by Isabell Angell

Hybrid_Muni_1
New Muni hybrid bus. (Photo: Isabell Angell/KQED)

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and other city officials gathered at the waterfront by AT&T Park yesterday to unveil the new hybrid buses that will join the Municipal Railway’s fleet this month. Lee said the city ordered 62 biodiesel-electric buses, which are part of his plan to overhaul the much-maligned transit agency. Muni hasn’t added new buses since 2007.

“This is what we have talked about for quite a number of years,” Lee said. “And when you realize that many of the buses that we have are over 13 years old in the city, and you realize not only how run-down they are, but they keep having to get the same parts replaced over and over again, that we need to freshen up.”

Lee said Muni had turned a corner financially, and it’s time to start reinvesting. The new buses cost more than $750,000 apiece, for a grand total of $46.5 million. The funding comes from a mix of federal, state and local sources.

John Haley, director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, said the new hybrid buses –which are advertised as cleaner, faster and safer– will help boost the system’s notorious on-time performance average.

“Bus and vehicle problems represent the No. 1 cause of Muni delays,” Haley said. “No. 1. So we are very anxious to have these buses roll onto the streets.”

But the brand-new bus malfunctioned as it was supposed to drive to City Hall with Mayor Lee and other officials. Paul Rose, a spokesman for the SFMTA, said the bus wouldn’t start because it registered that one of the back doors was open—even though it was closed. Rose said the rest of the new buses would be checked for the same issue.

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