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FWIW, a few years ago, the Swiss city of Lausanne (which has grades comparable to Seattle, if not steeper) was seriously considering terminating the trolleybus operation. Despite considerable "support" from Mercedes Benz, they stayed with trolleybusses and acquired the already mentioned Swisstrolley 3 (carbody made by Hess, electrical equipment made by Kiepe). ... and there are no MB busses on the network at all...
Toggle Commented May 11, 2010 on seattle: the end of trolleybuses? at Human Transit
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To Eric Doherty: Please forgive my nitpicking, but the first double articulated trolley bus in Switzerland were introduced in Genève, and it was one of those Genève busses visiting Zürich which led the VBZ (City of Zürich Transit Authority) to order 15 of those 25 m vehicles. They do indeed have two driven axles, and theyy also have a lot in common with the normal articulated Swisstrolley 3 (such as the electric equipment, including the motors). That said, compared to the normal articulated vehicles, they are slightly underpowered (but still, with 320 kW nominal at the tyres, pretty well powered). I also have seen double articulated diesel busses in the netherlands. I don't however have any further technical details.
Toggle Commented May 10, 2010 on seattle: the end of trolleybuses? at Human Transit
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As "anonymous" stated, the Swiss city of Fribourg has bimode busses. Actually, they now have them in the second generation, so, they seem to be happy with them. The issue with any kind of bimode bus is that they are heavier than a single mode (diesel or trolley) bus, and it is in particular the internal combustion mode performance which suffers. All modern (articulated) trolleybusses do have an auxilliary power unit (normally a generator attached to stadard diesel motor, found in automobiles; the one used in most Swiss trolleybusses comes from Volkswagen). That gives enough power to move the bus around obstacles, or between two stops, if it is not too steep. According to the vehicle description of the Verkehrsbetriebe Zürich, the auxiliary power unit of the new Swisstrolley 3 has an electric power rating of 50kW (compared to the traction motor power rating of 2 times 160 kW (yes, these articulated trolley buses have two of their 3 axles driven). To Wayne: Dornier has a trolley pole attachment with actuator, which allows to raise and lower the poles without the operator having to go outside of the vehicle. At the raising place, two guiding boards, about 1.5 meter long are mounted at the side of the wires. The Swiss city of Winterthur is using them in regular operation, and the Swiss city of Zürich had this system for a few years when there was serious street construction going on, and the trolley bus had to be rerouted (see also above). to EngineerScotty: Trolley buses are considered to be at a higher line capacity than diesel busses. Most trolley busses in Switzerland are articulated, either around 18 m long with three axles and one articulation, or around 25 m long with four axles and two articulations. The few "standard" trolley busses are operated with a dedicated low-floor trailer (such as in Zug or Lausanne). So, even on "flat" lines, the line capacity is a good 30 or more percent bigger than with diesel busses (or you can use fewer vehicles for the same transportation capacity). Trolleybusses are also considered as a low-cost version of a streetcar. The overhead equipment is, agreed, a bit more expensive than an elastic streetcar-style catenary, but there is no need for tracks etc. But it does occasionally happen that the trolleybus line will eventually get replaced with a streetcar/light rail line; the substations are already there, and in many cases, the right of way is already reserved due to the reserved bus lane. When it comes to reliability; it is pretty good, and derailments of the pickup shoes happen but not too often. Keep in mind that most trolley busses are not operating faster than 60 km/h. In Switzerland, the maximum allowed grade for new lines is 7%; for short stretches, maybe up to 8%, an exemption can be received. The maximum grade I am aware of of a streetcar line is in the German city of Würzburg, where it reaches 10.5% over a short stretch. Therefore, your second question can be answered with "no". If the grade has to get higher, and you will want to be on rails, you will have to switch to a cog-railway system. In an urban environment, such a beasts exists in the German city of Stuttgart (Degerloch), which gets up to 18%.
Toggle Commented May 10, 2010 on seattle: the end of trolleybuses? at Human Transit
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May 10, 2010