Video – TriMet Hybrid Bus Press Conference

Videos from today’s press conference announcing federal funds to purchase four hybrid buses for TriMet’s Line 72, with TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D – OR-3), and FTA Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan:

Part 1 – Main Presentation

Part 2 – Q&A

After the press conference, I asked for some additional info via email:

The buses will be standard 40′ length low-floor, not articulated. This is the beginning of the procurement process, no vendor or specific model has been selected yet. The local match will be 20%.

At peak times, as many as 29 individual buses operate simultaneously on the #72 route. So by my math, a typical 72 rider at peak will have about a 14% chance of hopping on one of these new buses.

As I mentioned in the open thread, in our upcoming interview with Neil we will be following up about policies and timelines for upgrading the bus fleet. In the meantime, TriMet offered this statement:

“We have one of the old bus fleets in the country, and it is one of
Neil’s priorities to upgrade the fleet.”

23 responses to “Video – TriMet Hybrid Bus Press Conference”

  1. This is a nice start, but it better not lose momentum when it comes to looking at the equipment servicing other lines, particularly those coming out of Merlo which are the non-lowfloor, unairconditioned buses. The 52, for example, has one of the highest number of boardings and wheelchair lifts for a westside bus (and overall, as per the data supplied by TriMet via Portland Afoot) but is still running mainly 1700s and 1800s that don’t have air conditioning and use lifts that take several minutes to board a passenger with a wheelchair.

  2. Any word on purchasing a fleet of articulated buses?
    I take it the comment that TriMet will ‘upgrade the bus fleet’ is all we’re going to get at this point.

    From the looks of things (I’m online via dial-up right now, so I can’t watch the videos), it looks more like a photo op for the incumbent in an election year than anything else. Since the process hasn’t even started yet, I’ll take a wild guess that the soonest the new buses will take the streets is late 2011.

  3. Great video, Bob. Thanks for your efforts.

    Two comments really stuck out:

    1. Blumenauer: “…people in Portland spend $2500 a year less per family on transportation than the national average.” Does anybody know where that number comes from? It could make sense as Portland is relatively compact, has good transit, and doesn’t routinely salt roads.

    2. McFarlane: “…premium cost for the hybrid bus – and it’s about 40% over the cost of a normal diesel bus…” This is very good news as it was about 50% and correlates with the normal drop in costs as manufacturers advance along the new product learning curve.

  4. P.S.

    I sort of fell asleep during Deputy Administrator McMillan’s comments. Was there anything significant there?

  5. At the event, TriMet’s Mary Fetsch told me that average hybrid bus costs have been coming down.

  6. I doubt we will ever see articulated buses for 3 reasons:

    1. We bought a few of them in the 80’s and they were garbage. Even though they are successful just about everywhere in the world, the insiders who run Trimet still can’t get that taste out of their mouth.

    2. The only option in the Portland area for high(er) capacity transit is rail based. Good luck convincing any insiders otherwise.

    3. The new transit mall was designed for 40′ buses. Since most of Trimet’s system ends up downtown at some point, nothing short of a complete redesign of the transit mall would make them compatible (or redesigning the routes to avoid downtown, another no-no with Trimet insiders).

  7. Anthony Says: I doubt we will ever see articulated buses for 3 reasons:

    I wouldn’t put money on that.

    1. No one is considering buying buses from Hungary, anymore, and there are plenty of fine artics being built on this continent.

    2. Plenty of insiders would disagree.

    3. Line 72 is a good example of high-volume service that goes nowhere near the Mall. There are also routes like the 14 with high boarding rides that go downtown without traveling on the Mall.

  8. To add to what Jeff says, I don’t think its entirely true that the mall can only accommodate 40′ buses. Some of the stalls, yes, but others are quite long and can handle multiple 40′ buses, so a combination of a 40′ plus a 60′ could fit, if the right stops were chosen.

    The real issue, then, would be the operational rules… will all bus/train operators on the mall be able to properly judge the available clearance when buses of various lengths are pulled into bays.

    A few years ago we took a brief look at how many bus lines went went downtown, but didn’t look thoroughly in terms of schedules/headways and such to determine weighting, but there were more non-downtown routes than first impressions might imply.

    Back during debate here over the transit mall redesign, I pointed out that buses like those used on Eugene’s EmX BRT line have boarding doors on the left and right, and should we need a lot more capacity on the mall, these buses could run in the left lane without interfering one bit with capacity in the existing transit lanes.

  9. good point about the transit mall.

    the 6, 14, 15 would seem like obvious downtown bus line candidates for articulateds that dont run on the mall. and certainly the 72 for a non-downtown route.

  10. poncho Says: the 6, 14, 15 would seem like obvious downtown bus line candidates for articulateds that dont run on the mall. and certainly the 72 for a non-downtown route.

    The old artics did run on Line 14. I’m not sure the longer buses would work well up in NW Portland, though, so am dubious about Line 15.

  11. That was the figure given to me in email from Mary Fetsch — I’ll ask again on Monday just to be sure it wasn’t a typo.

  12. I seem to remember Trimet had tried hybrid busses about four years back, and had decided the fuel savings were so minimal that they did not warrant the upfront and maintenance costs. How much better are the new ones?

  13. I like that Blumenauer is wearing a TheBus uniform shirt from Hawaii, where they are utilizing the hybrid technology in huge ways, getting 20 hybrid-articulated buses with their ARRA funds…

  14. First of all, that was nice of you to go film it. Had I known about it (and not just read a Google Alert after the fact) I would have considered going.

    the 29-bus figure

    According to the Block Distribution Report, 29 buses were assigned to the 72 at the PM Peak in Winter 09/10. There were up to 23 in the AM Peak, 17 midday, 20 on Saturday and 16 on Sunday. (Only the 4 needed more vehicles)

    HOWEVER, service was reduced on the 72 last month (as a result of riders moving to the Green Line) and I don’t have the new figures.

  15. An aside: Looking at the YouTube stats, roughly twice as many people are watching the main press conference as are watching the Q&A. If you had asked me yesterday, I would have guessed that more people would watch the Q&A, looking for something spontaneous rather than scripted.

  16. It’s nothing but a stage show, or as they call it “press conference”.

    Nothing much that anyone can actually take seriously, nice to see that Neil can handle public speaking so well.

    Nice change from Fred, who really couldn’t handle his job as a public speaker, although I always found Fred more than entertaining.

    Neil looks more like an actual Transit person to me.

  17. There were a couple of typos in the graphics I put int the main press conference video, so I’ve uploaded a new version to YouTube. The new link is here:

    Part 1 – Main Presentation

    If you embedded the old/incorrect version on your own blog, please update your links as I’ll be removing it in a few days.

  18. Please open communication with TRIMET about articulated bus in any word on purchasing a fleet of articulated buses? Any word on electric trolleybuses? Please inform from TRIMET at requests, so I would like to hear. if there not successful then probably I move out to other major cities operated with articulated buses with other transit agencies. Let me know and Let TRIMET knows about this serious message. Thank you, happy sunshine!

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