Future of Rts 59, 66 and 75

Discussion relating to Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (Philadelphia Metro Area). Official web site can be found here: www.septa.com. Also including discussion related to the PATCO Speedline rapid transit operated by Delaware River Port Authority. Official web site can be found here: http://www.ridepatco.org/.

Moderator: AlexC

mm670
Posts: 7
Joined: Sun May 14, 2017 4:30 pm

Future of Rts 59, 66 and 75

Post by mm670 » Fri Jun 14, 2019 8:34 pm

What does the future hold for the routes 59, 66 and 75 trackless trolleys? SEPTA has placed in service 22 new electric 40 foot buses from Proterra Catalyst, with 3 more to join shortly, see https://www.inquirer.com/news/electric- ... 90610.html . Ten more are on order for 2021 for Midvale / North Philadelphia. Also see, https://whyy.org/articles/septa-goes-el ... ery-buses/ and https://www.phillyvoice.com/septa-25-el ... lly-route/ . The electric buses will be operating on Southern District / South Philadelphia routes 29 (Tasker / Morris) and 79 Snyder), both previously trackless trolley routes. The suspension of trackless trolley service on both routes was in 2003. The present 38 trackless trolleys on routes 59, 66 and 75 New Flyer models purchased in 2007 / 2008. Will the new electric bus downside (reliability, cost [$1,000,000 each], battery charging capacity) ensure the trackless trolley future? Will there be replacements for the New Flyer’s in the 2027 time period? Could the electric buses also take over the current trolley routes (10, 11, 13, 15, 34, 36, 101, 102)?

JeffK
Posts: 1625
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 10:05 pm
Location: Western suburbs

Re: Future of Rts 59, 66 and 75

Post by JeffK » Sat Jun 15, 2019 2:38 pm

Some rather naïve musings (as opposed to direct knowledge):

- It's probably too early to make specific predictions. From SEPTA's viewpoint the Proterras are experimental so I wouldn't expect a firm thumbs up/down till they've been in service for a few seasons. As the stories note, they need to get some real-world, real-weather operations under their belts. That said, it seems that absent some chemical or physical roadblock, battery technology will continue to improve gradually for the foreseeable future. There may not be a huge breakthrough but incremental advances keep making storage more and more viable. E.g. I didn't expect to see serious electric car production in my lifetime, but we're already turning that corner.

- Assuming those improvements continue, my personal guess is that traditional wired trolleybuses may be on their way out in many but not all situations. That assumes of course the costs of charger infrastructure are at least competitive with traditional overhead, a calculation I'll leave to people far more qualified than I am. In fact, if transit agencies continue to move away from fossil fuels I can see battery buses possibly replacing diesel and hybrid vehicles more widely. That might significantly blur the "buses here, trackless trolleys there" dichotomy that currently exists, a bit like how phones, tablets, and other computing devices are now no longer siloed.

- Perhaps it's my prejudice towards rail, but I'm less convinced that battery-powered buses will replace light-rail operations, especially where the routes are grade-separated. From an infrastructure standpoint blacktop is probably cheaper than steel rails. OTOH steel wheels on steel rails have a lot less friction which allows greater acceleration and faster overall travel. In addition I'm not sure that any system regularly MU's trolleybuses which limits their ability to carry large numbers of passengers. There's also the psychological factor that (at least anecdotally) indicates riders have a preference for rail vehicles over buses or bus-like transport where routes overlap or co-run. Those factors would argue in favor of retaining the NHSL and 101/102 routes as classic rail operations. However I'm not willing to make any predictions regarding the subway-surface routes that are more surface than subway.

Again, these are nothing but opinions based only on my reading of numerous articles in both the popular and industry press rather than any advanced analysis.
Requiem for it's/its, your/you're, than/then, less/fewer. They were once such nice words with such different meanings...

ExCon90
Posts: 4497
Joined: Thu Sep 18, 2008 1:22 pm

Re: Future of Rts 59, 66 and 75

Post by ExCon90 » Sun Jun 16, 2019 3:05 pm

I think tunnel clearances would rule out conversion of the subway-surface lines--they're tight enough for fixed-guideway operation as it is, and any vehicle that has to be manually steered isn't going to clear. Public Service found a similar situation in Newark when they looked at converting the City Subway to trackless: buses couldn't clear. For the 101 and 102, there is no equivalent street route available, as is demonstrated whenever they have to substitute buses for track or overhead work. Any conversion would have to involve paving the existing row, Ardmore style. Probably not worth the cost considering what's there now.

JeffK
Posts: 1625
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 10:05 pm
Location: Western suburbs

Re: Future of Rts 59, 66 and 75

Post by JeffK » Mon Jun 17, 2019 11:23 am

Not only is there the cost of conversion, there may be legal issues involved. I don’t know about the 101 and 102, but one of the NHSL people told me that after the Brill cars failed SEPTA looked into paving the ROW à la Ardmore. However they found that not only were various federal (and possibly state) grants contingent on maintaining rail operations, some had clawback provisions in the event that the line was converted or abandoned. Of course that was a long time ago under UMTA, but I’m sure that even in today’s political climate fpublic opposition to bustitution - at least among riders - would be intense.

FWIW Ardmore rail service ended primarily due to a combination of a car shortage and Red Arrow's perilous financial condition. Reportedly they'd found a few second-hand cars that could have kept rail service going, but couldn’t raise the half-million dollars (OK, in 1966 bucks) needed to buy and rehab them. For want of a nail ...
Requiem for it's/its, your/you're, than/then, less/fewer. They were once such nice words with such different meanings...

Quinn
Posts: 340
Joined: Sun Nov 09, 2008 1:49 pm

Re: Future of Rts 59, 66 and 75

Post by Quinn » Mon Jun 17, 2019 12:02 pm

I can't recall if I read, or someone in Clifton Heights (I'm a former resident) told me, that if the rails were pulled from the 102 ROW in the borough, SEPTA would lose the rights.

mcgrath618
Posts: 452
Joined: Tue Jan 31, 2017 12:11 pm

Re: Future of Rts 59, 66 and 75

Post by mcgrath618 » Mon Jun 17, 2019 12:30 pm

JeffK wrote:
Mon Jun 17, 2019 11:23 am
Not only is there the cost of conversion, there may be legal issues involved. I don’t know about the 101 and 102, but one of the NHSL people told me that after the Brill cars failed SEPTA looked into paving the ROW à la Ardmore. However they found that not only were various federal (and possibly state) grants contingent on maintaining rail operations, some had clawback provisions in the event that the line was converted or abandoned. Of course that was a long time ago under UMTA, but I’m sure that even in today’s political climate fpublic opposition to bustitution - at least among riders - would be intense.

FWIW Ardmore rail service ended primarily due to a combination of a car shortage and Red Arrow's perilous financial condition. Reportedly they'd found a few second-hand cars that could have kept rail service going, but couldn’t raise the half-million dollars (OK, in 1966 bucks) needed to buy and rehab them. For want of a nail ...
Ardmore service wouldn't do very well today, considering that everyone who wants to get to Ardmore from the city is taking RR. It'd be nice to have for Havertown residents but that's about it.

rcthompson04
Posts: 309
Joined: Mon Feb 25, 2019 8:32 am

Re: Future of Rts 59, 66 and 75

Post by rcthompson04 » Mon Jun 17, 2019 1:37 pm

mcgrath618 wrote:
Mon Jun 17, 2019 12:30 pm
Ardmore service wouldn't do very well today, considering that everyone who wants to get to Ardmore from the city is taking RR. It'd be nice to have for Havertown residents but that's about it.
I wonder why SEPTA has even kept maintaining the separate right-of-way for the 103.

JeffK
Posts: 1625
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 10:05 pm
Location: Western suburbs

Re: Future of Rts 59, 66 and 75

Post by JeffK » Mon Jun 17, 2019 3:03 pm

Quinn wrote:
Mon Jun 17, 2019 12:02 pm
I can't recall if I read, or someone in Clifton Heights (I'm a former resident) told me, that if the rails were pulled from the 102 ROW in the borough, SEPTA would lose the rights.
I’ve heard the same thing from other sources. Of course having two sources doesn’t guarantee accuracy but it does make it more likely :)

It also jibes obliquely with that NHSL conversation I had back in the late 80s. The person I spoke with said that if the line were to be "de-railed" (to make up a new word) SEPTA could be potentially liable for clawbacks of anything and everything that grant money was used for, "down to spikes and fishplates" as he put it.
Requiem for it's/its, your/you're, than/then, less/fewer. They were once such nice words with such different meanings...

rcthompson04
Posts: 309
Joined: Mon Feb 25, 2019 8:32 am

Re: Future of Rts 59, 66 and 75

Post by rcthompson04 » Tue Jun 18, 2019 8:03 pm

JeffK wrote:
Mon Jun 17, 2019 3:03 pm
Quinn wrote:
Mon Jun 17, 2019 12:02 pm
I can't recall if I read, or someone in Clifton Heights (I'm a former resident) told me, that if the rails were pulled from the 102 ROW in the borough, SEPTA would lose the rights.
I’ve heard the same thing from other sources. Of course having two sources doesn’t guarantee accuracy but it does make it more likely :)

It also jibes obliquely with that NHSL conversation I had back in the late 80s. The person I spoke with said that if the line were to be "de-railed" (to make up a new word) SEPTA could be potentially liable for clawbacks of anything and everything that grant money was used for, "down to spikes and fishplates" as he put it.
A similar logic applies to removing the unused trolly tracks on some streets. If SEPTA would remove them, SEPTA would be responsible for restoring the right of way, which is more expensive than maintaining the unused status quo.

Return to “SEPTA (and PATCO)”