Muni’s brand new buses struggle with SF’s hills, test results show

By : sfweekly – excerpt

Buses the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency recently bought from New Flyer Industries Inc. are not meant to tackle hills with a grade higher than 10 percent.

San Francisco is on a bus-buying spree. In the name of shoring up service, Mayor Ed Lee has invested nearly $26 million in purchasing new Muni buses since last year.

There is, however, a bump in the road: Some of Muni’s newest buses appear to struggle up San Francisco’s hills.

While the buses aren’t exactly rolling back down The City’s slopes, underpowered buses slow down Muni’s system, operators tell the San Francisco Examiner.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency tested its newest buses last November before letting rubber hit the cement, but the results of those tests — obtained by the Examiner — show Muni’s
new 60-foot electric buses don’t meet the agency’s own acceleration requirements for even moderately steep hills.

SFMTA officials told the Examiner they knew the buses couldn’t handle grades above 10 percent, so the agency would run them only on The City’s flatter routes.

Among the steepest routes in the Muni system are the 1-California and the 22-Fillmore. One portion of Fillmore is graded at over 18 percent, according to topographical maps.

Hills that steep will be off limits to the new buses.

The tests show, however, that the buses struggled even on the more modest hills — those measured in grades of 5 to 10 percent… (more)

We are a little too flabbergasted by the report. One wonders who is benefiting from this contract deal that has delivered slower buses on the hills, while the SFMTA is spending millions of tax-payer dollars destroying our streets to supposedly speed the buses up and save them seconds or minutes on each trip. WHO IS BENEFITING?

Suggest you read the entire document yourself, (see all the charts and graphs) and either write to the editor or author at the SFExaminer. Since there are no comments on the source site, comments are welcome here!

Additionally, the approximately 100 new electric buses may not be available to supplement out of service vehicles on steeper routes. The buses won’t be able to be plugged in as backups anywhere on the system, and are only usable on flatter terrain.

“That’s a reasonable decision,” said Peter Straus, a former SFMTA planner and now member of the San Francisco Transit Riders, an advocacy group.

“Not every bus needs to go everywhere and do everything,” he said.

Ordering double-engine, double length buses that could handle The City’s hills, Straus said, is an “additional cost, additional weight, and it’s a nonstandard product. You have to cross your fingers.”

Transit officials say they are satisfied with the new buses’ performance.

“They go up the hills, they carry people every day,” said John Haley, SFMTA’s director of transit.

Haley said the buses pass the “official” New Flyer diagnostics on moderately steep grades, and provided documentation which showed those tests were passed.

But a different document from Nov. 30, 2015, titled “SR1849 XT60 Performance Test Results — Coach 7210” indicates the new 60-foot trolleys failed key benchmarks for tackling San Francisco’s hilly topography at “required” speeds, as defined by SFMTA engineers…

Compare and contrast two tests of Muni’s new buses on SF’s hills
Read the internal memo of hill testing here.
Read what SFMTA calls its “official test” here.
The Examiner has embedded interactive “notes” from the reporter within the document. Click yellow highlighted text to read them.


It looks as if the new BRT lanes will may allow the vehicles to pass the buses stuck in the slow lane, and not the other way around. This is how SFMTA fixes the Muni.

A longtime Muni operator, who did not want to be named to protect his job, said the new buses are a poor fit for The City.

“The [new trolley buses] have good straight line power, but have difficulty with grades,” the operator said. “This is troubling, especially because San Francisco’s fleet is called upon to climb the steepest terrain of any trolley-coach system in the world on a daily basis.”

The test results document the 60-foot trolley coaches’ performance on flat ground, on a 5 percent grade and on a 10 percent grade. Geary Boulevard’s western inclines, for example, are graded between 5 and 10 percent, according to topographical maps of The City.

The results show the new buses did not meet Muni speed requirements in four out of nine tests. In some cases it took the buses twice as long as intended to accelerate on 5 and 10 percent grades… (more)



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