Muni’s new hybrids sputter into service

Riders will start seeing new buses on San Francisco streets this week after city and transit officials unveiled Muni’s new fleet of hybrid buses near Pier 48.

The 62 new biodiesel-electric hybrid buses will help replace Muni’s aging fleet of motor coaches, which have been service for more than 13 years. It’s been almost seven years since the transit agency purchased new vehicles.

Mechanical issues on buses is the number one cause of delays, said John Haley, transit director of operations. Haley said the transit agency is very “anxious” to get the buses onto the streets:

“This is a big step for us, but only the first one.”

On the topic of mechanical issues, one of the new buses was supposed to take Mayor Ed Lee and media to City Hall, but was unable to start after experiencing an issue with the rear doors. Two other vehicles were wisely available at the unveiling for the mayor to hop on.

Mayor Lee said investing in Muni is important for the transit agency’s future. Lee said the new buses will help improve transit times and the rider experience:

“These are going to be great vehicles not only for the drivers to drive through our city safely and picking up all the passengers, [but] for our customers, our city residents, who deserve and need a more modern fleet of vehicles to service them.”

The new vehicles are environmentally-friendly using fuels that send fewer harmful emissions into the air, according to the transit agency. Parts of the buses are made of composite materials such as the floors, which absorb no water.

The buses have a 15-inch low-floor design to help make boarding faster and easier for riders. Seats inside have a graffiti-resistant material.

The rear door system is contact-less like Muni’s other hybrid vehicles in service. They will also be equipped with a state-of-the-art surveillance system that includes nine cameras able to record three times more video than existing cameras.

Each vehicle cost approximately $752,000. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency approved the purchase of the vehicles from New Flyer Industries in the fall last year.

Funding for the new hybrid vehicles came from federal, state and local resources.

The next set of Muni vehicles to be replaced is the transit agency’s trolley buses, which have been in service for 20 years. The transit agency expects to purchase 60 new trolley buses within the next two years.

The transit agency plans to replace its entire fleet of buses over the next five years.