The following is a guest post by John Bollwitt
I’m hardly an expert on the subject of Electric Trolleybuses in Vancouver but do take my fair share of them in my commute to and from work, not to mention the post I made about not owning a car on my personal site.
To me, I love the concept that comes with this form of mass transit, especially in these days of high gas prices. The technology is fairly simple and clean, so it feels good on a personal level when you cram yourself into a jam packed, sardine can of a trolleybus in the morning.
A trolleybus (also known as trolley bus, trolley coach, trackless trolley, trackless tram or simply trolley) is an electric bus powered by two overhead wires, from which it draws electricity using two trolley poles. Two poles are required in order to accommodate the return current, which cannot pass to the ground as in the case of an electric tram (also called a streetcar) since trolleybuses use rubber tires (which act as electrical insulators), rather than electrically conductive steel wheels on rail. There are trolleybuses in many cities around the world. [wikipedia]
Even though these machines are great on the environment, you have to be flexible on their reliability and your schedule. And while you’re on one some of these buses, especially the newer ones, you have to be on your guard when you are in a standing room only situation. I haven’t quite figured out the momentary lurching that happens from time to time, but there have been a fair amount of people who have hit the deck pretty hard when it happens. Saving the environment is great, falling on your face while doing it isn’t, and I’m lucky to not have that happen, knock on wood.
Vancouver is in the midst of phasing out their older buses, replacing many of them with a third generation fleet of trolleybuses. I’ve had my share of rides on them, and they are pretty nice. Still, some of the seating configurations seem a tad odd in terms of seat placements as well as what feels like less space, but it could all be an optical illusion.
Something that is becoming a standard across the entire fleet of buses in Vancouver is GPS tracking and a computerized voice that tells you what street or cross street you are on. There are even some that tell you nice pleasantries, but I’m waiting for the day where it starts telling you the current weather conditions.
When it comes down to it though, nothing can beat the bus drivers themselves, and there are some that are absolutely hilarious. Some point out funny things around you, give various historical lessons, or those that use the opportunity to practice their best stadium announcer voice like they are calling out the starting line for a hockey game at GM Place.
Ah the beloved electric trolleybus. A Vancouver staple.