Mayor halts ART project due to bus malfunctions

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It’s almost a year behind schedule already, and now the nightmare continues for the ART project. The city has uncovered major safety issues with the buses and is pulling them off the road for inspections. 

It’s almost as if the buses have a mind of their own — everything from brakes malfunctioning to doors opening while the buses are moving.

Mayor Keller says they absolutely cannot put these buses on the streets. 

The progress to get the buses up and running on the ART route has been ongoing since Mayor Keller inherited the project from the Berry Administration last December. This was right around the time the bus system was supposed to be launched.

Keller says they had initially fixed the construction issues and design kinks. However, when they started training the drivers on the routes in September, major technical problems started surfacing.

The biggest concern they have is the brakes malfunctioning.

The transit director says the center and rear brakes on the buses have zero air pressure, which means the buses were relying solely on the front brakes. 

“We’re in the process of testing these buses through an inspection process and we want to make sure no one is going to get hurt either riding these buses or driving these buses or being around these buses,” said Keller.

He also says the city is now grounding all buses until those inspections are complete, which should take a month. 

Keller says he is also losing patience with the California-made buses from Chinese bus company BYD (Build Your Dreams).

Depending on what those inspections turn up, he says the city could look for another bus company.

The transit department said if each of the $1.2 million buses passes the inspection, the city could offer limited service this winter.

The alternatives include getting an entirely new fleet of buses from a different company, a mixed fleet, or forgoing electric buses completely.  

In the meantime, many drivers are still breaking the law.

KRQE News 13 posted up at Nob Hill for 15 minutes and saw eight drivers cross into the empty ART lanes.

KRQE News 13 then asked if the city would consider re-opening the left turn lanes.

“The left turn lanes were part of a design for drivers that we sort of inherited and the reason why they’re set up that way is for safety when the buses are running, so we absolutely are open to looking at that,” Keller said.

During the monthlong inspections, Keller said the city will also not be giving warnings or tickets to drivers who cross into the ART lanes.

The firm representing BYD said issued a statement in response to Thursday’s news conference. Read the response here. 

Although the city did receive $75 million in federal funding for the project, he says they have not spent a dime of it on the buses yet. 

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