Muni inches closer to new stretch trolleys

Muni’s oldest and least reliable fleet of buses is about to finally get replaced with newer buses from New Flyer of America Inc.

The Municipal Transportation Agency is planning to replace 60 articulated electronic trolley coaches purchased in 1992 and put in service in 1994.

John Haley, director of transit, said the trolley coaches are “long past their useful life” of 15 years at a San Francisco Board of Supervisors budget committee on Wednesday.

The budget committee approved the $95.5 million contract to buy 60 articulated trolley coaches from New Flyer, which includes an option to buy 33 additional articulated trolley coaches and 240 standard trolley coaches when funding becomes available.

Funds for the 60 articulated buses will come from by federal grants ($76 million), Proposition K local funding ($19 million) and local grants ($200,000).

Each bus will cost about $1.5 million, which includes costs related to modifications to each bus such as adding polished aluminum wheels and scratch-resistant windows. Each bus will receive about $134,000 in modifications.

New Flyer is the same manufacturer that produced 62 of Muni’s new 40-foot hybrid buses that arrived in the City last year. The Board of Supervisors approved an additional 50 hybrids at their Oct. 29 meeting.

According to a report by SF Weekly last week, the second set of hybrids had already been manufactured and stored in an Alameda warehouse while the contract process was still going on.

Supervisor John Avalos said it made him feel uncomfortable that the buses were already on its way before the board’s approval:

“It just makes me feel like our role here isn’t really that important or the role here isn’t really necessary for the MTA possibly to make its decisions.”

Elson Hao, a principal engineer for the SFMTA, said the transit agency had nothing to do with New Flyer manufacturing the buses before supervisors approved the contract.

Hao said New Flyer had an internal quota last quarter to manufacture a certain amount of buses. He told New Flyer that they did not have a contract with the SFMTA yet and that they would be manufacturing the buses at their own risk.

Avalos said he wants to avoid this situation again with the current and future contracts:

“I want make sure moving forward that we are doing things in a more linear way when it comes to manufacturing buses with New Flyer.”

Hao said the transit agency will make sure the contract process will be followed.

The first bus will arrive in early 2015, said Haley.

The contract will head to the full board of supervisors for approval at their Jan. 28 meeting.