Update: Muni confirms five new $750K buses conked out en route to San Francisco last week alone. See end.
Blake Rittman, the drummer for the San Francisco band Posole
, was napping in his group's 1993 Ford Econoline. That wasn't unusual. Waking up to see a Muni bus alongside them while rolling between Rock Springs and Rawlins, Wyoming
"We wait for Muni all the time," says Rittman. "So, to see one in Wyoming was hilarious."
Whether his fellow San Franciscans will be waiting for this and a number of other new diesel-electric hybrid buses anytime soon is a pressing question. SF Weekly
has learned that a handful of them failed en route from the New Flyer plant in St. Cloud, Minn
., and were towed back to their maker.*
Muni spokesman Paul Rose confirmed that five of the buses -- price tag: approximately $750,000 a pop -- have conked out en route to San Francisco. He was unable to provide dates of the failures, but sources within Muni said this is problem that has arisen relatively recently.
Rose also confirmed that Neal Popp, Muni's chief mechanical officer, is
currently in Minnesota. He claimed, however, this has nothing to do with
a rash of failures, and Popp would have been visiting New Flyer
regardless. Calls to the Winnipeg-based company have not yet been
returned. Popp refused to speak to SF Weekly.
The high-tech, pricey buses have not always been on their best behavior. Notably, one tapped to carry Mayor Ed Lee and other city luminaries 2.5 miles from the waterfront to City Hall in June failed to start -- even after making the trip all the way from St. Cloud.
Posole, meanwhile, is scheduled to return from its far-reaching tour for a show back in San Francisco, its home city, at Thee Parkside on Friday, Oct. 25.
Whether the multiple Muni buses they saw along the way will be joining them remains to be seen.
Update, 8 p.m.: Rose confirms to SF Weekly that five New Flyer buses en route to San Francisco from New Flyer's St. Could, Minn. facility failed, and were towed last week.
They were "not necessarily towed back to New Flyer. New Flyer has a large network across the country where work can be done."
Still, five buses failed in one week alone. The presence of a senior Muni maintenance official at the St. Cloud plant is, again, a coincidence.
Bus No. 8706, which was photographed by Posole in Wyoming, successfully arrived in the Bay Area. Hopefully Posole does the same for its Friday Thee Parkside show.