Supervisor candidate wants all SF buses to run on batteries

San Francisco’s buses could all run on batteries — and the iconic Muni-powering wires spread across The City like spiderwebs may vanish — if Board of Supervisors candidate Nick Josefowitz is elected, he told the San Francisco Examiner.

Also a member of the BART Board of Directors, Josefowitz’s campaign has pushed heavily against what he calls Muni’s “dirty” diesel buses, and contends Muni’s fleet should be replaced to help fight climate change.

“We should put in place a policy today that ensures we never buy another dirty diesel bus again,” Josefowitz said, adding that Muni’s fleet should be converted to battery-electric vehicles.

His call for transportation change is particularly notable in the wake of former Supervisor Scott Wiener’s departure from City Hall to the state Senate in 2017. Wiener was largely viewed as the Board of Supervisors’ most vocal transportation advocates, by those in local transit circles.

Wiener told the San Francisco Examiner that Josefowitz would carry a similar ethos.

“He will bring a much-needed voice for a progressive and sustainable transportation future in San Francisco,” Wiener said.

The District 2 election pits Josefowitz against candidates Kat Anderson and Schuyler Hudak to replace termed out Supervisor Mark Farrell, who has held the seat since 2011.

Though Josefowitz has long focused on transportation professionally, the candidates also have transit platforms: Anderson started a petition to call on The City to expand Muni service in the Marina via the 30X Marina Express and 1BX California B Express routes, for instance.

Hudak, by contrast, states a need for “more curbside drop-off zones for cars and delivery vehicles and increase penalties and enforcement for double-parking” in her campaign materials.

In his critique of Muni, Josefowitz pointed to the city of Shenzhen, China, as a prime example of battery buses done right. Shenzhen recently converted its entire fleet of 16,359 buses into battery-electric buses, according to various news reports, which required the installation of 8,000 charging poles citywide.

San Francisco’s fleet has already made strides to be environmentally friendly, said Paul Rose, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which runs Muni.

About 1,000 of the 1,200 vehicles in Muni’s fleet are buses. Out of those, 250 are “trolley” buses, which use trolley poles attached to wires hanging above the street for power. Much of the remainder of those buses are hybrid biodiesel-electric vehicles, according to Rose, which run on 100 percent renewable fuel developed from low carbon intensity feedstock sources.

But a few lingering buses are diesel — those will be phased out of Muni’s fleet by “this spring,” Rose said.

In a letter to the Examiner, SFMTA Director of Transit John Haley wrote that battery-electric vehicles aren’t yet ready for San Francisco’s streets.

“Despite what marketing departments at some of the electric bus manufacturers claim, there isn’t a bus manufacturer that can produce the number of electric buses San Francisco would need, nor would they be able to guarantee that the vehicles would work for the required 15 years with our heavy ridership and steep hills,” Haley wrote.

“The technology is just getting started,” he said. Rose confirmed Haley’s statements were still accurate.

Josefowitz disagreed.

“The technology is mature, and is being deployed all over the country,” he said, and cited orders of at least 800 such battery-electric buses across the U.S.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misreported what powers the hybrid biodiesel-electric vehicles.

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