Pin It

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" is a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly, which he has written for since 2007. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers... more


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment


  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed