First set of trolley buses to roll out by end of year

While San Francisco’s Muni paper transfers are soon expiring, another set of old relics are nearing retirement.

Muni’s 40-foot electric trolleys will soon drive off into retirement as newer and more reliable electric trolleys will arrive in The City during the next two years.

At a June 6 meeting, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors authorized the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to buy 185 40-foot electric trolley buses from New Flyer America Inc. for $245 million.

The city’s current fleet of standard electric trolleys have been in service since 2001, and have been dragging Muni service down. According to Director of Transit John Haley, the company that made the fleet — The Electric Transit, Inc. — has gone out of business, which makes it difficult to find replacement parts.

The SFMTA said the buses account for 40 percent of the system-wide delays because of mechanical issues.

SFBay reported in April that the buses accounted for hundreds of mechanical issues in January, February and March of this year.

Cheryl Brinkman, chair of the SFMTA Board of Directors said in a statement that replacing Muni’s aging fleet is important for Muni’s reliability and performance:

“This city deserves a safe and affordable 21st century transit system, and these sustainable upgrades will improve service for our City’s working families and workforce for many years to come.”

Muni’s electric trolleys are part of the transit agency’s rubber-tired fleet of buses. The electricity from the overhead wires power the buses. Transit officials said while the buses are less flexible on the road, the buses are energy-efficient, quieter and better for the environment.

Muni’s 40-foot electric trolleys travel on some of the steepest hills in The City, carrying about 200,000 passengers a day, according to the SFMTA. The buses serve Muni lines such as the 1-California, 22-Fillmore, 24-Divisadero, 30-Stockton and 45-Union/Stockton.

Haley said the new electric trolleys will travel further without electric poles, which will allow buses to move around any incidents on the streets.

Erica Kato, a spokesperson for the SFMTA, said the first new 40-foot electric trolleys will arrive by the end of the year. The new buses will continue to arrive through 2019.

This is the last of four procurements with New Flyer, which have been manufacturing all of Muni’s new buses, the SFMTA said.