Providence Should Use In-Motion Charging for Buses

The future of bus transit is in-motion charging. This technology, increasingly common in Central Europe, is a hybrid of the trolleybus and the battery-electric bus (BEB), offering significant off-wire range with no need for centralized recharge facilities. Moreover, the range of batteries is improving over time and so is the recharge rate; in the limit, a pure BEB system may work, but in the present and near future it is not yet reliable in cold weather and requires diesel or oil heaters when the temperature is below freezing.

My original post on IMC technology speaks largely of New York and Boston, but Providence is an excellent place for implementing this technology as well, at least as good as Boston and far better than New York. As Rhode Island is thinking of how to invest in urban transit, it should take this technology into consideration, in addition to proposals for light rail along its busiest route (the Rapid, formerly the 99 and 11 buses) or a diesel BRT.

Transit Forward RI 2040

The guiding program, adopted in 2020, is called Transit Forward, and aims for a statewide plan including regional connections as well as the core of a solid mass transit network in Providence. The Rapid route is to be turned to light rail, perhaps, and multiple other core routes are to be upgraded to BRT standards (including the Rapid if light rail is rejected). This can be viewed here or here. Here is the metropolitan bus map:

Proposed metropolitan bus and light rail map for Providence; an N in front of a number means it’s a new route – it doesn’t denote night buses as in other cities

Observe that multiple trunks are designed to have very high all-day frequency. Already today, service on Broadway and Westminster from Downcity to Olneyville interlines to a bus every 7.5 minutes; the proposal is to boost this to a bus every 7.5 minutes on Westminster and also one every 5 on Broadway. Past Olneyville, the buses branch at lower frequency. South Main is to have a core trunk route every 10 minutes and also a less frequent regional bus. The Angell/Waterman one-way pair is to have three routes running every 20 minutes, two every 30, and two less frequent express buses; closer in, this one-way pair shares the bus tunnel between Downcity and College Hill with routes running on Hope, labeled N117 in the plan.

On net, this is a massive expansion of bus frequency available to people in and around Providence. Were it available when I lived there, I would have an easier time traveling to Pawtucket, East Providence, and other such locations, often for gaming purposes; with the network as it is (or as it was in 2012), I would walk 6 km from my home in Fox Point to a gaming store in Pawtucket and it would still be faster than waiting 40 minutes for the bus in the evening.

IMC and branching

IMC as a technology permits buses to run about 10 km off-wire; the current frontier of the technology is that a minimum of 20-30% of the route needs to be wired. UITP presents it as an advantage in that the wiring cost is only 20-30% of that of a traditional trolleybus, but in fact the wiring cost is much lower, because the trunks can be wired while the branches are left unwired.

This advantage is hard to realize in a city like Chicago or Toronto, with a relentlessly gridded bus network and little branching. Both cities rely on rapid transit for downtown access, and have a bus grid layered on top of their radial metro systems to provide everywhere-to-everywhere connectivity and feed the trains. In such an environment, IMC saves 70-80% of the cost of a trolleybus, minus the additional cost of procuring a bus with a backup battery. This may sound like a lot, but trolleybus expansion is rare globally, so reducing the cost by a factor of 4 does not necessarily turn it into an attractive investment.

But in Providence, there is no grid. About 4 km of wire in each direction, from Downcity to past Henderson Bridge, are enough to electrify nearly the entire bus network connecting the city with East Providence. Another 3 km along South Main and I-195 complete electrification to the east. The N117 may need a short stub on Thayer in addition to the bus tunnel; Broadway and Westminster, totally around 6 km, should be enough to electrify buses to and beyond Olneyville; the core of Broad is planned to carry the N12 and R, both at high frequency, and is therefore a prime target for wiring as well; Charles should be enough to wire most of the buses going due north or northwest.

This way, a core trolleybus network with maybe 30 km of wire in each direction can electrify most of the bus network in Providence, without having to deal with the teething problems of BEBs.

The issue of legibility

One minor benefit of wire in Providence is that it helps casual riders make sense of the public transportation network. A big disadvantage of bus networks over rail is their poor legibility: the map has too many routes and a user is expected to know them all over an area, and there is no indication on the street as to where the buses go. Marked bus lanes help solve the latter problem, as does wire.

Trolleybuses are not streetcars. Their ride quality is that of a bus – usually better, occasionally worse, depending on who I ask. Their network structure is usually like the core of an urban bus network, and not like that of a modern light rail network, which a casual user can get at a glance. The presence of wire makes the system easier to see on the ground, helping improve legibility.

This is especially important in cities without grid networks – precisely the environments in which on purely technical issues IMC is already strongest. In Vancouver, the buses are largely gridded, and so it is generally clear where they go: they run on major streets like Broadway, King Edward, 41st, Arbutus, and MacDonald. But in Providence, it’s not always clear, especially in the seams between two networks. Broadway has a few choices of street connections toward Kennedy Plaza – do buses go on Sabin? Or Fountain? Or Empire to Washington? Westminster has no clear connection – do buses turn left or right on Franklin/Dave Gavitt Way? Wire helps make it clear for the confused passenger who doesn’t live in town, or who lives on the East Side and isn’t familiar with the Federal Hill street network.

This can be better than light rail

RIPTA is interested in making its highest-intensity route, now the R and in the future the N12, into a light rail line. I get where it’s coming from, but I have some worries. Providence development is frustratingly almost linear, but not quite; the train station is in a street loop off Main, and on the map above, the N12 veers off the straight path to connect to it. I don’t know what the optimal way is of serving such a destination, and it’s likely the answer will change over time based on changes in the technology and in other connections.

IMC can be good precisely for this. If the route is partly wired, then small deviations based on changes in the plan are viable, albeit at the cost of legibility. The same goes for uncertainty over which routes connect to which: the R today interlines the old 99 on North Main to Pawtucket and the old 11 on Broad to South Providence, but the plan is to instead connect South Providence to Downcity via the Jewelry District using the N8, and instead have the N12 primary route continue southwest to Warwick via Elmwood and Reservoir. Such changes require a commitment to mode: swaps are fine as long as both routes use the same mode – if they’re both light rail then it is viable and the same is true if they’re both buses, but not if one is rail and the other is bus. IMC downgrades both to a bus, but in a way that permits higher ride quality to some extent and lower emissions at very low costs.

71 comments

  1. Alex Cat3

    What do you think would be the minimum frequency for which it makes sense to put up trolley wires? Do you think that battery busses hydrogen or biofuel based heaters will become a plausable option in the future?

    • Matthew Hutton

      The comments I am hearing/reading about green hydrogen and synthetic fossil fuels is that they will be possible but they will cost more than batteries/heat pumps. It makes sense to be honest as they need a lot of energy to produce.

      So they might be good for plastic and long haul flights, but other things will change.

      • adirondacker12800

        They are possible. We do it. It’s never going to be cheaper than using the electricity directly, when you can,

        • Henry Miller

          > It’s never going to be cheaper than using the electricity directly,

          Sure it will be. Wires are expensive. For little used places bringing stored energy in will be cheaper than all the wires.

          Though these areas are pretty marginal at best, if you are arguing that if you can’t afford to run wires you don’t even enough demand to run anything at all you may well be right.

          • adirondacker12800

            For little used places bringing stored energy in will be cheaper than all the wires.

            The industrial chemists have been poking at taking carbon and hydrogen from one source and making different stuff come out the other side since the early 19th century. Hydrogen looked real good at the 1964-65 World’s Fair where the General Electric Pavillion had a simulated fusion reactor The real one was going to be producing cheap electricity in ten years. As soon as they figured out a cheap way to make hydrogen with electrolysis, store it cheaply and feed it to cheap fuel cells. We have been poking at that longer than 50 years and we are still waiting for cheap fusion reactors, electrolysis, storage and fuel cells. Physics is a cruel cruel mistress and it’s never going to be as cheap as using a wire. Or on intercontinental flights because synthetic jet fuel is reallly realllly energy dense.

    • Martin Wright (@750V_DC)

      OH dear, someone made a misleading video and now it is being spread as gospel all over the internet. What happened here is that the section shown had been de-energised for some reason e.g. construction. The system on the trolleybus is arranged to drop the trolley poles if there is no current in the wires. This is for safety reasons. So a succession of drivers (prewarned by central control) arrive at the dead section and continue driving on battery power. There wasn’t a problem and these weren’t dewirements in the sense attributable to either bad driving or bad wire maintenance.

    • Martin Wright (@750V_DC)

      A rough rule of thumb used to be service at least every 10 minutes, though lower frequency branches might be economic as long as the main trunk had a reasonable frequency.
      These considerations are somewhat superseded by In Motion Charging as Alon’s blogpost explains. Normally you would just electrify common trunk sections which are likely to have a combined frequency better than 10 minutes, but leave the branches unwired.

  2. Alex Cat3

    When you say the busses can run 10km off-wire, do you mean 10km in each direction? Otherwise, route length would be limited to 5km beyond the end of wiring, which would seem to me too short to be practical.

    • Max Wyss

      These 10 km off-wire is for one, unrestricted, which means that all consumers (heating, air condition, lighting, etc.) are active. This number is, for example, what is guaranteed for VBZ, which includes steep grades as well.

      Look at the overall length of bus routes. Urban routes are rarely longer than 15 to 20 km.

      The number is not really small, because, if the line is longer, nothing prevents putting up a kilometer or two of wiring in the peripherals. Something the author does not mention is that, because of the good battery capacity, it is possible to avoid places with complex (and costly to maintain) switchwork. So, that peripheral wiring can be rather cheap. In fact, there is a place, where the center is not electrified, but the peripherals are (La Chaux-de-Fonds, which had a trolleybus network, but the center was taken down for big reconstruction work, but the peripheral wires remained unchanged for more than a decade; for tests with a IMC vehicle, all they had to do was to re-energise the peripheral wiring, and it worked out).

  3. Nathan Davidowicz

    Vancouver BC should use IMC. We even have an express trolley wire on Hastings St. TransLink is way behind times.

    • Alon Levy

      Yeah, Vancouver is especially attractive for IMC because the locals are already wired so the rapids can just go around them on Broadway, 4th, and Hastings.

      • AJ

        So for a city with an existing trolley network (Seattle, San Fran), they could steadily acquire an IMC fleet to convert additional routes to electric in addition to running their existing trolley fleet, all on the existing wires?

  4. Max Wyss

    As it is stated, wiring a core is a first choice, because the infrastructure can be assigned to several lines, providing a maximum of synergies. OTOH, the topography can also determine where electrification should be done (in extremis, only the uphill section of a grade needs to be electrified; for downhill, the energy from regenerative braking can charge the battery; although for such things, the vehicle need a very smart, location-aware energy management system (as developed with the SwissTrolley Plus, for example).

    An additional argument for electrifying the core is that IMC is not strictly limited to “in motion”; even when the vehicle is at standstill (as at a stop), charging is possible (not at such high loads as when in motion in order to prevent the wires from overheating (a rule of thumb is about 90 A)). I think the 30% coverage mentioned does take this into account.

    One point, the article does not state is that with a sufficiently powerful traction battery, it is well possible to not electrify squares or other places where complex (and therefore costly to maintain) switchwork would be needed. This reduces the overall cost of the electrification to simple, mostly linear installations.

    A practical example is the current expansion in St. Gallen, which already has a trolleybus network. Electrifying additional 6 km allows to double the length of the electric operated network to about 65 km (and there would be potential for more, as tests on a trans-urban line which could make use of an existing electrification for quite a bit of length, have shown (Line 151 to Gossau, operated by Regiobus (as opposed to VBSG)).

    The question whether Light Rail or Trolleybus should be primarily decided by the capacity requirement. Particularly 24 m long bi-articulated trolleybuses provide a certain overlap with the light rail area, allowing to bridge the time needed for planning and building a light rail line (that’s what is intended to happen, for example, in Nancy, where they are phasing out the current system with a rail-guided trolleybus; primary replacement are those high-capacity trolleybuses, which can be deployed to other lines when the tramway becomes available in some 10 years or so).

    • adirondacker12800

      the vehicle need a very smart, location-aware energy management system

      I’ve never seen a bus go uphill on it’s windshield. They are always on their wheels. Why does the bus need to know where it’s is to determine if it’s going uphill or downhill? It’s relatively cheap and simple to determine that in a variety of ways. If the front of the bus is higher than the back of the bus it’s going uphill. If the front of the bus is lower than the back of the bus it’s going downhill. It would work anywhere on the planet without location information. Somebody seriously overthought this.

      • Max Wyss

        Trying to be funny?

        If the energy management system knows the topography of the line, and where the vehicle actually is, it can keep the energy drawn from the overhead wires to a minimum, because it knows, for example, how much capacity the battery must have in order to be able to take the regenerative braking energy down the grade, without being overfilled; and that also means when to switch to battery operation (instead from overhead) on the way to the grade.

        • adirondacker12800

          I’m not an electrical engineer. Why would you want to discharge the battery at all if it’s connected to the electricity. Even if it’s an existing system being extended it will have a lot more demand on the substation and that will need to be replaced/upgraded. Put cheaper batteries there. … I’m not an electrical engineer.

          • Eric2

            “Why would you want to discharge the battery at all if it’s connected to the electricity. ”

            This was my question too.

          • adirondacker12800

            Not at all clear because when I plug in things with rechargeable batteries in, they charge. And if I”m using the device it’s in, it uses electricity from whatever I plugged it into. Even the things without batteries.

          • Eric2

            @Max Wyss

            Not to me. I would have thought that when on-wire, all power is from the wire, and the battery is continually charged until it reaches let’s say 90% full. And on the downhill, the battery would charge from gravity to maybe 92% (alternatively, if on wire, the energy could go back into the wire [I have seen this happen on trams while braking]). I don’t understand why any of this requires knowledge of the vehicle position or line characteristics.

          • Max Wyss

            @Eric2: One of the goals of a smart, location-aware energy management system is to reduce overall energy consumption. This means that all energy created with regenerative braking should go into the battery (with that keep the substation simple, because it may or may not be able to receive the energy, and if there is no other consumer in the sector, it would have to feed back to the grid).

            The idea is therefore to preemptively look at the charging status of the battery. And if we know that within 5 km (for example), we will get 15 kWh (for example) by regenerative braking, we have to make sure that the battery will be able to actually receive those 15 kWh. This can mean that the consumption from the overhead wire has to be reduced, and instead of that, battery capacity is needed.

            Such a system has been developed with the SwissTrolley Plus, and it did lead to a reduction of energy consumption from “the grid” by about 25%. …Energy which did not have to be bought…

          • adirondacker12800

            Commercial customers don’t get billed at a flat rate like residential customers. Many things affect how much electricity the bus uses. That don’t depend on location. Weather and traffic for instance. Batteries don’t wear out over time they wear out depending on how many times they charge and discharge. The only reason you’d want to do that to the very expensive battery in the bus, use more charge and discharge cycles, is if you had no other choice.

          • Sascha Claus

            This means that all energy created with regenerative braking should go into the battery (with that keep the substation simple, because it may or may not be able to receive the energy, and if there is no other consumer in the sector, it would have to feed back to the grid).

            One could put big batteries at the substation, so that the substation can store the energy. This has the advantage that the buses don’t have to expend energy lugging around heavy batteries.

            OTOH, if you have the battery anyway, some electronics (Uhh! The Buzzword!) surely is cheaper than another set of batteries at the substation.

          • adirondacker12800

            The batteries in the bus are aiming for light. They wear out on how many times they cycle, not how old they are. Batteries back at the substation don’t have to be particularly light. Cheaper batteries are easily available. Those batteries are much more durable than light batteries. If they last three times as many cycles, that makes them realllllly cheap. It’s more complicated than looking at the electric bill.

          • Henry Miller

            Generally for maximum life you want to charge a battery to 80% and discharge it to 20%. Though the % are themselves funny numbers as manufactures can assign 100% to a range of values, you can typically charge to about 200% if you want to get one cycle from the battery (no battery charger will let you do that, but if you are in a lab). An intelligent system with knowledge of the route (topography and expected route) would optimize the charge levels so the bus spends as much time as possible between that 20% and 80%, with enough margin for unexpected events where a detour is needed.

            I don’t know if the savings from an intelligent local aware charging plan is worth it long term considering the cost of an engineer to design it though.

          • adirondacker12800

            And those wily wily designers of charging/discharging circuits know that and do it. Fast charging 5 percent a few dozen times an hour is going wear out the battery faster than charging it more slowly once. The bus company and the electric company can have long negotiations over how big the cheaper more durable batteries, that don’t move around, should be.

          • Max Wyss

            @Sacha Claus: And you don’t even need additional electronics; it can be done with suitable software…

          • Max Wyss

            @Henry Miller: “transit grade” batteries are very robust, and can stand harsh charging/uncharging cycles. They do not have the same chemistry as you, for example find in a battery powered automobile (in fact, the batteries used in a Tesla would not last even a year in a transit vehicle).

            The system is designed and available. And, of course, it is set up to operate within the optimum charging range of the battery. OK, it has been part of a research program, but the results of the prototype/research vehicle (aka SwissTrolley Plus) went very fast into the production vehicles (aka SwissTrolley 5).

          • Max Wyss

            @adironcacker12800: The top requirements for a “transit grade” battery do not include “weight”. It is a factor, but not the most important one. And, looking at a BTB with IMC, a higher specific weight, compared to a BEB, is neglectable (definitely as long as there is a factor 10 in battery capacity needed between a BTB with IMC and a BEB with ONC…)

          • adirondacker12800

            If weight wasn’t a consideration they would be using nickel iron because it lasts forever and can take all sorts of abuse. You might want to flush the electrolyte once a decade.

  5. adirondacker12800

    In such an environment, IMC saves 70-80% of the cost of a trolleybus, minus the additional cost of procuring a bus with a backup battery. This may sound like a lot, but trolleybus expansion is rare globally, so reducing the cost by a factor of 4 does not necessarily turn it into an attractive investment.

    It’s not an investment that need to make returns next year and whoever is coming up with that is cooking the books to make whatever they are hawking look more attractive. It’s not a backup battery that full blown trollebuses use for short distances to get around a disruption. It’s a reallllll big one. Someone has to ask a lot of questions the in motion charging people are glossing over.

    • Alon Levy

      Yes, it’s a tradeoff; the issue is that the battery needed for 20-25 km off-wire range (10 km is each way at this point) is still an order of magnitude smaller than what full-blown BEBs need.

      • adirondacker12800

        San Francisco just spent a whole lot of money putting concrete BRT lanes in Van Ness Ave. Part of the evaluation was that the trolley wire support poles from 1914 were in rough shape and ones from 1936 were almost as bad. If you want to redo do the whole street including the sewers things get real expensive. If you want to hang wires from the existing telephone poles it’s a lot cheaper. Including that things with very small batteries are a lot lighter and take longer to beat the pavement into gravel. I want someone to knows how they can cook the books to look at them.

      • Max Wyss

        Indeed so. In a recent article, VBZ stated the battery capacity of their coming MAN articulated BEBs… 640 kWh … as opposed to the SwissTrolley 5 with 65 kWh.

        The reason for the BEBs are the relatively long planning intervals for overhead electrifications (we talk about 6 to 7 years between Go Ahead for the first planning steps until becoming operational).

        • Matthew Hutton

          6-7 years to put a bit of wire over a road. Jesus. In the 19th century we built the great western mainline in 8 years from conception to completion.

          • Max Wyss

            @Eric2: One of the goals of a smart, location-aware energy management system is to reduce overall energy consumption. This means that all energy created with regenerative braking should go into the battery (with that keep the substation simple, because it may or may not be able to receive the energy, and if there is no other consumer in the sector, it would have to feed back to the grid).

            The idea is therefore to preemptively look at the charging status of the battery. And if we know that within 5 km (for example), we will get 15 kWh (for example) by regenerative braking, we have to make sure that the battery will be able to actually receive those 15 kWh. This can mean that the consumption from the overhead wire has to be reduced, and instead of that, battery capacity is needed.

            Such a system has been developed with the SwissTrolley Plus, and it did lead to a reduction of energy consumption from “the grid” by about 25%. …Energy which did not have to be bought…

          • Max Wyss

            @Alon: can you remove my comment; it got hooked up to the wrong subthread. Thanks.

          • Max Wyss

            That involves all planning procedures, puls the preparation for the public vote, etc. and also procurement of vehicles, which takes its procedures as well.

          • fjod

            you can’t just supply thousands of famine-stricken Irish people on poverty wages to die building your tunnels though, thesedays. Probably for the best.

          • Eric2

            @fjod maybe that’s why current projects are so expensive, but I don’t think it’s why they’re so slow.

          • Matthew Hutton

            I’m pretty sure Scandinavia pays the labourers well and follows modern health and safety when they build projects cheaply.

  6. Nathan Williams

    How well does getting back onto wires work with IMC buses and related tech? I’m used to the terribly slow Boston Silver Line switchover, which seems maddeningly manual, and as much as I like the idea of “don’t bother to wire difficult intersections”, I wonder what the experience is like of having to pick up the wire again on the next block.

    • Sascha Claus

      I was expecting to find loads of videos on youtube for “andrahten” or “rewire”, but that are apparently the wrong search terms. Only one hit, but http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVSoNeTq25k should be sufficient to show off what’s possible. Not quite suitable for dewiring and reqiring at every intersection, but should be more than enough for funneling into a trunk or having a bus station with multiple layover places unwired.
      Simple intersections where two trunk lines are crossing might be wired; without any switches I would expect that to be easy and cheap.

        • Martin Wright (@750V_DC)

          OH dear, someone made a misleading video and now it is being spread as gospel all over the internet. What happened here is that the section shown had been de-energised for some reason e.g. construction. The system on the trolleybus is arranged to drop the trolley poles if there is no current in the wires. This is for safety reasons. So a succession of drivers (prewarned by central control) arrive at the dead section and continue driving on battery power. There wasn’t a problem and these weren’t dewirements in the sense attributable to either bad driving or bad wire maintenance.

  7. Phake Nick

    Question: How do IMC adopt with linear bus stops? (not sure what’s their name in English)

    Like, look at this part of the map, https://www.öpnvkarte.de/#114.1705;22.3168;18 , you can see there are tons of bus stop stands/stop positions for various different bus routes.

    Let say for example there are 210 buses per hour using a road, and bus stops are grouped into 7 different groups along the road, each stop positions getting roughly 30 buses per hours, with 50 meters distance on averaging between each bus stop groups including road crossing and junctions and such, then how should IMC be designed to allow buses enter or exit each of their respective bus stops throughout different parts of the road?

    • Alon Levy

      say for example there are 210 buses per hour using a road

      Then you should railstitute it and probably should have railstituted it 20+ years ago.

      • adirondacker12800

        New Jersey tried but then they elected someone who promised free unicorn rides and lollipops. He canceled it.

      • Phake Nick

        The road already have two metro routes, 4 tracks, directly under it, and another 3 rail routes , 8 tracks, within ~10 minutes walking distance to the west and to the east of the road.
        Yet metros cannot offer point to point direct service and cannot offer express service from different parts of the city direcrly to city centers all-days. Hence the buses remain more attractive than rail on many different routes even when they are already covered by metro network.
        Like the Route 112 in the youtube video I linked. It have 23 stops, all but the last three stops are near existing rail station. Yet the route have enough ridership to maintain single minute headway all-day from ealy morning to late night. And then there are extra departures that only serve a few intermediate stops to provide sufficient capacity.

        • Alon Levy

          How much do the buses charge and how much does the MTR charge? Has Hong Kong bothered to rationalize the fare system like Singapore?

          • Phake Nick

            On a typical trip between Causeway Bay to Mong Kok, the bus 112 now cost about 1.4USD while MTR now cost about 1.5USD.
            There are no rationalization of fare for either buses nor rail. Rather, they get more chaotic in the recent era. All new train stations and all new bus routes are priced in a way that each individual operator consider the competitiveness and lucrativeness of the specific service they are operating, within some board limits. On both buses and the rail network, there are now quite a lot of cases that a shorter trip could cost more than a longer trip. And on the bus network, even if you are riding between same two bus stop, and avoided expresses or premium or private or long distance routes, there are still chances that you won’t be sure about how much you are going to pay for until any of the bus that match your journey arrive and you pay the amount according to the fare marked for that specific route.
            The metro fare are increased semi-automatically according to inflation and city-average income level every year. While the bus fare are increased according to request by bus company following approval by government based on financial situation of the bus companies. A bus company recently acquired by a multi-national entity with management from the UK want to change the system and allow bus fare in Hong Kong to be hiked every year like the metro.

        • Sascha Claus

          Are there many other cities with such a situation? Might be sufficient to find solutions for the 99,99% of cities that cover 99,90% of ridership and leave Hong Kong as a challenge for the people interested in puzzles. Few places have so much transit traffic …

          • Phake Nick

            Seoul also have a lot of buses, but they put up bus lanes aggressively accordingly to my understanding. And also have wider arterial roads.

  8. Matthew Hutton

    Depends how long the stretch with that many buses is. If it’s 1km it probably doesn’t make sense to put in a rail based solution.

  9. dominikpeters

    Pittsburgh also strikes me as a good target for in-motion charging, with the busways and the upcoming BRT to Oakland having very high frequency and long shared trunks.

  10. Alex Cat3

    The good news: NJ is planning to use in motion charging
    The bad news: its for LOCOMOTIVES, as an alternative to the “billions” it would cost to electrify its 350km of diesel track. The articles use Caltrain’s $8 million per km as an example of the high cost of electrification, assuming this is an inevitable consequence of electrification rather than one of mismanagement and crooked contractors. The article ignores the fact that California HSR managed to do it cheaper, at $5 million per km, that Amtrak did it for inflation-adjusted $3.5 million per km, or that some foreign countries do it for $1 million per km. Even at California HSR costs, this is $1.75 billion, not “billions.”
    Even at https://www.governing.com/community/nj-transit-begins-testing-viability-of-electric-trains#:~:text=Service%20is%20expected%20to%20start,commuter%20rail%20service%20in%201982.

    Click to access Rail%20Fleet%20-%20Project%20Sheets.pdf

    • Alex Cat3

      NJ’s bus network could probably benefit from in motion charging, but it would likely be hard as NJ seems to have New York level costs, the bus network is really large, with many different hubs around the state, and it has very popular express busses to Port Authority, which mainly share route with other busses on freeways, where most trollybusses probably dont work. Many of the express busses essentially split into two different routes in the rush hour– one that does the first half of the route and short turns, and another that skips the first half on the freeway and then does the second half. Thus these routes would essentially have to have twice the electrification that they would otherwise need.

      • Alex Cat3

        To clarify, it might make sense it if they used battery powered trains for very low ridership tails—the Raritan Valley Line past Raritan or the Morris and Essex Line past Dover. But in the article they make no mention of doing ANY further electrification, not even on the Raritan Valley Line between Newark and Raritan, which has 11,000 riders, despite lacking direct service to Manhattan in the peak. The area on which they’re testing the train, the NJ Coast Line south of Long Branch, is pretty low ridership, but its pretty dense and walkable. I would guess that if they made the trains faster and more frequent there could be a large increase in ridership.

        • Alon Levy

          Trondheim is wiring lines with hourly service (and what matters for electrification benefits is peak service, not base service). I can’t think of any Northeastern line that currently runs any commuter rail service that’s weak enough it should be on batteries and not overhead wire/third rail.

          • adirondacker12800

            You aren’t cooking the books as hard as the people who think batteries are a good idea.

        • adirondacker12800

          Electrifying the Raritan Valley line or perhaps finding money, someday to waste on finding out the battery tenders don’t work as well as starry eyed battery fanz think they can, doesn’t let them run rush hour service to Manhattan. New tunnels would. They run direct service to Manhattan now, off hours, without significant batteries.

    • adirondacker12800

      If they don’t actually test it people will sue because they didn’t actually test it.
      Somebody is cooking books somewhere. NJTransit has been running an electric fleet and a diesel fleet since it’s creation in 1983. They have accountants with computers who can tell them how much cheaper electric trains are. And experience evaluating ancient infrastructure, how long it lasts and how often it needs to be replaced. Those accountants have numbers for how much it cost to convert the Morris and Essex lines from 3000 volt DC to 25kV AC. And how much the electricity bill went down because the conversion is more efficient. And how much it cost to extend electrification they have extended. They can compare their numbers with the accountants at SEPTA. the MTA and Amtrak. But they chose Caltrain. …..somebody is cooking books somewhere.
      The bus system is more complicated than you think. A significant fraction of the people getting on buses to Manhattan go down to the train station, where there are passenger trains. Slapping a battery on the train that sucks isn’t going to change that significantly. But that is outside of the scope of cooking the books.

      • adirondacker12800

        I know, they can put not-in-motion charging at the train station where the trains stops for two minutes because people are clambering up and down stairs built into the side of the car instead of having level boarding! !

      • Matthew Hutton

        I have to say I’d be very surprised if the British/Singaporean/Hong Kong super overpriced stuff started breaking within a few years like some of the New York stuff has.

    • Richard Mlynarik

      Death really is too kind a fate for these people, isn’t it?
      The rank rank rank unprofessionalism, incompetence, and kickbackery. Just off the charts.

  11. jonsalmans

    Do you have any cost data on how much it costs per mile to wire for in motion charging? And how much a bus capable of in motion charging costs compared with a standard battery electric bus?

    • Alon Levy

      I believe it’s around 1 million per route-km but it’s based on one Swiss example.

      Getting bus costs is hard because the European and American bus markets are separate and buses cost 50-100% more in the US at equal tech.

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