On a beautiful Earth Day last year, SFMTA officials excitedly unveiled the first of sixty brand new electric trolley buses purchased by the city of San Francisco. In conjunction with 61 new biodiesel-electric hybrid buses, these $1.1 million-a-piece vehicles were touted as a crucial investment in a public transit system still running buses 20-plus-years old. There's just one problem: The 60-foot buses can't go up San Francisco's hills.
In fact, the buses were never designed to handle our iconic hills — anything over a 10 percent grade wears down motor components. So reports the Examiner, which notes that the New Flyer buses also struggle to meet Muni's internal acceleration standards on inclines of 5 to 10 percent — sometimes taking double the time during tests to accelerate to required speeds on the slight inclines.
"This is troubling," one Muni operator who wished to remain anonymous told the paper, "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.”
Muni's solution? Run the new buses on flat routes. And besides, it's not like the old Electric Transit Inc. buses were doing just fine — SFMTA’s director of transit John Haley told the Examiner that they were “a maintenance nightmare.”
So enjoy your fleet of futuristic new buses. Unless you live or work on a hill, that is.