For a Better Brisbane

Do not confuse propulsion with mode: Electric buses do exist!

One of the things that gets this Blog’s puzzled is the idea that ‘rail is clean’ and that ‘bus is dirty’. One example is on page 47 of the Draft Connecting SEQ 2031 report where it says this:

  • Reduced reliance on oil-based fuels; passenger rail in SEQ is fully electrified there are no equivalent forms of bus power.

(Bold emphasis has been added by the BrisUrbane blog). This confusion between propulsion and mode might be a rather unfortunate misunderstanding. The Lord Mayor’s Mass Transit report 2007 (page 58) also purports to compare greenhouse emissions from ‘Light Rail versus Bus’ and compared an electric LRT vehicle and a diesel bus, concluding that only at higher passenger occupancy does Light Rail outperform the bus. The BrisUrbane blog feels that this is perhaps a bit unfair, as it is quite possible to get Light Rail that operates on diesel. Ottawa, Canada, the same city that Brisbane took the busways concept from, also runs a diesel Light Rail service called O-train. And it is also quite possible to get an electric bus, as the video in this post shows. The cleanliness of any mode depends not on just how much energy the vehicle is using, but also how ‘clean’ or ‘dirty’ the underlying energy source is. Power stations will have to become cleaner so that the transport that runs off them is also clean; until then greenpower or carbon offsets could be used.

Brisbane '1963 TRAM & TROLLEY BUS', copyright by Flickr user Lindsaybridge. Reproduced with permission. Click for URL.

Apart from the fact that any medium to large city requires a family of transport modes to handle the transportation task, Brisbane in 1960’s actually ran electric buses (trolleybuses), here is a photo of a Brisbane electric tram side-by-side with an electric bus, with the Mater Hospital in the background. So electric buses are nothing new, in fact they have been around for donkey’s years. Perhaps it is because a collective fog of amnesia seems to have settled on all cities which have vandalised ripped out their tram and electric bus systems that we now seem surprised that electric trams and electric buses are real options.

Trolleybuses are great because they are virtually silent, no exhaust pollution and have excellent hill climbing abilities. The downsides are the need for wires (although newer technologies like fast charging may eliminate this). Electric buses could be useful around the hilly parts of Brisbane where trams or Light Rail are not justified yet- Mt Co-tha, Bardon, Spring Hill and parts of St Lucia in the future.

Acknowledgement: The BrisUrbane Blog acknowledges Flickr user Lindsaybridge for providing copyright permission to reproduce the tram/trolleybus photograph.


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March 24, 2011 at 10:45 pm

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