SAN FRANCISCO—Infrastructure and transportation have been knownissues for the otherwise booming city of San Francisco—amplifyingthe housing crisis here for some time now. But inSeptember, we wrote that the City made one big step forward, with ahistoric investment in public transportation,with the largest light-rail vehicle contract in history ($648million). Now, the city has purchased 61 new hybrid Muni buses tofurther advance the City's goal of being the greenest transitoperator in the nation.

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Mayor Edwin M. Lee recently revealed that San FranciscoMunicipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) will purchase the hybriddiesel buses after receiving unanimous approval by the Board ofSupervisors on legislation led by Supervisor Malia Cohen. As partof the SFMTA's five year plan to replace the entire bus fleet, theprocurement of 61 low-floor biodiesel-electric hybrid buses willimprove transit service, improve the overall customer experience,and bring clean, new vehicles that use state-of-the-art hybrid andbiofuel technologies to make Muni's fleet, already one of thegreenest in the nation, even cleaner.
“San Francisco is replacing its fleet, so we can bring ourtransportation system into the 21st Century and give riders thetransportation experience they deserve,” says Mayor Lee. “Thisinvestment is a giant leap forward in making sure our fleet isclean, green and helps improve transit times.”
According to Cohen, “The SFMTA's fleet of diesel buses will reachor exceed its life expectancy in the next six years, but alreadySan Francisco's commuting public is experiencing the fallout fromMuni's unreliable fleet. The purchase of these hybrid buses willdecrease fuel consumption of buses and keep San Francisco residentshealthier by reducing excessive emissions.”

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The new buses, which will be purchased from New FlyerIndustries, will use less fuel and have lower emissions. Theannouncement adds to the 112 hybrid Muni buses purchased in2013.

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The $68-million purchase contract is funded through FederalTransit Administration grants, AB644 bridge toll, Prop K funds andother sources. The Board's approval comes with a purchase option ofup to 424 additional green buses. The contract spans the next sixyears, and is poised to make San Francisco one of the mostenvironmentally friendly transit operations in the nation.

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“Modernizing our transit fleet is at the core of Muni Forward,”says SFMTA director of transportation Ed Reiskin.“Replacing old vehicles with these state of the art buses willaugment existing efforts like 'Red-Carpet Lanes' and transit signalpriority. This purchase is an all-encompassing investment, by theSFMTA, that will help shorten trips while increasing servicereliability.”

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Updating the transit fleet and making important safety andaccessibility projects across San Francisco, combined withWalkFirst projects, will help SFMTA better serve families, seniors,and the disabled, and improve comfort and safety for allcustomers.

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In a recent RealShare Bay Area conference, thetopic of infrastructure and transit took center state. PanelistMary Erchul, president of the AmericanCouncil of Engineering Cos. of California, said thatinfrastructure is one of the biggest things facing Californiatoday. “We are looking at things like water shortage and funding ingeneral for transportation,” she said. “We have a lack offunding.”

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To help the situation, she explained, “we have to look atinnovation and better ways to do what we are doing and wrapped intothat is streamlining.” The outlook as far as traffic is, she said,is to “work together in our industry to come to more technicalsolutions.”

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Erchul talked about BART looking at the efficiency andsustainability of the BART cars, as an example of taking stepsforward. “They can't go to infinity with the system they have.” Orthe Oakland connector to the airport, for example, which is in itstesting phase. “Transportation will keep up with the pace—it isonly a matter of time… It has to.”

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“The future of transportation is key to getting people to wantto live in the Bay Area,” she said. As for the funding shortage,Erchul pointed out that “we have to looking at different ways offinancing,” and “use the resources we have in California in theengineering arena and work together with public and private as faras partnership to get things moving forward.”

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Natalie Dolce

Natalie Dolce, editor-in-chief of GlobeSt.com and GlobeSt. Real Estate Forum, is responsible for working with editorial staff, freelancers and senior management to help plan the overarching vision that encompasses GlobeSt.com, including short-term and long-term goals for the website, how content integrates through the company’s other product lines and the overall quality of content. Previously she served as national executive editor and editor of the West Coast region for GlobeSt.com and Real Estate Forum, and was responsible for coverage of news and information pertaining to that vital real estate region. Prior to moving out to the Southern California office, she was Northeast bureau chief, covering New York City for GlobeSt.com. Her background includes a stint at InStyle Magazine, and as managing editor with New York Press, an alternative weekly New York City paper. In her career, she has also covered a variety of beats for M magazine, Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, FashionLedge.com, and Co-Ed magazine. Dolce has also freelanced for a number of publications, including MSNBC.com and Museums New York magazine.