$39 million TriMet grant will fund fuel-cell buses for 82nd Ave transit project

TriMet bus along 82nd Ave. (Photo: TriMet)

TriMet will upgrade its bus fleet with hydrogen fuel-cell powered vehicles and boost its work on 82nd Avenue’s forthcoming bus line thanks to a federal grant announced today.

The Federal Transit Administration has awarded TriMet $39,000,000 through their Low or No Emission Grant Program. TriMet’s award was the sixth largest out of 117 grants nationwide that totaled nearly $1.5 billion. TriMet will use the money to purchase 14 articulated, fuel-cell electric buses for the future FX service along 82nd Avenue as well as install infrastructure at their Powell Operations facility needed for fueling the buses and invest in workforce development to get staff up-to-speed on fuel-cell technology.

Metro and the City of Portland are currently working on a major upgrade of the Line 72 bus line as part of the 82nd Avenue Transit Project, which will bring an upgraded bus line between Clackamas Town Center and the Cully Neighborhood. The award comes one year after the FTA gave TriMet $630,000 to plan that project and builds on a $25 million grant TriMet just received last week to build a new operations facility at an industrial site in northeast Portland that will someday house and maintain the agency’s fleet of battery and fuel-cell powered buses.

These two awards push TriMet far along toward their goal of a 100% zero-emissions bus fleet by 2040.

“We know we need to be leaders in the region and step forward to move the demand for green hydrogen forward in the region,” said TriMet project manager Michael Kiser at TriMet’s June 26th board meeting. “These buses out in the community is just a much better outcome. If we look at Cully as a terminus option, having zero emission buses at that layover facility is something I want to see. I don’t want to have our diesel vehicles out there idling.”

But emissions aren’t the only reason TriMet and the Biden administration want to invest in 82nd Avenue. The portion of Line 72 along 82nd is the busiest bus line in the Portland region and it also has some of the most frustrating service delays. Metro’s locally preferred alternative for the transit project is to develop a new “FX” bus line similar to the one that opened in fall of 2022 on SE Division. The buses will be faster, larger, and will come with upgrades to stops throughout the corridor.

US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg toured 82nd Avenue in a bus last summer, so he appreciates the transformative impact major investments can make.

Outgoing Portland Congressman Earl Blumenauer is the one who invited Buttigieg on that tour and said in a statement today, “Secretary Buttigieg saw first-hand the case for investment on 82nd Avenue. Today, the Biden-Harris Administration delivered.” Blumenauer sees the award as proof the community is united behind a shared vision for 82nd — “Transforming a once neglected area into a thriving corridor in a low-carbon, equitable fashion” — and that the grant will make the vision reality.

TriMet launched its first electric battery powered bus in 2019, but hydrogen fuel-cell technology might be a better fit. Fuel-cell buses cost more up front, ($1.2 million per vehicle versus $750,000 for an electric one, according to one estimate I found) but they have several advantages over battery electric models: they can refuel in a matter of minutes (versus overnight), have greater range and longer run time, are more efficient, and are more resilient to temperature swings.

But unlike battery electric buses, fuel-cell power has emissions. Thankfully, it’s just water.

TriMet says the new bus line should be constructed in 2027 and will begin service in 2029.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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blumdrew
13 days ago

But unlike battery electric buses, fuel-cell power has emissions. Thankfully, it’s just water

There may be no local emissions for Hydrogen Fuel cells, but the means of production for Hydrogen Fuel cells are almost exclusively fossil fuel based. The technology also hardly exists and is almost entirely unproven. Not exactly the recipe for a bus that needs to be very reliable (since the 72 is the busiest bus route in the state)

If TriMet is serious about pursuing zero-emission buses (which they should be), they need to seriously consider trolleybuses – a zero-emission bus technology which has been operational for a century. A trolleybus may not be the best fit for 82nd (it’s a long route), but shorter routes like the 8, 14, and 15 would be strong candidates. In the meantime, modern diesel buses are relatively low emissions – especially on a per-rider basis, and especially if they are diverting car trips

Watts
Watts
13 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

the means of production for Hydrogen Fuel cells are almost exclusively fossil fuel based

Currently.

Also, NW Natural is testing a way of generating H2 from methane and embedding the C in concrete rather than emitting it. To me, this seems a reasonable approach to acquiring H2 until we increase our green electricity capacity.

To me, the question of battery vs fuel cell is a technical and practical one that deserves experimentation. Cities like Cambridge are abandoning already built catenary bus lines, so they obviously have some downsides I’d want to understand before recommending a new one.

When you assert that modern diesel engines have “low emissions”, do you mean CO2 or particulates? TriMet’s 2040 deadline for phasing out diesel is a disgustingly long timeline in my opinion.

blumdrew
13 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Also, NW Natural is testing a way of generating H2 from methane and embedding the C in concrete rather than emitting it

You’ll forgive me if I don’t get excited about NW Natural finding new ways to extract and profit from fossil fuels. Plus “testing” – fine, if that works it’s worth considering. But it hasn’t worked yet!! We should not be speculating on unproven tech for arguably the important bus route in the state!

To me, the question of battery vs fuel cell is a technical and practical one that deserves experimentation

I agree, it’s worth experimentation. That should never be the attitude for buying buses for the busiest bus route in the state of Oregon. Experiment on a low or medium ridership route first, then move to a key route.

There are downsides to trolleybuses – namely, capital and maintenance costs associated with maintaining the wires. But those are relatively minor, and eminently solvable. Plus, new trolleybus models have small batteries (range ~10 to 20 miles) to allow for off-wire use in emergency (or just when the collectors fall down).

Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
13 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

There are downsides to trolleybuses to any non-fossil-fuel option, but unlike greenhouse-gas-generated hydrogen trolleybuses are a proven technology for longer bus routes that, with a transition to renewables, does not worsen the climate crisis. This pathetic pandering to the “pipe dreams” of the ecocidal fracked gas industry is a great example of how Portland “progressives” have their own special brand of climate-crisis denial.

Micah
Micah
12 days ago

If you are going to consider carbon emissions for the hydrogen production (which one absolutely should), the source of the grid electricity should also be considered. Here you can say we have BPA hydro, but a lot of grid power is generated with natural gas or even coal, and this supply will be stressed by vehicle electrification (not to mention heat pump/AC usage growth as the summers become hotter). I think DOE and other funders think that by stimulating more applications for hydrogen, industry interest will grow and hydrogen technology will get cheaper. An important future application of hydrogen might be storing excess wind and solar, which is challenging with batteries (‘intermittency problem’).

Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
12 days ago
Reply to  Micah

the source of the grid electricity

This isn’t the main problem with make-believe “green” hydrogen. The issue is that hydrogen generation is a far less efficient way to convert renewable energy into joules of energy that actually moves vehicles.

Here you can say we have BPA hydro

This is one of the big lies Oregon liberals tell themselves so they don’t feel too guilty about living their ecocidal lifestyles. Because most of the BPA’s hydro generation is exported to other states, the majority of electricity consumed by Oregonians is fired by coal and natural gas. From a decarbonization of energy point of view, Oregon is something like a MAGA drill, baby dill state that delusionally claims to be “green”.

Wooster
Wooster
11 days ago

Hydrogen is less efficient at converting fuel into power, but it has far more energy density than batteries will ever have, and at far lower weight, so from that sense it is much more efficient than electricity at powering large vehicles like buses and trucks.

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
10 days ago
Reply to  Wooster

In some vehicle applications, combustible hydrogen in the ICEngine of a plug-in hybrid drivetrain can deliver more than twice the equivalent MPG possible in hydrogen fuel cell EVs. The latest model Prius plug-in hybrid PHEV is rated an effective 125mpg, the discontinued Chevy Volt PHEV is rated 150mpg. Both the Prius & Chevy Volt sedans if run on a standard non-electric drivetrain would get 30mpg.

Plug-in hybrids have relatively small capacity battery packs. When the two energy sources (combustible hydrogen and small battery) are combined, energy efficiency is greater than either alone and are more equitably distributed to more vehicles.

Watts
Watts
9 days ago
Reply to  Art Lewellan

Since fuel cells are even more efficient than burning hydrogen, wouldn’t hooking one up to a battery create a true supercar?

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
9 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Hydrogen fuel cell “in some vehicle applications” is not more efficient than combustible hydrogen in the ICEngine of a plug-in hybrid drivetrain. The 125mpg and 150mpg fuel economy is only possible by driving less – on the battery alone – 30 miles in the Prius PHEV with its 7.7kwh pack or 50 miles with the larger Chevy Volt 18kwh pack. Driving less is the ultimate goal rather than driving just as much and inevitably more and more and impossibly more.

Heavier vehicles such as buses and freight trucks that transport goods farther distances entail energy statistics that make fuel economy more difficult to estimate.

I think it likely that Lithium-ion will be phased out and replaced with Sodium-ion EV battery tech. The main drawback with Sodium-ion is its energy capacity is 20% less than Lithium-ion, not a problem with PHEV because this battery capacity shortfall can be readily increased 20% without adding much weight or size. Thanks Watts, for the feedback. You may be correct about the combination of fuel cell & battery for some EV applications.

Tim
Tim
6 days ago
Reply to  Art Lewellan

18kWh is also not a tiny battery. That better be able to deliver some decent on battery range. My EV is 42kWh.

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
6 days ago
Reply to  Tim

Tim, For comparison, the BMW sub-compact 2-door BEV “Smart Car” battery pack is 16kwh; a BEV ionic5 pack is 77kwh, a Tesla ‘X’ pack is 95kwh; a Daimler BEV freight truck pack is a huge 550kwh which will deplete and need replacement at 150k-200k miles or every 2 years.
My objective is to achieve “equitable” battery resource distribution for all BEV vs PHEV cars/trucks.

For example: ‘1’ BEV freight truck pack of 550kwh delivers {200k miles} of goods transport (5 packs in 10 years).
‘1’ PHEV freight truck pack of 110kwh (also 5 packs in 10 years) collectively delivers {750k miles} of goods transport.
’35’ BEV Ionic5 sedan packs of 77kwh
‘350’ PHEV Prius packs of 7.7kwh
(both sedan packs last 10 years)

It’s not easy to explain how PHEV tech distributes resources (battery, hydrogen, solar arrays) more equitably than BEV tech. Assume there are a dozen benefits EVs offer, equitable resource distribution among them. The #1 benefit is their potential to reduce car dependency and insane traffic.

The less we drive, the more we direct urban/suburban development whereby more routine trips can occur without having to drive, whereby local economies grow and more trips become possible without having to drive, whereby walking, bicycling and public transit – all more energy efficient than driving – become viable travel options.

I’m trying to present the bigger picture of which EV tech offers the most benefits, BEV vs PHEV.

Micah Prange
Micah Prange
11 days ago

The point about the grid electricity was aimed at your advocacy for trolleybuses. You say hydrogen is a poor choice because brown/grey H2 relies on fossil fuels. That is a critique I agree with. Your bolded statement above shows that trolleybuses also are powered by fossil fuels, which was my point.

The issue is that hydrogen generation is a far less efficient way to convert renewable energy into joules of energy that actually moves vehicles.

Not sure what you mean by converting renewables into ‘joules of energy’, but I assume you mean storing the energy. What are you comparing H2 generation to? During the spring Columbia Gorge wind generation capacity goes unused because there is nothing to do with it. In my book that is 0% efficiency. Instead, it could be used to split water. I’m not saying H2 is a cure-all, but I do think it’s worth investigating how to make it more useful as an energy storage technology.

blumdrew
11 days ago
Reply to  Micah

At best, hydrogen offers a new type of battery. If it can be produced without using fossil fuels directly, then it has the chance to be essentially a less resource intensive version of a Lithium Ion battery. But the same issue of where the electricity comes from then will also apply to fuel cell production. The reason that a trolleybus is an appealing candidate is that it doesn’t require a large battery, and so cuts out the “middle man” all together (most modern trolleybuses do have a small battery allowing for 10ish miles of off wire driving for flexibility/reliability). Not having a battery saves weight, and makes them much more efficient – both because they don’t have to lug a 15 ton battery around, but also because they don’t suffer the same kind of electric loses associated with a battery.

If hydrogen becomes cheap and readily available for battery-like uses, that will be a welcome application for the energy grid – and indeed for battery powered buses. Until then, I think it’s an extremely bad idea to replace buses on high ridership routes like the 72 with a type of bus that has no existing operational infrastructure at TriMet (mechanics, fuel, operational familiarity). Those things may be straightforward for TriMet to garner over time – but look at how they rolled out battery electric buses. They didn’t start with the 20, 72, 75, or 12 – they started with the 62 – a low demand, shorter route where a huge miss wouldn’t cripple the system.

Watts
Watts
11 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Hydrogen is primarily an energy carrier, as you said, but there are some indications that there may be reservoirs of naturally existing hydrogen underground. I still consider it speculative, but I’m hearing about it more frequently. Since everyone knows natural hydrogen doesn’t exist, no one ever looked for it.

https://www.hydrogeninsight.com/innovation/massive-underground-reservoir-of-natural-hydrogen-in-spain-could-deliver-the-cheapest-h2-in-the-world/2-1-1431515

https://www.livescience.com/planet-earth/energy/massive-hydrogen-reservoir-discovered-beneath-an-albanian-mine-could-be-an-untapped-source-of-clean-energy

Micah Prange
Micah Prange
11 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

I agree with everything you’ve written here.

Two comments:

1) There is a lot of interest in producing H2 directly from light (photocatalytic or photoelectrochemical water splitting), which would not involve electricity generation at all. This class of technology would compete with amorphous Si solar panels, which are inefficient at converting light energy to electrical energy.

2) When you write

But the same issue of where the electricity comes from then will also apply to fuel cell production.

it seems like you are conflating the fuel cell with the fuel. A fuel cell is a device that converts hydrogen and oxygen gasses to electricity by reacting them to form water. The fuel is H2 itself (the oxygen comes from the ambient environment). That being said, you are right to point out problems with fuel cells. In a desirable future the fuel cells would be manufactured once and used for a long life. Real-world devices do degrade with time. Further, most of them contain a lot of rare earth elements that may be difficult/expensive to source in the future.

blumdrew
9 days ago
Reply to  Micah Prange

it seems like you are conflating the fuel cell with the fuel.

No, if it’s the act of creating the fuel that generates the emissions then a hydrogen cell functions in a similar way to a battery. In a similar vein, if all of a sudden burning oil didn’t produce CO2, but it still was produced in the refining process then oil would be a good analogue here. The process of creating the fuel generating emissions (rather than at point of use) is the same way that a battery works in essence

Watts
Watts
12 days ago

I would love it if one of the knowledgeable trolleybus folks would try to channel their inner TriMet planner and make the best case for why they’re not using the technology.

Construction cost has to be on the list, but given that some cities are moving away from already-built trolleybus lines, are there any operational challenges that are worth considering?

I have absolutely no dog in this race (I think the wires are ugly, but on 82nd it’s not my problem). I just want to understand the issue a bit better.

Wooster
Wooster
11 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Construction cost is extremely high, but also the ongoing maintenance cost is extremely high.

The public hates the overhead wires and will fight tooth and nail to stop a tangle of overhead wires over every main street in Portland with bus service.

Finally, the poles on the buses that connect to the catenary wires fall off all the time! Anyone who has ridden buses in Seattle knows what I’m talking about. Every time that happens, the driver has to stop the bus, get out, grab some long grabber tools, and carefully re-attach the catenary poles. Streetcars and light rail trains don’t have this problem, because they are a fixed rail alignment, but buses often have to turn and swerve around parked cars and whatnot, and it’s much harder to keep connected to the electric wires.

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
11 days ago
Reply to  Watts

I’m not opposed to them – I like that they are able to route around obstructions and local power outages – unlike light rail.

Combine higher capacity articulated trolley buses with BRT and you’d get a decently robust transit line.

If I were playing devil’s advocate though I’d point to the issues we face with the catenary lines the MAX uses:

We have in the past two years experienced lows of 15 degrees and highs around 110 degrees – Both shut the MAX lines down in large part because of line issues.

Summer – sagging beyond the abilities of the counterweights to tension them (what are the limitations here – do they have to consider very cold temperatures while calibrating them? Is there a maximum range that copper lines can handle?)

Winter – ice on the lines cripples MAX. Clearing the ice requires a special ice cutter pantograph then frequent normal runs of the vehicle to keep them clear. A trolley bus has the ability to keep going past small sections of ice that stall a MAX out, but that doesn’t clear it for the next bus.

Also, Green line service went away for a while last summer (IIRC) when a train stripped the power lines as it traveled south.

Question: What are the transmission losses on those lines? Standard high voltage transimission lines are 30% IIRC. How about losses in the last mile to the bus then losses in transmission to the bus?

Producing H2 is very inefficient, but if the power generation is local to production, possibly not quite as bad as it looks at first blush when considering losses to transmit power to vehicles.

My biggest issue with any new tech on such a busy line is that it will result in delays and service reduction/interruptions early on (witness the articulated buses on the FX line on Division that got recalled twice – and they’re just fancy diesel rigs)

My electric tools have capacitor power packs that only last a short time, but by alternating I always have a fresh pack because of how fast they charge.

My fantasy for e-vehicles is to go to ultra-capacitors (short range, can be produced from much more abundant/cheaper materials than LIon batteries, very fast charging) with high speed inductive charging at layovers.

Of course I also fantasize about high priority cycleways along major corridors – while riding the 14 from Lents to Downtown, the FX to downtown among others I’m struck by the fact that I would outpace them if I had a parallel route equivalent to ones like the Springwater on the Willamette or the 224 path from Mather to 212.

Then I wake up and remember what the human race is actually like 🙁

Micah Prange
Micah Prange
11 days ago
Reply to  Watts

I’m not a knowledgable trolleybus person, but I did ride the electric busses in Seattle quite a bit in the first decade of this century. The connection to the overhead lines was pretty unreliable — the conductors brining power to the bus would frequently come out of contact with the overhead wires, and the diver would have to get out and fish around with a long, purpose built pole that rode on the side of the bus to get them reattached. For this reason the electric busses had a reputation for being less reliable than the diesel ones. Also, the overhead lines only existed on certain routes. Besides these mundane and tolerable problems, it was a great system. I can’t imagine trimet exhibiting the competence to build and maintain the needed overhead wires in a successful way, but I would love to be proven wrong.

blumdrew
9 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Seeing as they didn’t even study trolleybuses in the 2018 zero emission bus study, it’s hard to say. It’d be nice if they had specifically said why or why not! I imagine that the issue is more funding/grant from the feds. I’m not aware of any federal programs to support trolleybus procurement or maintenance of way. This lack of “soft support” I think is a larger reason for agencies being shy of trolleybuses – they are just sort of seen as antiquated relics of a bygone era, and battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell are seen as the future. It’s not clear to me if this is true

There are operational concerns no doubt, but the proliferation of newer model buses that have some on-storage capacity makes trolleybuses much more flexible than they were previously. I think the larger concern is that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to build just one trolleybus line, and it would be a fairly large undertaking to do it on say the 4 or 5 routes best suited (for my $: the 8, 14, 15, and 73) for trolleybus operations (shorter routes with high density of demand).

And while it’s technically true that “some cities” are moving away from already-built trolleybus lines that’s mostly just Boston in the US. The other cities in the US/Canada with trolleybuses (San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver BC, Philadelphia, and Dayton OH) are either investing in new buses or modernizing their systems. There are also international examples of new(ish) systems being built. Bologna opened a new trolleybus system in 1991 (it’s third separate system), and Rome did so in 2005 (full Italian system list here)

Granpa
Granpa
13 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

My son built a hydrogen fuel cell as his master thesis. The technology is known. The practical applications have not been scaled up, but with Tri-Met’s generous timeline, successful applications of the technology are attainable.

blumdrew
13 days ago
Reply to  Granpa

The practical applications is what matters though! The engine working matters, but where the fuel comes from matters just as much. As far as I know, there is basically no existing hydrogen fuel cell infrastructure in Oregon. Is it worth it to build all that for one bus line?

There is existing bus technology for zero emissions that doesn’t require building an entirely new logistical framework. Yes, I think trolleybuses would be ideal, but given that TriMet has already been pursuing Battery Electric it’s pretty strange to also go for hydrogen (operationally). It’s a poor strategic choice, and it’s made worse by the general uncertainty in the hydrogen fuel cell world (both on the producing fuel side and on the bus procurement side)

Watts
Watts
13 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

From TriMet’s perspective, it sounds like less a strategic choice and more “let’s spend some grant money!” Maybe H2 will prove practical, maybe it won’t. But we need more real world experience to know, and it sounds like someone is willing to pay TriMet to help test it. I have no way of knowing if this is the right project or the right technology; it would be interesting to hear more from TriMet.

Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
12 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Maybe H2 will prove practical

Why invest in an alternative that is batting 0.00 in the real world, when far cheaper and proven alternatives exist that are deployable on a wide scale.

This rinky dink project is an example of pandering to the fossil fuel industry and of the lack of urgency to address the climate crisis.

John V
John V
12 days ago

I believe you’ll find the reasoning persuasive. Yeah, the proven alternatives exist, but the unproven mystery tech could be anything! It could even be a proven alternative!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZpIog7e-R4

Watts
Watts
12 days ago

batting 0.00 in the real world

Not exactly. “As of 2020, 5,648 hydrogen fuel cell buses are in use around the world.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_cell_bus

Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
12 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Apart from the fact that trolley buses are a mature and inexpensive technology used world-wide, according to your own link 94% of these several thousand buses are in China.

In contrast, there are over a million electric buses in China with some cities having fleets in the tens of thousand. In 2022 ~140,000 battery electric buses were sold in China. India has also adopted BEV at an accelerated pace with over 70,00 battery electric buses sold in 2023.

So maybe not batting 0.00 but pretty damn close to 0.

It’s striking how incredibly backward the USA and Portland is when it comes to electrification.

Bill
Bill
13 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Hydrogen doesn’t necessarily need the same level of infrastructure that other fuels do — on-site electrolyzers for transit buses have been in use for about 2 decades now: https://www.actransit.org/zeb

Dirk
Dirk
12 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

The other FX buses shut down shortly after deployment, maybe these will too!

blumdrew
12 days ago
Reply to  Dirk

That was a maintenance issue that the manufacturer was responsible for. If TriMet hadn’t been spooked out of having articulated buses for 40 years (because of a poor maintenance record on the one type they had in the 1980s), it wouldn’t have been as big of an issue, since they could have had a larger fleet to fill the gaps in

Champs
Champs
13 days ago
Reply to  Granpa

Two years ago green hydrogen was only 1% of the total supply, which needs to double, and real-world deployment is “not taking off.”
https://arstechnica.com/science/2024/07/the-greening-of-planes-trains-and-automobiles/

Every “transitional” technology waiting for innovation feels like an ecological debt that we are never going to repay: nuclear waste still piling up in “temporary” casks at plants, fossil fuels to generate hydrogen, plastics turning to smithereens embedded in every living cell and drop of water, etc.

Wooster
Wooster
11 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Oregon, Washington, and Montana received a huge grant recently from the infrastructure bill to develop a clean hydrogen hub, most likely around the Columbia River and Snake River areas where there are tons of hydroelectric dams, wind farms, and solar farms. They will use hydrolysis to turn the clean electricity into clean liquid hydrogen, then ship it to places like Portland (probably using hydrogen-powered trucks, maybe eventually a pipeline), meaning the hydrogen would be produced without carbon emissions and does not release anything but water vapor out of the tail-pipe. TriMet has already committed to only using no-carbon hydrogen, and their grants require that, so that shouldn’t be a concern. Whereas using electric buses means you’re stuck with whatever the sources are for the electrical grid, which still include a lot of coal and natural gas. So I think this will be cleaner and better than electric buses, plus they have better range, faster fueling, more energy density, etc.

Trolleybuses like they have in Seattle are great, but the up-front costs of installing all the catenary wires all over the city would be astronomical, not to mention the public wouldn’t stand for that many wires in the air all over the place. Cities that already have a trolleybus network should keep them, but once Portland made the mistake of removing its trolleybus overhead wires, there’s no going back.

John D
John D
13 days ago

Happy to see more investment in our transit system. Wish we could have seen investment in TV Hwy at the same time, but I guess that planning isn’t as far along as 82nd.

blumdrew
12 days ago
Reply to  John D

I’m under the impression that there’s just less momentum for changing TV Highway, but imo the need is much more dire than it is on 82nd. I walked from my partner’s work in Hillsboro to Forest Grove (for fun, along TV Highway – don’t ask) one morning this spring and it’s got to be the worst pedestrian conditions of any road in the metro area. It’s worse than 82nd, it’s worse than Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, it’s worse than Barbur, it’s worse than Lombard, and it’s worse than Powell. It’s not even close honestly.

Which is concerning, given that it’s the primary commercial center for most of Hillsboro and Aloha. Plus, the 57 is arguably more of a workhouse route for TriMet than even the 72; 9.9 passenger miles per revenue mile vs. 8.9 – top two buses in the network.

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
11 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

My vet moved their location to BHH around 91st (ish).

I did that trip outside of a bus once. I apologized to my cat for that.

BHH and Canyon are the very definition of “car sewer” marginally less hospitable than 82nd (which is pretty god-awful but has parallel routes much closer).

X
X
12 days ago

The article is straight reporting that doesn’t take a view on the choice of technology but some really good comments fill in for that. Unfortunately people who “never read the comments” won’t see them.

When we put heavy, bulky and expensive tech on the buses that’s more stuff to carry around, potential obsolescence if the energy source changes, and shorter service life if a refit is infeasible. Grant money is poison fruit if it means a commitment to the wrong course.

Putting the energy storage on the vehicle is partly avoidance of any change in land use that might be needed to make transit work well. We’re going going to keep storing private cars and accommodating their turning movements. If we set the bar of service improvement at 6% we’ll never know what good transit looks like.

blumdrew
12 days ago

yes.. but the e-powered buses of yore (that still exist in tons of places – including Seattle, Vancouver BC, San Francisco, and Dayton Ohio) are proven tech that this could have been spent on too. And while I think I know why they didn’t it’s hard to say for sure – TriMet didn’t even study trolleybuses when considering zero emission buses a few years ago. Trolleybuses have lots of downsides, but they also are considered fixed guideway transit (since they use overhead catenary). There are a ton of grants, and other funding programs exclusive to fixed guideway systems (which is part of why when Seattle studied total costs on their trolleybus routes vs. their regular bus routes in the 1990s, the trolleybus came out ahead).

It’s fine and dandy to chase grant money, but there is no part of either their current zero emission bus plan, or their prior plan (Sep 2018) mention any supporting infrastructure for hydrogen fuel cell buses. I feel like this is an issue worth looking at more deeply – since the operational constraints of using a new bus fuel on a very high demand route are not just some trivial thing to figure out later. If they purchase a bunch of buses to run on the 72, but then can’t use them for preventable operational reasons (like lack of fuel infrastructure) then we’ll have spent a bunch of grant money on one thing that could have either gone to a technology they have studied more closely (battery electric) or one certain commenters won’t stop talking about (me, trolleybuses).

Anyways, I get the larger point but it’s sort of frustrating to follow this kind of decision making process as an advocate/bus rider

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
10 days ago

The following statement “These two awards push TriMet far along toward their goal of a 100% zero-emissions bus fleet by 2040” is debatable. I disagree entirely but explaining my viewpoint is no simple matter.

Consider 3 aspects of bus service: bus tech, bus routes, schedules. Standard buses (jostling, jolting, shuddering, shaking rattletraps, cold in winter, hot in summer, clammy in wet weather) do NOT convert to EV very well, nor do 60′ articulated buses which are likewise uncomfortable only more so. New electric buses MUST be built from the ground up for EV drivetrain to improve ride comfort and provide safer handling.

To increase service frequency (schedules), my sense of the ideal bus length is a 30′ rather than standard 40′ and 60′ articulated. Bus routes are also in question, particularly on longer routes such as the #72. Shorter bus routes can match supply to demand whereby more frequently convenient service may be provided.

The electric bus I believe unwisely neglected is Plug-in Hybrid PHEV and its eventual next step PHEV+H combustible hydrogen which stores at much lower pressure than hydrogen fuel cell (1750 lbs vs 10k lbs) and stores in smaller-safer tanks. The PHEV battery pack is 1/5 the capacity of a BEV (all-battery) electric bus (500kwh vs 100kwh). The two power sources combined (battery & combustible hydrogen) are more energy efficient than either alone.

Simply put, hydrogen fuel cell bus tech is highly questionable and the ideal bus tech alone will not push bus system design beyond the dismal failure it’s been since forever.