Better Batteries for Hybrid Buses

The TTC’s supplementary agenda for this week includes a report on the settlement of negotiations with Daimler for the problems with the hybrid bus fleet.  Parts of this report are confidential, but the main items of interest for system users are in the public report.

  • The existing fleet of hybrid buses will be converted from lead acid to Lithium-Ion batteries.  This is expected to greatly improve reliability and to reduce fuel consumption by about five percent due to the much lower weight (4,100 vs 1,000 pounds) of the batteries.  (The TTC quotes the weight in pounds.)
  • The 2009 bus order for 130 hybrids will remain in place.
  • The optional 2010 bus order for 120 diesels will proceed.  It should be noted that supplementary Federal funding for “green” bus technology is not guaranteed into 2010.
  • Due to the larger than expected number of vehicles required both for construction projects (e.g. St. Clair) and to compensate for poor hybrid reliability, 52 “retirement-eligible” GM buses will undergo a life extension.  This is expected to add 2 to 3 years to their life.  Buses now out of service will be the first to go through this rebuild so that the active fleet is not further depleted.  This project will cost $3.5-million or about $65K per bus. 

From a budgetary point of view, the total spending remains below the original Capital Budget mainly due to the savings on diesel versus hybrids on the 2010 bus order.

Express and Premium Fare Buses

The supplementary agenda for this week’s TTC meeting includes a report on Express Buses.  Unfortunately, this report has been badly misreported in today’s Star to the extent that the article and the report are diametrically opposed to each other.

The Star, drawing on information from Adam Giambrone, claims that a new network of express buses with premium fares has been proposed.  In fact, here are the changes recommended by the report:

  • In the interest of encouraging riding on the routes parallel to the Yonge Subway (141 Mt. Pleasant, 142 Avenue Road, 144 Don Valley), these routes will become regular fare routes effective September 8, 2009.  The report is silent on whether this change in status would also trigger an RGS-based implementation of full service to match “subway operating hours”.  I don’t think that the TTC has digested the full impact of the RGS changes or how they would specify exemptions.
  • A downtown express from Bayview/Lawrence will be evaluated following the trial period of regular fare operation on the three routes listed above.
  • New local-express service will be implemented on 41 Keele and 60 Steeles West, but not until November 2009.
  • The express services on 35E Jane and 96E Wilson will be improved to see whether this boosts riding, but again not until November 2009.  The effects will be reviewed in 2010 with a view to keeping, improving or eliminating this service.
  • No other express services are warranted at this time on existing routes because the travel time savings and travel patterns are such that new express services would cause at least as much harm by degradation of local service as they would benefit riders who might use them.
  • A network of express routes paralleling the eventual Transit City network is not warranted because they would operate in mixed traffic, and their additional operating cost could not be justified.

I will not repeat all of the detailed information from the report here.  The common thread you will see in the recommendations is that everything happens late next year so that the impact on the 2009 budget is minimal.  By that time, we should also know about:

  • The RGS proposal to move to 20-minute minimum headways
  • Additional express services, if any
  • Fine tuning, if any, of the RGS hours of service to deal with exceptional situations

A parallel issue, mentioned in the TTC report, is crowding on the subway and plans for future capacity increases.  I will be posting a separate article about fleet planning and options to divert ridership onto other corridors later this week.