The electric trolleybus became popular in the 1940's and 50's as many transit
systems converted from streetcars to trolleybuses. Many of these systems then
abandoned their trolleybus networks and converted to diesel bus operations in
the following three decades. Vancouver has been fortunate enough to have
retained its electric trolleybus network despite this trend. In fact,
representatives from several American transit systems have recently visited our
city to view trolleybuses in service. Today, 244 trolleys carry almost half of
all bus passengers (257,900 out of 561,000 daily riders) in the Vancouver
Regional Transit System.
The trolleybus has many advantages over buses using diesel or alternative
fuels such as natural gas, especially when effects on the environment are
considered. Modern trolleys are very energy efficient and draw current from
central power sources. The abundance of hydroelectric power in B.C. means
atmospheric pollution attributable to trolleys is negligible. In areas where
other power sources are used, economies of scale in efficiency and pollution
control of electric generating stations mean trolleys are still significantly
cleaner than natural gas or methanol powered buses.
Passengers and neighbours alike benefit from trolley operation. The vehicles
are exceptionally quiet and smooth and so provide an excellent ride with very
little noise pollution. This attracts passengers. In San Francisco, ridership on
routes converted from diesel to trolley operation increased 10 - 18%. When a
couple of routes were operated temporarily with diesels, ridership dropped 10%!
The transit operating agency also benefits from trolleys since their performance
is very good, especially on hills, with rapid acceleration and low maintenance
costs. While some may consider the overhead wiring required by the trolleybus to
be intrusive, it actually helps to draw riders by giving transit a permanent
presence on the street.
Transport Action B.C. would like to see an enlarged network, improved service
and more vehicles for this environmentally friendly, high performance mode in