, 2019, 11:13 AM
Myrtonos Myrtonos is offline
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Trolleybus discussion

So it seems there isn't much here on trolleys, how about some discussion here. I would like to get an idea from those living in cities that still have them if trolleys are worth reintroducing. No anticipating improvements in battery technology, please.
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  #2  
Old Posted Jun 4, 2019, 3:04 PM
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US+Canada cities with trolleybuses:
  • Vancouver
  • Seattle
  • San Francisco
  • Dayton
  • Philadelphia
  • Boston
I like them a lot. Smoother, quieter, and the wires impart a sense of permanence that's sort of like rail. I see both the effects of trolleybuses and the wires themselves as positives, and wish more cities used them.

Sadly I don't think it's happening. Battery electric buses are now good enough for cities interested in electric buses to start buying; you don't have to anticipate improvements, they are already here. My own city has a growing fleet of them. Given that most city leaders view wires as a negative due to aesthetic opposition, the transit benefits of trolleybuses over battery buses aren't enough to outweigh the bad politics of building wires.
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  #3  
Old Posted Jun 4, 2019, 8:50 PM
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Yeah, I just don't see a situation where an agency builds a ground up OCS trolleybus line again unless, maybe, and that's a very strong maybe, it's in a city where they already have trolleybuses and it's viewed as a modest expansion that shares some existing OCS segments and shares depots, maintenance facilities, etc etc. That said I don't see an American city doing that for a variety of reasons, some mentioned by cirrus. Maybe somewhere in Russia or the former SSR's perhaps. Outside that I just don't see it.

Look, I love a trolleybus as much as any buff. The benefits are obvious regarding acceleration, noise, pollution, etc. The tickle in the belly from an arc at night off the contact wire is just as thrilling as a trolley. The romance associated with fixed guideway trolleybus is something that maybe we can't quite put out fingers on, but it's real just like it is with rail. BUT the realities of rapid advancement in both battery scale, power and range will make any new OCS systems about as unlikely as a return of Blockbuster Video. The real question that remains to be seen probably should be as battery buses became more practical and cheaper, will it lead to removal of fixed OCS guideways in favor of the freedom of route flexibility as regular buses have? Well obviously most reading this will yell I HOPE NOT!!! but who knows.

I think if agencies proposed removal to save on maintenance and asset cost, you'd have people coming out of the woodwork calling for their preservation but also quite a few residents saying they're in favor because "the lines are so ugly" and all that and the other. Who knows? I doubt we'd see something like that anytime soon, and hopefully not ever. There is one other non-transit trackless OCS application that is out there that may still have a future and that is in cargo trucks coming from the ports to inland areas that are responsible for gobs of particulate carbon pollution especially in valleys like Los Angeles. There was talk of this being a solution a few years ago, but I haven't heard anything else about it.
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  #4  
Old Posted Jun 4, 2019, 10:43 PM
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Shanghai has a few trolley bus lines, including one express bus line that was built rather recently. However, given the major swing toward battery electric buses in Shanghai / China, and the fact that even new trolley buses here have batteries for short sections of routes that don't have wires, I doubt they'll be expanding the use of trolley buses in the future.
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  #5  
Old Posted Jun 5, 2019, 1:19 AM
Myrtonos Myrtonos is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirrus View Post
Battery electric buses are now good enough for cities interested in electric buses to start buying; you don't have to anticipate improvements, they are already here. My own city has a growing fleet of them. Given that most city leaders view wires as a negative due to aesthetic opposition, the transit benefits of trolleybuses over battery buses aren't enough to outweigh the bad politics of building wires.
But in places where they reintroduce trams, they don't seem to have a problem with overhead wires above tram tracks. Actually, the improvements you mention have been there since the 1990s.

Overhead power is still used on most tram networks (newbuild as well as legacy) and new light rail installations.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Busy Bee View Post
Yeah, I just don't see a situation where an agency builds a ground up OCS trolleybus line again unless, maybe, and that's a very strong maybe, it's in a city where they already have trolleybuses and it's viewed as a modest expansion that shares some existing OCS segments and shares depots, maintenance facilities, etc etc. That said I don't see an American city doing that for a variety of reasons, some mentioned by cirrus. Maybe somewhere in Russia or the former SSR's perhaps. Outside that I just don't see it.
There have been a few new trolleybus power networks since, for example in Rome in 2005 and in the Southern Italian city of Lecce in 2012.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Busy Bee View Post
...the realities of rapid advancement in both battery scale, power and range will make any new OCS systems about as unlikely as a return of Blockbuster Video. The real question that remains to be seen probably should be as battery buses became more practical and cheaper, will it lead to removal of fixed OCS guideways in favor of the freedom of route flexibility as regular buses have? Well obviously most reading this will yell I HOPE NOT!!! but who knows.
I did say no anticipation of improvements in battery technology. As for video stores, just how unfortunate does it seem that so many disappeared so soon after the introduction of blu-ray?

In most cities that still have trolleybuses, there are no plans to remove the wires.

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Originally Posted by The Chemist View Post
Shanghai has a few trolley bus lines, including one express bus line that was built rather recently. However, given the major swing toward battery electric buses in Shanghai / China, and the fact that even new trolley buses here have batteries for short sections of routes that don't have wires, I doubt they'll be expanding the use of trolley buses in the future.
I'm pretty sure all new trolleybuses have some sort of auxiliary power unit, trolleybuses in Rome (mentioned above) use battery power centre of Rome.
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Old Posted Jun 5, 2019, 3:19 AM
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Lots of places that build tram lines face battles over overhead wires. It is a big issue in my city, and you see it all over. Wireless trams exist and are getting cheaper just like wireless e-buses. Bordeaux has them in Europe. Dallas has one in the US.

I'm very pro wire. I think if Rome and Vienna can have wires in front of the Colosseum and the Hapsburg Opera, no US city has any reasonable reason to not use them. And yet the reality is clear that given the choice, many would not.

This is a fact and we can't deny it.
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  #7  
Old Posted Jun 5, 2019, 4:42 AM
Myrtonos Myrtonos is offline
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The Bordeaux example has a street compatible form of third rail power on sections without wires. The particular system (Innorail/A.P.S) in Bordeaux would not work for buses, and even that system has some sections with overhead wires.
And indeed the systems with battery trams also have some electrified sections, so even these don't do without dynamic contact systems altogether.
If a light rail system or line is mostly off-street and street running sections are very short, and the vehicles are equipped with batteries, they could use battery power on street with off-street sections equipped with standard third-rails.

But any new trolleybus built these days would have auxiliary power units, these being important for temporary diversions. Trolleybus routes might not need to go through the most visually sensitive areas or if they need to go through them, run on battery power in those areas.
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Old Posted Jun 5, 2019, 10:52 AM
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  #9  
Old Posted Jun 6, 2019, 1:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirrus View Post
Lots of places that build tram lines face battles over overhead wires. It is a big issue in my city, and you see it all over. Wireless trams exist and are getting cheaper just like wireless e-buses. Bordeaux has them in Europe. Dallas has one in the US.

I'm very pro wire. I think if Rome and Vienna can have wires in front of the Colosseum and the Hapsburg Opera, no US city has any reasonable reason to not use them. And yet the reality is clear that given the choice, many would not.

This is a fact and we can't deny it.
Detroit and Milwaukee have wireless segments along parts of their streetcar lines as well. While there were overhead wire NIMBYs here (honestly the wires pretty much fade into the background anyway), the decision to go partially wireless in Milwaukee was more due to construction cost savings...less wire to string, fewer support poles needed, reduced the amount of underground utilities or hollow sidewalks to deal with.
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Old Posted Jun 6, 2019, 3:02 AM
Jalapeño Chips Jalapeño Chips is offline
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Trolley buses are great. They're faster, smoother riding and cost effective, not to mention the environmental benefits.

We have a large network here in Vancouver, and I don't see them being replaced anytime soon. battery operated buses are being tested here, but as far as I know, trolleys last a lot longer. They can be re-wired and easily renovated. Our last batch of trolleys lasted around two decades and are still running in Mendoza, Argentina.
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  #11  
Old Posted Jun 6, 2019, 8:31 AM
Myrtonos Myrtonos is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Markitect View Post
Detroit and Milwaukee have wireless segments along parts of their streetcar lines as well. While there were overhead wire NIMBYs here (honestly the wires pretty much fade into the background anyway), the decision to go partially wireless in Milwaukee was more due to construction cost savings...less wire to string, fewer support poles needed, reduced the amount of underground utilities or hollow sidewalks to deal with.
And does installing poles affect underground utilities and do hollow paths have something to do with it too?
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  #12  
Old Posted Jun 6, 2019, 12:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Myrtonos View Post
And does installing poles affect underground utilities and do hollow paths have something to do with it too?
Yes, because in some places underground utilities would have to be relocated and hollow sidewalks (where basements of adjacent buildings run underneath the walk) would have to be filled in order to dig the foundations that support the poles from which the wires are hung...which increases the time and cost to build the tram line. When you have a tram that can run on battery power (at least on part of the route) those issues can be avoided.

It is also useful when tram lines run across bridges. They do not have to be rebuilt or reinforced to support the extra weight that wire support poles would add. That's one ofthe reasons Dallas decided to use a tram vehicle with batteries; their tram line is routed over a historic bridge they did not want to alter with poles.
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Old Posted Jun 6, 2019, 2:52 PM
Myrtonos Myrtonos is offline
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Originally Posted by Markitect View Post
Yes, because in some places underground utilities would have to be relocated and hollow sidewalks (where basements of adjacent buildings run underneath the walk) would have to be filled in order to dig the foundations that support the poles from which the wires are hung...which increases the time and cost to build the tram line. When you have a tram that can run on battery power (at least on part of the route) those issues can be avoided.
I didn't realise that stringing wires could mean that much work. In many places poles are needed for lighting, and wires can just be supported for poles that are in place anyway. Or another way to avoid the same issue in some other places is to support the wires from buildings.
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Old Posted Jun 6, 2019, 3:22 PM
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I'm trying to imagine how that would work.

The building would need to have a sturdy place to mount the wire, and a willingness to grant access to a public agency for installation, maintenance, etc., with all the liabilities related to access and physical stresses that would mean (in the US). It sounds harder than a pole.

With an existing pole, same thing on a smaller scale, but with an added issue: many are designed for limited purposes, too weak for a big lateral force, lacking connection points, etc.

As for trolleys, they're useful in my city too. Very good on hills. But they fall off at junctions all the time.
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Old Posted Jun 6, 2019, 3:57 PM
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Trolley busses can’t pass each other.
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Old Posted Jun 6, 2019, 7:52 PM
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When they get detached from the wires they can really hold up traffic and passengers, it can be a quick enough fix but I've often seen them where they need to call in someone and it can take a lot longer to get them back up running throwing off schedules.
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  #17  
Old Posted Jun 7, 2019, 10:13 AM
Myrtonos Myrtonos is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M II A II R II K View Post
Trolley busses can’t pass each other.
If one pulls over and stops and stays, its poles can be lowered and other trolleybuses can indeed pass it.
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Old Posted Jun 8, 2019, 4:16 PM
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Trolley busses can’t pass each other.
Yes they can.

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  #19  
Old Posted Jun 8, 2019, 9:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mhays View Post
With an existing pole, same thing on a smaller scale, but with an added issue: many are designed for limited purposes, too weak for a big lateral force, lacking connection points, etc.
Utilities do not overbuild their transmission network. The poles are placed to meet what the projected load will be - just like every other engineering project in the world.
Once a Texas utility lost over 50 miles of a high voltage transmission line because one tornado destroyed one tower, and like dominoes the weight and tension of the electric cables pulled 50 miles of other towers down.

In some cases the regular electrical poles can handle the additional load of trolley wires, in some cases they will not. It all depends upon what was planned when the poles were installed, and if the transit agency was willing to help share the costs with the electric utility when they installed the poles to make them stronger.
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  #20  
Old Posted May 16, 2020, 3:50 PM
Myrtonos Myrtonos is offline
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One option is to string overhead wires wherever they can be supported from buildings and use battery power elsewhere.
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