Friday, June 20, 2008

Trolleybusses - End of the Line in Edmonton

I personally think trolleybusses are on the verge of a huge renaissance. As the world runs out of oil, fuel costs for diesel busses are going to start exceeding the costs of building and maintaining overhead wires (assuming there isn't some sudden increase in the efficiency of batteries or practicality of fuel cells).

So it's ironic that the city of Edmonton, Alberta, is choosing this particular moment to junk their trolleybus system. The transit agency claims the wires need renewal, at a cost of $100 million, which is money that could be better spend on light rail projects (but there are no actual promises to actually spend $100 million on light rail). They also claim that new hybrid diesel busses provide the same ecological benefit as trolleybusses, which is a stretch.

Another advantage of trolleybusses not often discussed is psychological--I think ETB's have a light version of "magic" that attracts people to streetcars--the fact that money has been invested in obvious infrastructure makes the line feel important and permanent, and somehow more attractive than "just a regular old bus".

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