Muni unveiled the first pair of its refurbished buses today, thanks to federal stimulus funds, marking the start of a 66-week, 62-vehicle program the agency hopes will help turn around a trend towards increased breakdowns and reduce de facto cuts to service.
On top of the up-front service cuts that Muni enacted earlier this month, one of the worst consequences of the economic downturn for Muni riders is the de facto service cut that occurs when maintenance gets deferred and vehicles start breaking down more often. That caught up with the agency at the end of last year, when the mean distance between vehicle breakdowns increased and more scheduled runs were missed altogether because no working vehicle was available.
But with 62 biodiesel Neoplan coach buses — 40-and-60-foot vehicles that are workhorses on some of Muni’s most heavily-traveled lines — set to get a full overhaul thanks to the federal government, Muni should see a bump in overall vehicle reliability.
The buses were originally purchased in 2000-2002, and are old enough to need the work, but not so old that they’re not worth the trouble, SFMTA Executive Director Nat Ford told Streetsblog during a tour of the first two vehicles to complete their rehab process.
Between now and fall of next year, the buses will be sent down to Complete Coach Works in Riverside, California, seven vehicles at a time, where they’ll each get new propulsion packages, rebuilt wheelchair lifts, new brake valves, rebuilt steering gear boxes, new suspensions, new all-LED signs and lights, graffiti-resistant light lenses, new rubber flooring, and other mechanical parts.
Bus drivers will get new seats, and all of the buses will get new paint jobs. The buses will all get cosmetic touch-ups, too. Years of graffiti had been scraped off and painted over in the two refurbished buses that SFMTA showed off today, leaving them looking almost like new.
Those two buses are actually being reviewed by the SFMTA before the rest are sent down to make sure the rehabilitation is being done correctly. All told, 35 standard 40-foot buses will be fixed up, as well as 27 articulated 60-foot buses, for a total of $16 million.
That’s still a relatively small portion of Muni’s 495 diesel buses and roughly 1,000 total buses, but at one-third the price of a new 40-foot bus, and one-fifth the price of a new 60-foot bus, at least the newly-refurbished buses are a good deal.