Trolley Bus Plan Unveiled : Transit: RTD will use the clean air vehicles powered by overhead electric wires on 10 of its busiest routes. Public hearings on the proposal start Monday.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Pressed by air quality officials to switch to buses that pollute less, the Southern California Rapid Transit District said Friday that it is planning to use electric trolley buses on 10 of its busiest routes, with more to come.

The RTD has chosen 20 routes to be studied for conversion to trolley buses, and hopes to select the first 10 by the end of the year.

The routes are on some of the busiest thoroughfares in the city--Vermont Avenue in South-Central Los Angeles, Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards on the Westside, Whittier and Garvey boulevards on the Eastside, and Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley.

Public hearings on the proposal are scheduled to be held in 13 locations during the next two weeks. They begin Monday night in South-Central Los Angeles.

"The trolley bus program opens a whole new set of possibilities for clean air transit vehicle operation in Los Angeles and around the county," said Mayor Tom Bradley, who joined in making the announcement as a member of the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission.

Trolley buses, which Bradley called "an old but a new concept in public transit," are in wide use in several North American cities, including San Francisco and Vancouver, Canada. The buses resemble regular diesel buses but are faster and quieter. They use electric motors that are powered by twin poles connected to wires strung above the street.

To help conceal the sometimes unsightly overhead wires, which are the most frequently cited drawback of trolley buses, county transportation officials promised to plant thousands of full-grown trees along the 150 miles of bus lanes during the initial stage of the program.

"This project calls for the planting of about 30,000 trees along the routes," the mayor said. "And we're not talking about seedlings--we're talking about big, leafy mature trees."

Planting trees will complement the low-pollution trolley buses by helping to clean the air, RTD President Marv Holen said, while encouraging bus ridership by making the streets more attractive.

The LACTC has budgeted $500,000 a mile for landscaping the first 10 electrified bus lines. But a spokeswoman said the agency will try to recoup at least some of that cost from the cities in which the buses will run--or a share of the cost of installing overhead wires, building bus shelters or synchronizing traffic lights. Officials representing small cities have already said they have no money to share.

Albert H. Perdon, RTD transit systems development director, said the overhead wires, which cost between $4 million and $5 million a mile to install, do not pose a threat to safety or health, nor will they interfere with radio or television reception.

The RTD's interest in trolley buses is driven by the South Coast Air Quality Management District's landmark clean air plan, which asks the RTD and other bus operators to convert 30% of their bus fleets to electricity by 2010. The RTD operates about 2,500 buses.

The switch to trolley buses complements the district's pioneering effort to develop "clean fuel" buses that run on methanol or natural gas. The RTD recently ordered 202 methanol-fueled buses from a New Mexico company, the largest such order in history.

Electrification of the first 10 lines in Los Angeles will require 100 new buses a year for about four years, Perdon said. Electric trolley buses are made by eight companies in six countries--Canada, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Russia and Czechoslovakia.

Holen said the RTD is inquiring about any manufacturer interested in establishing an assembly plant in Los Angeles to fill the RTD's order and to service the rest of the country.

RTD Hearings Details about the RTD's plan to switch over to electric trolley buses will be discussed at several public meetings. Comments, suggestions and criticism are sought by RTD officials. MONDAY, FEB. 17 South-Central Los Angeles: 7 p.m., Kedron Health Center, 4211 Avalon Blvd., Los Angeles.

TUESDAY, FEB. 18 Downtown Los Angeles: 1 p.m., RTD headquarters, 425 S. Main St., Los Angeles.

East Los Angeles: 5:30 p.m., Resurrection Church Parish Hall, 3320 Opal St., Los Angeles.

West Los Angeles: 7 p.m., Culver City YMCA, 4500 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City.

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 19 Burbank-Glendale: 6 p.m., Glendale City Hall, 613 E. Broadway, Glendale.

San Gabriel Valley: 6 p.m., Senior Citizens Center, 3120 Tyler Ave., El Monte.

South Bay: 7 p.m., Sea Air Golf Course, Sepulveda and Palos Verdes, Torrance.

THURSDAY, FEB. 20 East San Fernando Valley: 7 p.m., Municipal Building, 7747 Foothill Blvd., Tujunga.

West San Fernando Valley: 7 p.m., Valley Hospital 7th Floor, Sherman Way at Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys.

East Los Angeles: 6 p.m., Lincoln Heights Senior Citizens Center, 2323 Workman St., Los Angeles.

Long Beach: 6:30 p.m., El Dorado Library, 2900 Studebaker Road, Long Beach.

MONDAY, FEB. 24 Inglewood: City Hall, 1 Manchester Blvd., Inglewood.

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 26 Montebello: 6 p.m., Montebello Senior Center, 115 S. Taylor Blvd., Montebello.

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