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Riding One of Those Fancy Hybrid Buses: A Quick Review

By now, you are bound to have seen one of MUNI's fancy new hybrid buses around town. In my neighborhood they've been spotted on the 44 O'Shaughnessy and 29 Sunset lines, but they pop up with more frequency around town as more buses are introduced into the fleet.

I have tried these buses on several occaisions, either going to my favorite Chinese restaurant, Melisa's over in the Richmond.

More recently, I rode several on the 29 Sunset line from beginning to end on a wonderfully sunny day, as part of a new feature that was to have debuted already (MuniTrekker), but sadly I had to shelve the photos since many of them didn't come out as well as I would have liked. D'oh! Thus, I had to postpone the feature's debut. But at least I got this shot of the interior of the bus. Woo hoo.

Generally, I have to say, as buses go, these are a lot better to ride in than your standard, lurchy-jerky-make-you-queasy MUNI bus, as you wind your way around town. These are much more stable, and they are easier to board for most people as they don't have steps at the front and back door. An informal survey of bus drivers indicated that they found the new buses much easier to handle in traffic than the older models, and the view from the seats in the back (which are elevated) is quite nice. And there's the fact that they are a lot quieter, as well.

The one caveat I'd offer, along with that piece of conventional wisdom called "low floor buses will make MUNI perfect" that people chant over and over, is this - yes it's great that it's a "low floor" bus, but the sacrifice is a significant loss in the number of senior and disabled seats at the front, not to mention that some modles of wheelchair may have a harder time getting in the disabled area, even though getting on is much easier without the steps. When there are not a lot of folks on board, this can be mitigated a little, but when it gets crowded it could be trickier.

I've never been one to worship at the temple of Hybrids Are Superior To Everything, but I have to say, given how lousy the ride usually is on a regular MUNI bus, the prospect of a better ride is quite appealing. If it saves some money on the diesel bill and pollution, that's lovely as well.

If you've ridden a hybrid bus and have a comment, please post in the comments section!

Comments

The thing I really noticed on the hybrid bus (44 O'Shaugnessy) was the superior acceleration. It seemed to have the performance of a trolleybus, without the wires. I imagine they will be great on the hilly diesel lines. Overall, it seemed great.

I've ridden one of these new buses on the 16BX line...the simple fact that they're new and relatively unspoiled makes for a nice ride. Makes you feel like you're on an airport shuttle, though.

Probably the best thing about the new buses is that they are much quieter and are low floor. There is also plenty of circulation room. I also like raised rear seating area.

Low floor buses aren't so new to me. I'm in Palo Alto, and low floors are much more common down here.

I've ridden the 44 countless times now, and my opinion is while the ride is GREAT and it's so nice to to have a decently clean bus (for now at least... we'll see in a year) it's not so nice when it's crowded. And the door... bad experience. I CAN READ where it says push here but once it was malfunctioning (for other riders too!) the bus driver was most rude and told us 'You gottsta learn how to open the door.'

Buddy, I was pressing lightly and then shoving where it says 'Press Here' and I wasn't the only person to have a problem. So I still don't like them for keeping me on for another stop.

@T: good point, I actually saw that myself on more than one bus, but forgot to mention it....

@T: good point, I actually saw that myself on more than one bus, but forgot to mention it....

I like the new buses for all the reasons you listed; they're quieter, smoother, prettier, I like the view from the raised level. Unfortunately, they are not perfect:

The doors were a bad idea. I get it, but most of the people who ride my bus are unaccustomed to waiting an entire second before a door opens. This means everyone pounds and throws themselves against the doors until they finally open. I give them less than a year before they start breaking.

I like the higher level, but the stairs in the back have caused a lot of problems. People tend to crowd near the doors anyway, but on these new buses they seem to be terrified of standing past the stairs. Or you'll just get a group of 5 highschool girls crowded into the little stairway & they absolutely do not understand what is going on if you try to get by them. I've ridden busses that were packed so badly on the lower level that 5+ people were past the yellow line, but there was room & even seats past the stairs, just nobody could get to them.

I'm not sure how I feel about the reduced disabled seating. At first I thought it would be worse for the disabled, but over & over on the buses I ride I see people actually giving their seats to possibly disabled people on the new buses. My theory is that people on the old buses look down & think, "there's plenty of young/able people sitting up here. Someone ELSE will give up their seat." With the fewer seats it tends to be, in my experience, possibly disabled people and one or two not. The one or two are easily outnumbered & shamed into giving up their seats. Aahhhh, shame is so useful!

Finally, I don't know if the drivers are unsure of how to maneuvre the things or they're afraid of scratching them or what, but some of them drive even more erratic & ridiculous in the new buses.

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