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Some observations about SEPTA's new trackless trolleys.

Posted by Transit Jeff on Sat Apr 26 02:20:12 2008

Hi guys,

I ventured up to Philadelphia on Friday, April 25th to take trackless
trolley rides on the new coaches. First, I went to the Frankford Transportation Center in mid-afternoon to see if any were running on Rt. 66. After having a look at the overhead and problems that I've heard about, I spoke to the Rt. 66 "loader" who informed me that no trackless trolleys were out on the line. He informed me that only one coach had run in the A. M. that day.

I then went to the Arrott Street Terminal and waited approx 35 minutes for New Flyer trackless # 802 to show up on Rt. 59. I saw nothing but Diesel buses on the Rt. 75 during my brief stay at Arrott.
I boarded coach # 802 via the center door with a "loader" checking passes, etc.

It was very warm, in the mid-80's, and the coach was an "ice box" with the air-conditioning going full tilt. I sat on the back seat to get a feel for the ride and the reactions of the public. I was actually freezing from the A C and glad I had a light jacket on. I could have used gloves! I noted that the last window on the door side has already been vandalized with scratchiti.

There is no sound of the trolley poles or vibrations in the roof, like in the old days. The coaches are very well insulated for that type of noise. It was impossible to tell if we had cleared switches, breakers, etc., just by listening for it. I noticed the operator checking his mirror to see if he cleared special work in the overhead.

The coach has great pick up and acceleration and operates very smoothly and quietly. There is no jerkiness at all, as in the days of the A.M. Generals. I made one very interesting observation. When the thermostat for the A C is satisfied, the blowers stop completely. If the coach is stopped for a traffic light or in a passenger stop, there is absolute dead silence. The passengers seemed to be alarmed and thought the coach had died. But, in fact, it hadn't and when the operator depressed the power pedal, we took off like a bat out of hell. This amaized the passengers who I think felt they were on an ordinary bus,up until that point. Then there were smiles, laughter and several comments.

The dead silence is interrupted now and then by the soft whir of the compressor. But when that stops, there's dead silence again when the coach is not in motion or the blowers aren't on. The body is extreamly tight, no rattles and the suspension is quite smooth. But let's see how long that lasts!

The operator put his heavy work gloves on at Bells Corner loop and pulled down the trolley poles to inspect the carbons in the trolley shoes. He told me that they are wearing very fast because of rough spots in the long unused overhead. I asked him why the back of the coach was so filthy and he said it was from the carbons.

The operator said there have been many complaints from passengers about how cold the A C is. And the operators dislike the mirrors and the slow operation of the center exit door.

But I must say, we were moving right along on the overhead and were hitting close to 40 MPH in several spots. While riding along I noticed several Philly gas stations selling regular for $ 3.57 a gallon.

The operator switched on the Diesel engine to show me how easy it was to do so and how quiet it sounded. He said that it is possible to move off a breaker if you happen to stop under one. That, the semi-automatic trolley poles and the off-wire capability is a great asset.

Transit Jeff


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