In what has become a continuing theme, the manager of Edmonton’s transit system yesterday told a news briefing that keeping trolley buses in its transit fleet is too expensive and is much more harmful to the environment compared to running hybrid diesel buses, says the city’s manager for Edmonton Transit.


“I think we are changing with the times … and we have to develop our transit systems to make it effective and efficient,” said Edmonton Transit Manager Charles Stolte during a news briefing yesterday morning.


Thirty minutes later, a public hearing at city hall heard a long string of 27 speakers voicing their opinions on whether or not the city should scrap its aging trolleys.


“For land transport, what you have to do is electrify, electrify and electrify as quickly as possible,” spoke Richard Gilbert, a consultant on urban issues.


“I live in Toronto, I’ve lived there for 40 years and one of the big regrets now is that Toronto gave up its trolley bus system in 1992. It’s been described … as the worst decision the Toronto Transit Corporation has ever made.”

David Checkel, a mechanical engineering professor with the University of Alberta, said Edmonton coffers will be down $100 million extra just to maintain the current trolley system over the next 20 years.

“They cost more to maintain and they cost more to operate,” said Checkel after releasing a report in the briefing.

“The trolleys, of course, have no emissions at the street level, but have higher emissions at the power plant … so overall the lowest green house (gas emitter) is the hybrid buses.”

Coun. Amarjeet Sohi, a former bus driver, says the city’s old trolleys needs to be replaced, but admitted he still has to decide whether or not the entire trolley system should be scrapped to make way for hybrid buses.

“I always hated driving a trolley bus,” said Sohi. “It’s a very difficult vehicle to drive … and the wire system is very difficult to manage.”

The city has currently preserved 24 of the trolleys as historical buses and if council approves the idea to scrap the old buses, some could be sent to Vancouver – which still maintains a fleet of trolleys — for its 2010 Winter Olympic Games, said Stolte.

City council is expected to make a decision next Wednesday.