Muni’s network of transit-only lanes will be extended from North Beach to the Ingleside District and its aging bus fleet will receive 18 new vehicles, courtesy of new federal grants that also benefit BART, SamTrans and AC Transit.
The Federal Transit Administration announced on Monday that it would direct more than $45 million to Bay Area transportation agencies for maintenance and system upgrades, including $21 million for Muni to buy new buses and improve service on its 8X-Bayshore Express line.
Muni will use $15 million to purchase 18 new biodiesel-electric hybrid buses over the next eight to 10 years. The vehicles are 30 percent more fuel efficient and emit 95 percent less particulate matter than the diesel buses they are replacing, each of which are more than 20 years old and have been in regular service since 1993.
The remaining $6.3 million for Muni will be used to install transit-only lanes, new traffic signals and fare payment machines along the 8X line, a heavily-used bus route that runs from North Beach to Ocean Avenue. Each day, more than 30,000 people travel on the line.
“We will put these dollars to good use and make sure we spend them efficiently and ensure that our transit passengers see a direct benefit from them,” said Ed Reiskin, director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni.
Reiskin has made maintenance improvements a priority at Muni, which has the oldest bus fleet in the nation, according to the agency.
Along with the Muni funding haul, SamTrans will receive $5 million to buy 25 new hybrid buses and BART is set to take in $3.2 million for real-time departure and arrival information services at its transit stations. AC Transit, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Agency and Monterey-Salinas Transit agency also received funds from the federal government on Monday.
“These awards are a big win for everyone,” said Therese McMillan, the deputy Federal Transit Administrator.
“They will reduce highway congestion, improve air quality and help this region continue to offer balanced transportation options.”
Although Federal Transit Administration officials reaffirmed their support for Muni’s Central Subway project Monday, they remained tight-lipped about when or if the agency will receive $942 million in federal funding for the project.
Deputy Federal Transit Administrator Therese McMillan, in The City to announce $45.7 million in regional grant projects, did not disclose any details about when the Central Subway grant would be delivered or why it has been held up. Muni officials originally expected to receive the grant last December.
McMillan said that President Barack Obama’s administration supports the Central Subway and is working with the local officials on the next steps for the $1.6 billion transit extension project. However, when asked if the project had been recommended to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget — part of the grant approval process — McMillan declined to answer.
“There is work that we do in Washington that is on our terms and on our schedules, and you will be apprised of progress as we work with local officials,” McMillan told reporters.
She also offered few specifics on why the release of the grant funds had been delayed.
“These are big complicated projects and all projects of these sizes have challenges,” she said. “We will work with the locals on these and details will be provided when they’re available.”