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Fantastic Voyage: A New Muni Bus Goes 1,900 Miles to Crap Out in Front of the Mayor 

Wednesday, Jun 26 2013

The journey from Pier 48 near AT&T Park to City Hall is a shade under 2.5 miles and, per the wisdom of the Internet, ought to take 29 minutes on public transit.

Well, you can't believe everything you read on the Internet. Last week, Mayor Ed Lee and other charter members of the City Family were forced to shuffle off of a malfunctioning bus unable to undertake this trip. Mass offboarding of a crippled Muni vehicle happens with relative frequency. But it's not every day that Lee et al. throw a press conference to fete Muni's new $700,000-a-pop hybrid buses, and then experience those buses immediately conking out.

Intriguingly, the bus unable to handle a 2.5-mile journey recently completed a 1,900-mile drive. A pair of New Flyer hybrid buses were, on June 16, spotted on Highway 80, just west of the summit of Donner Pass, motoring toward San Francisco. They sported Minnesota plates, which makes sense, as the vehicles are assembled in St. Cloud (just a 51-mile jaunt down I-94 from Anoka, birthplace of Garrison Keillor).

Those New Flyer buses may never again roll outside of city limits, but, intuitively, the easiest way to deliver city buses to cities nationwide is to drive them there. "We do that for, I'd say, 98 percent of our buses," says Mike McLure, the traffic and customs manager for the Winnipeg-based company. When quarter-end sales goals mandate getting more buses to more places in less time, McLure notes that the vehicles are loaded onto flatbeds and driven at a more rapid rate than buses ought to go. San Francisco's new buses, however, appear to have come here unassisted.

The hybrid model Muni purchased 62 of won't exceed 55 miles per hour, which makes for a rather lengthy journey between the New Flier plant at 6200 Glenn Carlson Drive in St. Cloud and the City by the Bay. The drivers with the third-party company providing cross-country bus operators are bound by the same rules governing interstate truckers, which limit them to 11 hours of driving in any 24-hour period. Back-of-the-envelope math indicates the trek through North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, over Donner Pass, and into the city likely took the better part of four days.

An equivalent trip on foot, incidentally, would require about 50 days, assuming 12 hours of hiking a day. A stroll from Pier 48 to City Hall, at a mere 47 minutes, is comparatively a sprightly undertaking.

Remind yourselves of this the next time the bus conks out.

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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