Nearly two decades ago, we lost our trolleybus system in Toronto. Talking about that fight needs a long post of its own, but in brief, a collection of forces brought about the end of that network:
- TTC management hated the trolleybuses. At least part of this arose from their unreliable operation due to years of neglect and disinvestment in the infrastructure.
- The boffins in the Ministry of Transportation who worked on gee-whiz projects with alternative fuels needed something to keep them occupied and employed.
- The natural gas industry had an abundance of cheap product desperately looking for a market.
- An Ontario bus builder wanted to build for the TTC, and an untendered contract for buses with a new propulsion system was just the trick.
- The TTC Commission couldn’t bring itself to replace quiet, clean trolleybuses with noisy, polluting diesels, but CNG buses were “green” and fit the bill perfectly.
- The trolleybus network itself was poorly located being mainly in old industrial neighbourhoods that were in decline, and a major restructuring and expansion would be needed to make a new network viable.
- Goodbye trolleybuses.
We were told among other things that CNG buses would be so much cheaper to operate. It didn’t turn out that way. Aside from special infrastructure needs and the cost of a high-speed fuelling station, the natural gas bubble eventually burst and up went the price of fuel, even without road taxes.
For the record:
- In 2006, the actual cost of CNG to the TTC was $0.6553/cubic metre. Fuel consumption was 1.3751 cubic metre per mile (yes, some TTC stats are still in miles). The fuel cost/mile was, therefore, 90.1 cents.
- In 2007, the anticipated cost of diesel fuel is $0.85604/litre. Fuel consumption is expected to be 1.0098 litres/mile. The fuel cost will be 86.4 cents per mile. (I have used 2007 costs because for part of 2006 the TTC was still getting diesel fuel at a cheaper price from an old supply contract.)
- The electric fleet is not broken down by mode and of course the majority of power is consumed by the subway. The anticipated cost of power is $0.11491 per kilowatt-hour. The power consumption is expected to be 5.7360 khw/mile for a cost/mile of 65.9 cents.
Goodbye CNG buses, and good riddance.
Meanwhile in Vancouver, a new generation of trolleybuses is going through teething problems common to any new equipment, but the future of this mode is secure complete with a brand new garage.