Muni Exempted from Requirements to Create Plan to Cease Idling Buses for Hours

Categories: Public Transit
Audrey Fukuman
Bad idea? Yes. Bad policy? That's complicated.
Update: Read Muni internal directive regarding idling of hundreds of buses for hours.

Last week, SF Weekly revealed that, in gross violation of state law, Muni idles its diesel buses for hours in the morning before sending them out to pick up riders.

This was, indeed, a violation of the law. But it didn't violate Muni policy. How's that work? The Bay Area Air Quality Management District today informed us that while Muni is bound to follow the law regarding idling buses for no longer than 10 minutes, it has been exempted from having to develop policy indicating how it intends to follow that law.

See Also: Muni Starts its Wastefulness Early

It is not, at this time, entirely clear how Muni found itself in this position; the District worked with other agencies in developing and applying idling plans. And it's certainly not clear how this arrangement benefits anyone.

SF Weekly has learned that Muni has devised a tentative written plan on how to avoid allowing hundreds of buses to run for hours. Our requests for this Friday memo to the bus yards have not yet been met.

The memo, we are told, lays out a plan to start the buses in small groups -- not all at once -- and may call for hiring more people to start buses in the mornings.

That might be a good idea. Muni has demonstrated its desire to cut pollution by investing in extremely costly hybrid buses. So it makes little sense to allow vehicles to needlessly spew pollutants into the atmosphere for hours for lack of a few relatively low-paid bus yard employees.

Update, 6:15 p.m.: You can read the one-page June 20 memo here. Beneath are some highlights:

  • The directive, penned by Muni deputy director of bus maintenance Neil Popp, notes that Muni's fleet is old and needs some time to warm up. But not more time than state law allows; that fails to promote "good environmental awareness" and is not the behavior of "good, responsible neighbors."

  • "We will only pre-start coaches in smaller blocks and groups based on pull-out time."  Meaning: Muni should now only start a few buses at a time, as-needed, instead of starting all of them at once and letting them idle for hours.

  • "We will not use any type of blocking device to override the 10 min idle time limiter." Meaning: Muni workers are hereby ordered to stop placing the wheel-blocks on the brake, disabling the idler -- which is illegal (they're also forbidden from other illegal activities, presumably).

  • Muni will "be hiring and assigning three maintenance supervisors" to ensure that buses are only started within the 10-minute window prior to pulling out for the first runs of the day. 

  • "If you see a bus idling for 10 minutes and it has not pulled out, shut it down until such time as a driver is assigned to it at which time it can be restarted.Let's be responsible, control our yard activity and insure that vehicles do not idle needlessly." 

  • "Complying with the yard starting policies, procedures and regulations is everybody's responsibility."

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