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History in Motion

35 Years of Muni Artics

Thursday, September 19, 2019

A modest milestone to celebrate, but 2019 marks the 35th anniversary of Muni's articulated bus fleet. Casually know as "artic", "bendy boi", "caterpillar", or just "really long" buses, they're not new or unique to the transit world but for Muni, it wasn't until the mid-1980s that investment in a whole fleet of these extra-long vehicles was possible. 35 years later, artics are an invaluable part of providing service on some of our busiest lines.

Articulated bus cresting hill on Geary Boulevard with city in background.
Long-time Muni riders should easily recognize the sunset glow and poppy gold color scheme of this bus running on the 38L in this mid-'80s shot.

Muni's first fleet of 60-foot long articulated buses came from the German M.A.N. Company, which is known in Europe for its heavy trucks and buses. Starting in June 1984, these 57-seat coaches hit the streets primarily on the 38 Geary/38L Geary Limited routes.

trolley coach at crest of hill on divisadero Street
A 1994 New Flyer articulated trolley coach glides easily up a grade on the 24 Divisadero route.

In the 1990s, Muni expanded both its motorbus fleet with an additional 24 coaches and brought the first articulated trolley coaches online with an order of 60 buses from the New Flyer company. Like their motorized siblings, the trolley coaches worked Muni's busiest lines but were more capable of tackling the steeper grades seen on some high-ridership routes.

row of buses inside garage
A row of Neoplan articulated motor coaches sits awaiting service inside Muni's Flynn Division.

The year 2003 ushered in a new era of 60-foot long motor and trolleybuses with a replacement fleet for the M.A.N. coaches of Neoplan-built buses and a boost of 32 new trolley coaches built by ETI/Skoda. Ridership demand was growing along our busiest corridors and the articulated buses helped meet the demand for transit.

ETI coach on Mission and Cesar Chavez
An ETI trolley coach tows the line on the 49 Van Ness-Mission Route at Cesar Chavez Street in 2014, shortly before being phased out.

Over ten years later, the Neoplan fleet was nearing the end of its usable service life and Muni's oldest 60' trolley coaches were becoming equally tired. This time around, Muni turned to New Flyer Industries to procure a brand new fleet of extra-long buses. Starting in 2015, all of the old buses started being phased out for the state-of-the-art ones you see plying our streets today. Today's fleet has topped 200 motorbuses and over 90 trolleys, making it Muni's largest combined articulated bus fleet ever.

two articulated buses on Geary and Laguna
Two New Flyer artics pass each other on the 38 Geary and 38R Geary Rapid along Muni's busiest corridor.

Over the past 35 years, 60-footers have more than proved their worth hauling more passengers and boosting capacity on our busiest bus lines. Artics will likely always have a home on San Francisco's streets.

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