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C200: A High-Performing Trolley Network for Seattle

2011 March 24
by Tom Rasmussen

< Eletric trolley bus in Lyon, France >

Spokane is planning a “high performance transit service” that will connect major activity centers within the central city.  On Friday March 18, I met a delegation of Spokane government and business leaders who have narrowed the choice of vehicles to electric trolley busses (ETB), street cars or a rapid ride bus service. They were in Seattle to learn more about our version of the alternatives and to experience a ride on each.

Metro is assessing whether to order more ETB’s or to scrap the system. I am working to keep and expand our electric trolley bus system, eventually into the kind of in-city high performance network Spokane is looking at, with many of the ease of use, speed and reliability benefits of Sound Transit’s Link or Metro’s RapidRide.

One of the disadvantages of ETB’s is that the purchase price is more than diesel or diesel-hybrid buses. However, I believe that their power on hills and the environmental benefits outweigh the higher up-front cost. With the price of fossil fuels continuing to increase, electric vehicles fueled with carbon-free City Light electricity will be cheaper to operate over the long run.

By working with cities like Spokane who are also considering ETB purchases, we can get the price down and pursue more modern European style designs, as seen in the photo above, taken in Lyon, France. Just as Portland has done with streetcars, we may even be able to lure a manufacturer to build assemble new ETB’s right here in Seattle.


Tom Rasmussen is a Seattle City Councilmember.