A bus running on the 48-Quintara/24th Street line is testing out a new sliding door design that could save space on buses. (Courtesy SFMTA)

Sliding doors could open up more space on Muni buses

A simple engineering change could soon make Muni’s 900 buses roomier across the system: sliding doors.

Buses in San Francisco today feature doors that open inward, creating a need for more than 500,000 daily bus riders to “please stand clear of the doors,” as Muni recordings frequently warn.

While seemingly a minor annoyance, the doors take up valuable standing space on a Muni bus, at least two people wide, shoulder-to-shoulder, and create a constant need for riders to shuffle and re-shuffle when they opens to let passengers disembark.

But one, single bus currently running on the 48-Quintara/24th Street line may change all that.

Instead of opening inward, its doors slide open, running across the outer hull of the bus.

The new design is part of a test run for Muni; but they may only spread throughout the fleet once Muni converts to battery-only electric vehicles.

Right now, that process has taken a brief pause.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors committed to a Zero Emission Vehicle Policy to convert its 900 or so buses to become all-electric battery buses by 2035.

To get ahead of the game, on October 15 the SFMTA board considered purchasing nine zero-emission battery-electric buses as part of a pilot run — the buses that may get the new doors.

That contract would not exceed $5.2 million, per public documents.

But SFMTA Board Chair Malcolm Heinicke and board member Steve Heminger told SFMTA staff on Tuesday that they wanted bus manufacturers to offer a better price.

Any manufacturer who offered a successful pilot, they argued, would stand to gain a contract to produce 800 battery-electric buses.

The pending effort was postponed for a future meeting for SFMTA staff to address those concerns.

But whenever those buses do materialize, they’ll do so with futuristic doors — and more space to stand.


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