The demise of the inter urban trolley

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jis

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One could always go with the more expensive solution (utilized by NYC and Washington DC - and possibly other cities - many moons ago, and more recently, in France - too lazy to look up which city) and have underground current pickup systems.
If one spends the money then might as well go with inductive pickup these days eliminating physical contact gear.
 
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cirdan

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I think the ugliness of overhead lines is an often overstated argument. There are examples of very minimalist overhead that can be very elegant. Another alternative is to have trees. For example the Charles St Line in NOL is hidden under a tree canopy in many locations meaning you really can't see the overhead if you don't specifically look for it.

In my opinion things like batteries and ground contact are often introduced by opponents of the system in the hope that escalating the costs while pretending to be a supporter is the best way to wreck a project.
 

Green Maned Lion

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Perhaps as we move to battery operated buses we wlll see a revival of street cars operated with batteries which avoid the cost of installing and maintaining an overhead trolley wire.
My opinion, based on observation, however unpopular with railfans, is that street-running rail vehicles that mix with traffic are functionally inferior to electric busses with at least backup battery capability. If a bus can go off wire even short distances, it can bypass a closed route; if it can’t go off wire the trolley poll can usually still provide enough latitude to allow it to pass a disabled vehicle or other blockage. One disabled vehicle (rail or car) on a rail route shuts down the entire system in that direction until it is cleared; this does not happen with a bus.

These disadvantages apply to all single-track and to some extent double track rail systems, but in the case of mixed traffic use, the rail provides very little advantage (larger vehicle size and slightly higher mechanical efficiency due to lower rolling resistance are the only ones I can think of). I am a fan of light rail systems that primarily or entirely operate on their own rights of way, and I think that if a substantial amount of the system is thus laid out, light rail is better than BRT. But I am not at all a fan of “street cars”. Busses simply work better operationally in that scenario.

I am aware of two operational interurbans in the US- the Trenton-Camden RiverLine and the Philadelphia-Norristown Norristown High Speed Line, although the former is a diesel operation. There could be others that qualify; the distinction is that they provide transit both within and between at least two places of substantial population. A commuter system only provides transit within one or less substantial area of population density on its route; a trolley/light rail provides service only within an area of substantial population density.
 

west point

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Dropping poles and raising them sounds good in theory but -------- Who lowers and raises them? I can think of possible designs to lower them. However, remember the need for quick retract systems to prevent poles from rising into electrical wires. Each time a quick retract activates the driver has to go out and rewind the retract spring then re attaches the trolly slide onto the contact wire. Combining pole tension on the contact wire, quick retract, and the lowering and raising systems that are at odds with each other will be a designers and equipment nightmare.

Multiply that with 2 contact wire systems just doubles the effort. So, IMO trolly pole systems are not really an option. will post later about PAN type systems.
 

jis

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Dropping poles and raising them sounds good in theory but -------- Who lowers and raises them? I can think of possible designs to lower them. However, remember the need for quick retract systems to prevent poles from rising into electrical wires. Each time a quick retract activates the driver has to go out and rewind the retract spring then re attaches the trolly slide onto the contact wire. Combining pole tension on the contact wire, quick retract, and the lowering and raising systems that are at odds with each other will be a designers and equipment nightmare.

Multiply that with 2 contact wire systems just doubles the effort. So, IMO trolly pole systems are not really an option. will post later about PAN type systems.
On LRTs they drop and raise pans for various reasons as do mainline and heavy rail trains. Poles are tough. I don't think there are too many examples of remotely operated pole raising. though there are a few involving elaborate Rube Goldberg contraptions.
 
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Dropping poles and raising them sounds good in theory but -------- Who lowers and raises them? I can think of possible designs to lower them. However, remember the need for quick retract systems to prevent poles from rising into electrical wires. Each time a quick retract activates the driver has to go out and rewind the retract spring then re attaches the trolly slide onto the contact wire. Combining pole tension on the contact wire, quick retract, and the lowering and raising systems that are at odds with each other will be a designers and equipment nightmare.

Multiply that with 2 contact wire systems just doubles the effort. So, IMO trolly pole systems are not really an option. will post later about PAN type systems.
All of the new light rail and streetcars I've seen use pantographs, not poles. Even the SEPTA suburban trolleys, serving 69th St. and Media/Sharon Hill, which went into service over 100 years ago, use pantographs.
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I am aware of two operational interurbans in the US- the Trenton-Camden RiverLine and the Philadelphia-Norristown Norristown High Speed Line, although the former is a diesel operation. There could be others that qualify; the distinction is that they provide transit both within and between at least two places of substantial population. A commuter system only provides transit within one or less substantial area of population density on its route; a trolley/light rail provides service only within an area of substantial population density.
What about the South Shore Line? I would think that's the last remaining true interurban by your definition. The Norristown High Speed Line is a unique operation that can't be buttonholed, but its two terminals are both part of the greater Philadelphia area, as is the Trenton-Camden River Line. So the South Shore Line might be the only real interurban left by your definition. Of course, some might call it "commuter rail," as its equipment is fully compatible with the Metra Electric lines.
 

neroden

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And then there's whatever-the-heck the Boston Green Line is -- it certainly has aspects of most classifications of passenger rail.
 

Willbridge

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And then there's whatever-the-heck the Boston Green Line is -- it certainly has aspects of most classifications of passenger rail.
The Green Line is often classed as Light Rail. Its operating manual was used as the basis for Edmonton's, which has then been used as the basis for other LRT lines. The South Shore is often classed as Commuter Rail to avoid having the additional interurban category.

The Seattle Tunnel buses had self-raising and lowering trolley poles, although they could be quirky. I was there for the last scheduled run. It was on a low ridership trip and the regular commuters were mystified by all the fuss. As the photos show, the poles missed the last rise and needed the operator to do it the old way.

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Willbridge

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My opinion, based on observation, however unpopular with railfans, is that street-running rail vehicles that mix with traffic are functionally inferior to electric busses with at least backup battery capability. If a bus can go off wire even short distances, it can bypass a closed route; if it can’t go off wire the trolley poll can usually still provide enough latitude to allow it to pass a disabled vehicle or other blockage. One disabled vehicle (rail or car) on a rail route shuts down the entire system in that direction until it is cleared; this does not happen with a bus.

These disadvantages apply to all single-track and to some extent double track rail systems, but in the case of mixed traffic use, the rail provides very little advantage (larger vehicle size and slightly higher mechanical efficiency due to lower rolling resistance are the only ones I can think of). I am a fan of light rail systems that primarily or entirely operate on their own rights of way, and I think that if a substantial amount of the system is thus laid out, light rail is better than BRT. But I am not at all a fan of “street cars”. Busses simply work better operationally in that scenario.

I am aware of two operational interurbans in the US- the Trenton-Camden RiverLine and the Philadelphia-Norristown Norristown High Speed Line, although the former is a diesel operation. There could be others that qualify; the distinction is that they provide transit both within and between at least two places of substantial population. A commuter system only provides transit within one or less substantial area of population density on its route; a trolley/light rail provides service only within an area of substantial population density.
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daybeers

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And then there's whatever-the-heck the Boston Green Line is -- it certainly has aspects of most classifications of passenger rail.
Bad is what it is...

Even recently constructed fully underground subways have been tending to go with overhead power.
 

toddinde

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My opinion, based on observation, however unpopular with railfans, is that street-running rail vehicles that mix with traffic are functionally inferior to electric busses with at least backup battery capability. If a bus can go off wire even short distances, it can bypass a closed route; if it can’t go off wire the trolley poll can usually still provide enough latitude to allow it to pass a disabled vehicle or other blockage. One disabled vehicle (rail or car) on a rail route shuts down the entire system in that direction until it is cleared; this does not happen with a bus.

These disadvantages apply to all single-track and to some extent double track rail systems, but in the case of mixed traffic use, the rail provides very little advantage (larger vehicle size and slightly higher mechanical efficiency due to lower rolling resistance are the only ones I can think of). I am a fan of light rail systems that primarily or entirely operate on their own rights of way, and I think that if a substantial amount of the system is thus laid out, light rail is better than BRT. But I am not at all a fan of “street cars”. Busses simply work better operationally in that scenario.

I am aware of two operational interurbans in the US- the Trenton-Camden RiverLine and the Philadelphia-Norristown Norristown High Speed Line, although the former is a diesel operation. There could be others that qualify; the distinction is that they provide transit both within and between at least two places of substantial population. A commuter system only provides transit within one or less substantial area of population density on its route; a trolley/light rail provides service only within an area of substantial population density.
One thing defeating about bus rapid transit is that it doesn’t attract the real estate development that light rail does. The fear is the bus can be easily rerouted or discontinued. Another problem in busy routes is that BRT doesn’t have the capacity of rail. Finally, the cost to build BRT is really not that much less than light rail. As a transit guy, BRT is better than nothing or just conventional bus. One would hope that BRT can lead to light rail and/or that planners would choose the right application for the right market.
 

John from RI

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I am a layman but from my layman's point of view here are a couple of observations.
1. A real advantage of rail transit is that for guys like me who never drove to work was I could always depend on it. Yes, a problem could shut down the system but that problem would be be corrected. With a bus New Jersey Transit can abandon part of a bus route by simply giving 30 days notice. Then bus riders have to scramble to find another bus. If that is even possible. That happened to me a few times. For example, I lived in Waldwick, NJ and got a bus on the corner to ride to my job in Paterson. Then NJT abandoned the route beyond Ridgewood. I was lucky. I would walk a mile to the train station.

2. The advantage of a battery operated bus or streetcar, from what I read, is that the overhead wire is expensive to install and to maintain. Batteries don't need an overhead wire or need them only for short distances.
 

Willbridge

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I am a layman but from my layman's point of view here are a couple of observations.
1. A real advantage of rail transit is that for guys like me who never drove to work was I could always depend on it. Yes, a problem could shut down the system but that problem would be be corrected. With a bus New Jersey Transit can abandon part of a bus route by simply giving 30 days notice. Then bus riders have to scramble to find another bus. If that is even possible. That happened to me a few times. For example, I lived in Waldwick, NJ and got a bus on the corner to ride to my job in Paterson. Then NJT abandoned the route beyond Ridgewood. I was lucky. I would walk a mile to the train station.

2. The advantage of a battery operated bus or streetcar, from what I read, is that the overhead wire is expensive to install and to maintain. Batteries don't need an overhead wire or need them only for short distances.
I agree. The problem with batteries -- having worked in scheduling with battery buses -- is range. A lot of work has and is being done on that problem, but a clue that it has not been completely resolved is that the leading providers of scheduling software have added a battery bus option that also feeds data to the dispatch system. The same issues would apply to a streetcar.

In a big network a bus or tram might be an hour away from the garage/carbarn. Say it has a burned-out taillight. Another bus on the route might be due to pull in, so the dispatcher has the idea of swapping buses. The first bus was scheduled to have enough juice for the scheduled run, but what if the changeover keeps a replacement bus out past its battery capacity?

Tight-fisted Rose City Transit Co. used to keep GMC New Looks on runs that lasted 26 hours. They stopped doing that because the bus got so dirty and there were two "Train 1's" on the road at the same time, but it was feasible technically.

Similarly, trolley buses, trams, LRV's are limited by issues like cleaning, inspections, or train number logic problems rather than by power.

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neroden

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The Green Line is often classed as Light Rail. Its operating manual was used as the basis for Edmonton's, which has then been used as the basis for other LRT lines.
So, due to its history, the Boston Green Line:
-- has a street-running streetcar segment shared with traffic (the E branch) (plus several other non-revenue street-running tracks)
-- has substantial street-median sections derived from old streetcar exclusive ROW, with streetcar-type station spacing (these are the B and C branches)
-- has a branch with much longer station spacing which was converted from a former mainline railway and its former suburban stations... which were originally stations in entirely separate cities before the metropolitan area engulfed them, so it's arguably an interurban route (this is the D branch)
-- has the first subway tunnel and subway station in the United States (in downtown Boston)
-- has a substantial elevated section (on the bridge to Cambridge and the new construction there)
-- has two new branches which are grade-separated, next to old railroad mainlines, with urban-rail type station spacing (the GLX extension project)
-- has sections run on line-of-sight like buses (though this is going to change)
-- has sections run on full signalling

So it's got everything: streetcar, interurban, subway, elevated, depends on which part of the system you're on. You're right that when the LRT term was introduced, it was meant to describe this level of flexibility; I guess the Green Line really was the model for LRT.
 

Green Maned Lion

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One thing defeating about bus rapid transit is that it doesn’t attract the real estate development that light rail does. The fear is the bus can be easily rerouted or discontinued. Another problem in busy routes is that BRT doesn’t have the capacity of rail. Finally, the cost to build BRT is really not that much less than light rail. As a transit guy, BRT is better than nothing or just conventional bus. One would hope that BRT can lead to light rail and/or that planners would choose the right application for the right market.
I am not a fan of BRT; I am also not a fan of spurring real estate development, however.
 
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I guess the Green Line really was the model for LRT.
The D - Riverside line built in 1958 on a former Boston and Albany commuter railroad line, is often considered the first modern Light Rail line in North America, and a pioneer of the concept of using former railroad rights of way for light rail lines. Although ironically the first such conversion was elsewhere in Boston, when the NHRR Shawmut and Milton branches were converted to rapid transit and high speed trolley lines respectively in 1928, what is today the Red Line.
 
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