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Passing wire

December 15, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

Potential for Passing Wire

The default option for most (all?) trolley bus zones is for the front coach to block coaches behind them.


It has been a while since I’ve driven Metro’s trolleys. (I love driving trolleys, but for a Part-Timer there isn’t much variety in the work available at Atlantic base so I tend to pick work elsewhere.) Our trolley system has been around a long time and functions well, especially when you consider how old it is. That said, there is one design choice I’ve always wanted to change – The pull-out wire in the busier bus zones.

In this picture, there are 3 trolleys. The 1st coach has just finished loading a wheelchair and has been blocking the other two from proceeding for several minutes. (I first noticed these coaches while walking Northbound on 3rd Ave a block from where I took this picture). This scenario occurs often because you don’t always know to use the pull out wire. If there is a passenger who needs the lift hidden in a crowd waiting at the zone or on your bus who doesn’t let you know they need the lift early enough, for example. In these instances, your poles track to the outside position, thus blocking all of the trolleys behind you. (And, in this case, any diesel coaches that need to service the zone because it is full of trolleys).

I’ve long felt that a better option would be to reverse the pull-out wires. If the default behavior is to be on the inside track, then coaches behind you still have the option of passing if you need to use the lift. (We communicate delays downtown by turning on our 4-way flashers. Drivers to the rear can also see the lift coming out and generally know whether they will be able to pass or not) This system would require training and wouldn’t be perfect but on balance, it would leave open the possibility for trolleys to the rear to pass the lead trolley – the current system only allows passing if the lead trolley driver knows in advance that they will be delayed.

Two zones come to mind as ideal candidates for a trial: Jackson & 5th/4th and 3rd & Pike. I’m sure there are many others but I recall these zones as having the most issues with coaches blocking.

Has this been tried before? Do other drivers/supervisors out there think this is a good idea?

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  1. December 15, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    Well two things…..it is passing wire….. if your route continues either past the zone and/or the coach on the passing wire continues to a point where they turn left….. all that was considered and why most of these conditions rely on a foslaben (sp?) switch the route operator activates either manually or by turn signal. If you look “globally” you should see that passing wire exists not to allow a coach to independently leave the zone, rather it exist to allow 2 buses to operate side by side after departing the zone to facilitate a turn at the next intersection. Trolley routes are not designed/intended to operate like a diesel with full independency anymore than some transit center are configured for either independent pull in OR pull out but not both. Kirkland Transit Center is an example of independent pull in but not pull out. These are all bits and pieces of limited curb space for transit.

    Next…..the next fleet of trolleys will have a battery back up system capable of up to 20 consecutives minutes and will be continously recharged thru the overhead. Along with this should also be a remote pole puller, allowing those who forgot, to retrack the poles, switch to battery, and drive around until arriving at the next zone where ideally there could be a “hat” on the wire for remote hook up or the operator exits and manually repoles.

  2. December 16, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    As a passenger waiting at 3rd & Union, I’ve wondered this often. Especially hours when there are trollies going out of service. Its a bit sad to see the “AB” buses stuck behind an in service bus.

    I think changing the default to trollies being on the inside wire would make a lot of sense, along with encouraging drivers on their way to the base to use the outside wire..

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