Trolley buses are buses that are powered by electricity, which is provided by two overhead wires (one for power and the other one for grounding electricity). Voltage is the same as the light rail trains (600 to 750 Watts) so the light rail and trolley buses can run along the same route. Modern trolley buses are equipped with auxiliary power units that allows off wire travel for a short distance. While connected to the overhead wires they can move 15 feet away from the centerline to bypass any obstacles such as parked vehicles, street construction, et cetera. A trolley bus can be either 40 feet or 60 feet long.
Advantages and disadvantages of trolley buses
Trolley buses have lots of advantages, they are the only vehicle buses that meet the Clear Air Act (1998) as they produce zero in-street emissions. They also offer quieter operation than diesel buses. Hamilton Street Railway discovered that trolley bus produces less acceleration noise than a Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) or a diesel bus by 35%. Methanol and natural gas buses are a relatively new technology and have not been proven due to low mileage. Trolley buses also have lower maintenance cost than the diesel buses because they don’t have a transmission, exhaust system and fuel system which accounted for 30 to 40 percent of the maintenance cost. A study showed level of ridership increase after the route was converted from diesel to trolley bus line. The trolley buses have better hill-climbing abilities than other transit vehicles. The estimated life-span of a trolleybus is 15 years as opposed to 12 years for a diesel hybrid.
Trolley buses have numerous disadvantages as well. They have a higher cost per vehicle than diesel buses with a 40 foot trolley bus costing $400,000 where as a diesel bus costs $210,000, a methanol bus cost $340,000 and a CNG bus cost $225,000. Trolley buses require an infrastructure system including overhead wires, poles and power substations. Converting a diesel bus route to a trolley bus route cost $2 million per mile. Retrofitting the existing diesel buses to reduce emission only cost $80,000 per bus. Trolley buses are criticized for destroying neighbourhood’s visual amenity because they require an overhead wire system which is visible.
- 280T 1975-1989
- New Flyer E40LF (2005)
- New Flyer E40LFR (2005-present)
- New Flyer E60 (1993-1994)
- New Flyer E60LFR (2007-present)
Agencies using trolley buses
- Coast Mountain Bus Company - Vancouver, BC (?-present)
(This list is incomplete)
- MUNI - San Francisco, CA (?-present)
The Trolley buses by Rafter David O.
Trolley Coaches Summary Report #2 by Toronto Transit Commission