Clearer protocols for exiting buses, different seat colors for disabled passengers, anti-graffiti material on ceilings and new floors are all features of the 80 recently rehabbed Muni buses set to hit the streets next week.
Muni’s 800 buses currently make up the oldest fleet in North America, and the aging vehicles are prone to breakdowns and malfunctions. As part of a $19 million rehabilitation project, the 80 buses will now have another four years of usefulness added to their lifespan, according to John Haley, Muni’s director of transit.
The rehabbed buses — all 40-foot vehicles made by Neoplan — received a series of upgrades designed to improve the experience for both passengers and operators.
A new green light and sensor has been installed in the back-door boarding area of the buses, clearing up an often-confusing off-boarding process. The green light will pop on whenever the back doors are clear to open, giving passengers the go-ahead to step down the stairs and exit the vehicle.
Seats that are reserved for wheelchair users have been painted blue as opposed to red, to indicate that they must be vacated for passengers with disabilities. The buses have new floorboards and ceiling material that make it easier to clean off graffiti.
Along with the amenities, the buses feature controls that are easier for operators to use, including a lever to open the door that is now closer to the driver’s seat, which has been upholstered as well.
Muni operator Emanuel Andreas, who watched a demonstration of the new buses Thursday, said he liked their look.
“I mean, a bus is a bus to me,” said Andreas, a 13-year veteran of Muni. “But I think the new safety features will make it easier to drive.”
Ed Reiskin, transportation director of Muni, said the agency carefully reviewed all 330 of its Neoplan buses to decide which ones could be rehabbed and which ones should be taken out of service. The agency determined that it would be most cost-efficient to rehab 80, at the cost of roughly $240,000 per vehicle.
Muni also is planning to introduce 62 new buses next month. With the influx of those vehicles, which cost about $715,000 each, Muni will have more than 140 new or rehabbed buses in its fleet next month. The last time the agency added new vehicles was 2007.