A $200 million, multi-year plan to replace King County’s aging electric trolley bus fleet will pay off in 2015 as new vehicles roll out for the first time, Metro announced as it begins testing prototypes on the streets of Seattle:
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.
The county began making plans to spend the millions necessary to replace the more than 25-year-old fleet of nearly 160 buses in 2011. In the meantime, Metro worked to test possible replacements and work out a deal to purchase the new trolleys. According to the county, Metro teamed up with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority (SFMTA) to purchase the replacement coaches under the same contract — “a move that ensures both Metro and SFMTA get highly competitive pricing.” The county says $138 million in federal grants are part of the final price tag.
The fleet was originally due for replacement starting this year. Metro’s announcement on the new test runs did not include an explanation of the delayed rollout.
While achieving and surpassing many of the emission goals of the old fleet, the new buses will also have some new features:
- 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.
The late 2015 start of deployment for the new fleet will coincide with Seattle’s new Transportation Benefits District and the rollout of restored and enhanced service on many of the city’s key Metro routes.