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The Fight to Keep the ETBs

Before the Flyers were even 10 years old, business factions in the CBD wanted to remove the ETB system and its "unsightly wires." Once again Bill Owen and ETB supporters mounted the fight. In 1988 the MVRTA trustees voted to gradually reduce the ETB routes, and eventually eliminate them altogether by 1995. Bill and his friends were crushed by the thought that this Dayton legacy would soon be gone. Bill went to his grave in January 1990 assuming the ETBs would soon be gone, too.

Meanwhile, his friends continued to pressure the MVRTA to retain their beloved ETBs. Organized activists surfaced to join the fight. They won, eventually.

Well, strange things happen. In 1991, a change in MVRTA trustees and management brought about a reconsideration of the ETB question. In December of that year the trustees voted to explore retention of the ETB system! But much damage had been done by deferred maintenance to the coaches and the overhead infrastructure. New coaches and renewal of the trolley wire was contracted for. In early 1996 three new trolleys arrived from Skoda in the Czech Republic as prototypes for a production fleet. Production was authorized in January of 1997 for 54 new ETBs.

The new ETBs were built on an assembly line that extended over three thousand miles! The frames and motors were built by Skoda in the Czech Republic, shipped by boat to Baltimore, Maryland, where partner AAI Corp. put on the outer skin and paint. These "shells" were then trucked to Dayton, where the final assembly was done by Electric Transit Incorporated (ETI). MVRTA accepted the first one in May of 1998; the 54th and final bus was accepted in September 1999. All 54 plus the 3 prototypes are in revenue service. The last Flyer retired in August 1999.

The new trolleys feature powerful air conditioning, wheel-chair lifts at the front door, security cameras, and bicycle racks on the front. They are painted -- yes -- two-tone yellow and gold, just like the 1895 City Railway cars. This was done to enhance the image of the Dayton legacy of continued electrically-propelled transit vehicles.

In addition to a continuing program to refurbish the existing overhead trolley wire infrastructure, since 1995 the MVRTA has not only built several long extensions to five ETB routes, but has also built an entirely new ETB route to Townview!

The Dayton Electric Trolley Bus Legacy is not only alive and well, but is still growing! The idea of a rubber-tired bus being moved by electricity from two overhead wires continues to be a Dayton Legacy. Bill Owen would approve.

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