Wi-Fi bus to surf S.F. streets

When deciding between staring blankly out the window and trying to read another rider’s BlackBerry, Muni passengers could soon have the choice of flipping open their laptop to download a video or access e-mail and begin the workday.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Executive Director Nathaniel Ford, Mayor Gavin Newsom and Cisco Systems officials unveiled a yearlong pilot program, Connected Bus, which is a single bus outfitted with wireless Internetcapabilities.

The bus will begin running on the 10-Townsend line Monday and will be moved around to different lines throughout the year, Ford said.

“This is not your grandmother’s bus,” Ford said.

Painted green, the bus is a hybrid and 95 percent emissions free, keeping 270 tons of carbon emissions out of the air in a given year, according to officials.

The bus also has three onboard touchscreens that allow riders to access route information for transit lines or boot up their wireless devices to access the Internet, David Evans of Cisco said.

“This is Internet-enabled,” Evans said, referring to the touchscreens, “So this information is not specific to a bus.”

Muni struggles with its bottom-line and lofty on-time performance goal of 85 percent, but the Connected Bus lightened neither The City’s nor the MTA’s wallet, officials said.

The program cost Cisco $10,000 for the onboard technology, Newsom said. Ford said that only staff employed to come up with new ideas for consumers worked on the project, so no additional funds were used.

“We thought it only appropriate to take advantage of improving a system that carries over 700,000 people a day — a system that is identified with people’s good work day and the beginning of people’s terrible and awful work day depending on whether or not it shows up on time,” Newsom said.

Newsom said the technology on the bus was a “differentiator” that should draw more commuters from their vehicles.

dsmith@examiner.com

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