Go Wellington trolley buses, not as green as a bicycle

19 05 2010

This is amusing.

One deadset legend, I. Sellen, saw one of the Go Wellington trolley buses as he cycled through Behampore with  “Go2 work…Go2 rest…Go2 play…Go2 everyday…Wellington’s Greenest Commuters…Go2 It.” painted on the side, and on the other side “Keen to be green…ride the trolley…Wellington’s greenest commuters…Go2 it”. On the rear of the bus was the Go2 logo along with the words: “Your cleaner, greener future”.

and he (or she) wrote to the Advertising Standards Authority and said “This is an erroneous claim, as cycling to work is a more environmentally friendly and energy efficient method of commuting than going by bus.”

The result of the ASA board decision last month – Complaint upheld.

Electrically powered trolley buses in Wellington run off the grid, and the grid in NZ is 68% from renewables, which is mainly hydro, but with wind and geothermal.

Go Wellington responded with (in part – you can see the report in full here):

“In terms of public transport alternatives, studies have shown the trolley bus to be a much `greener’ alternative. In fact, the reintroduction of the trolley fleet in Wellington gained a great deal of support with the Green Party producing a press release in March 2005 openly supporting their continued service and noting that “Trolleys are clearly superior to diesels when their environmental impacts are considered. While trolleys use a renewable resource, diesels emit climate change-causing pollutants, while trolleys are smooth and quiet, diesels are noisy and dirty.

“As the trolley buses are powered by electricity, they produce no CO2 or particulate emissions and are extremely quiet in their operation thereby reducing the overall environmental impact. The trolley bus engine is 90 per cent efficient in converting energy into motive energy (as compared to the 40 per cent efficiency of the diesel engine)

“Wellingtons new trolley buses (of which the paua and fern design are only two) cover over 2.2 million kilometers per year and provide over seven million rides per year. If private cars were to replace these trolley buses, they would cover approximately 23 million kilometers, using 2.5 million litres of fuel and emitting over 5,800 tonnes of C02 per year (which is 115,000 tonnes over 20 years). A number of cities worldwide are in the process of building trolley systems to reduce local and environmental impacts or as a means of developing sustainable alternatives to petroleum fuels. In addition, data from Seattle and San Francisco show that trolley buses attract 10-18% more passengers and Arnhem Netherlands and Salzburg Austria report 16-17% more passengers than those attracted by their diesel counterparts (Booz Allen and Hamilton; TBus Group).”

Of course GO Wellington is correct in everything it says, except about the CO2 it produces (it’s 68% renewables not 100%) but so was I. Sellen. Bicycles are indeed the most efficient way to commute.

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