Aging Muni fleet gets some work done

They’re old. They’re sagging. They could use a fresh boost of life right where it counts.

Eighty of Muni’s aging diesel bus fleet are getting a much needed refurbishing near the end of their useful lives. The San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Commission board of directors approved $21 million on Tuesday to rehab Neoplan AN400’s used on lines like the 31 Balboa, 19 Polk and 43 Masonic.

With new hybrid buses costing about $600,000 each, $21 million to coax a few more years out of 80 aging diesel coaches might be a bargain. It would cost nearly $50 million to replace all of the coaches being refurbished with brand-new hybrid buses.

The $21 million will be used to overhaul mechanical systems like transmissions, brakes and suspensions. If the life of the current fleet can be stretched by a few years, new buses can be bought in small bunches and phased in over time. This approach could reduce training costs and repairs of  the inevitable defects which crop up in new coaches.

Bought between 2000 and 2003, the 40-foot coaches are the workhorses of the Muni fleet. The 200 or so that operate out of the Kirkland and Woods yards have an average age of 11 years old.

A 2010 SFMTA report estimated Muni ridership will swell to more than one million daily riders by 2030. About 700,000 ride Muni each day now.

The report estimated an additional 44 40-foot diesel coaches and 83 60-foot articulated diesel coaches wil need to be added to the fleet by 2030 to accommodate the increased demand.