Seattle’s Trackless Electric Backbone

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SEATTLE — In transportation circles, the word “trolley” can sometimes come with decades-old reputational baggage. Getting around on one might seem antique and quaint, best suited for tourists taking in local attractions at a leisurely pace, not daily commuters trying to get from Point A to Point B.

But that’s not the case in the Pacific Northwest’s largest city where there’s a nearly 80-year-old system of “trackless trolleys” in addition to more familiar transit modes like buses, streetcars and light rail. Instead of steel-wheeled vehicles guided by tracks set in the pavement and powered by a single overhead wire, the trolley network in Seattle uses rubber-tired buses and two poles that follow a set of overhead wires that deliver power to the vehicle.

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