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Posts Tagged 'car'

Is San Francisco Traffic That Bad?

Yes. Let’s get that out of the way first. San Francisco traffic in the last few years has gotten a bit horrible and it might be getting worse. Here’s a few things to keep in mind when you wonder why the traffic is so bad:

  1. Taxis: OK, this isn’t really so much of a problem because San Francisco has had 2500 taxi medallions for years now. The biggest problem from the beginning is that taxi drivers love to stay only in the FiDi/SoMA/Wharf areas where all the money is which caused a problem with people who needed transportation in other areas.
  2. Lyft/Uber: The answer to getting a non-SFMTA ride in areas where taxi drivers would tell you, Going off shift now.  There are currently 45,000 Lyft/Uber drivers driving in San Francisco every day. Many of these are people from outside the City who come in because they work 40-70 hour weeks since that’s their only source of income and living outside San Francisco is the only place they can live when they drive for Lyft/Uber.
  3. Tech Buses: While they’re universally hated by many in San Francisco they piss people off more than contribute much to the traffic jams we see in San Francisco.
  4. Chariot and other bus like systems: These come and go every month with someone who’s managed to get enough investment to give them a shot in the arm to disrupt the travel industry. Oh dear. They tend to drive worse than Lyft/Uber drivers from my experience and they appear to disrupt traffic quite a bit considering they only are out during rush hours.
  5. Commuters: I didn’t think there would be that many of them, but in the mornings there are tons coming into the City and in the evenings there are tons leaving the City. Not to point fingers, but I see BMW’s, Mercedes, Audis and Lexus’ [Lexi?] as the majority of these cars.
  6. Bikes: C’mon, I have to add them in. They frequently drive downtown like they own the street and shoot in and out of cars with a total disregard for the welfare of pedestrians or people driving a vehicle that is more than capable of turning them into hamburger if they can’t move out of the way fast enough.

It is really getting bad to say the least. Even out in the Suburbs of San Francisco, or the Sunset District we’re starting to see more traffic as more people like to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown, but don’t have a car so they come out here to visit or even move out here because it’s more peaceful.

A few years ago traffic was bad, but not as bad as it is today and the problem I’ve seen is that it’s only going to get worse more likely. I say that because now that the big news is all about how driverless cars are going to disrupt the rideshare industry which of course the rideshare industry was built to disrupt the taxi industry there’s a few things people who know nothing about this industry haven’t noticed.

Driverless car technology is the new Kool-Aid styled drink for techies because, well, it’s a tech thing. I have to admit that I did work for a company as a test driver for these cars and they have come a long way since I started, but they aren’t reading much of the data from what goes on in the rideshare industry.

One company, Cruise Automation posted a recent video of a night time drive with one of their driverless cars that lasts almost an hour and a half. I have to admit that I was pretty impressed with the video, but there are a few things that aren’t mentioned because it’s showing a car driving around downtown San Francisco simulating stops that rideshare drivers do. The problem is in the high speed they show only four stops in the almost hour and a half video in downtown San Francisco. These four stops equal 2 pick ups on 2 drop offs. To do this within an hour and a half isn’t workable in San Francisco. On a bad night in downtown SF you could do 3 pick ups and drop offs downtown within an hour and on a good night you could do 4-5 of the same within an hour. 2 pickups and drop offs within an hour and half would drive the riders crazy.

Currently, according to the California DMV, driverless cars can move at a speed of no more than 25mph. This is fine since that is the general speed limit in San Francisco, but, how often do cars really obey the speed limit? The cars can’t travel on freeways which are frequently used by all of the above mentioned traffic contributors to shave time off trips, so currently the driverless cars are at a disadvantage.

I also have yet to see a driverless car [any driverless car, I don’t want to seem like I’m picking on Cruise] properly pull over to pick someone up. After seeing the progress that has been made I suspect they will find a way to do this in the future, but right now that’s still a sticking point and especially in parts of San Francisco where there simply is no place to pull over you’ll be stuck with slow cars double parking to pick up or drop off passengers and then who will the police officer write a ticket to?

San Francisco is growing like a balloon that is overfilled and one day soon it will likely pop due to any number of things. It’s very hard to get around in the City anymore even for someone like me who’s been driving around here for the past 30+ years. I can’t remember the last time my wife and I have gone somewhere outside the Sunset District in San Francisco other than our monthly trip to take our daughter to a play day in the Mission which we drop her off in the morning before everyone’s awake on the weekend.

I honestly wish I had an answer to this problem, but other than regulation which limits the number of cars or an increase in better public transportation [which is always a loss to the city that provides it] I don’t see an answer. I do think that some people need to see the problems inherent in the direction some people are trying to push things right now.

The Knight Driver: NSFW

Beware, the knight Driver...WARNING! This post is not safe to read at work if you have people who work with you who will lean over your shoulder in weird positions and angles to view the little type on your screen and then complain about sexual harassment or some other sort of thing.

As many of you know I’ve been driving for one of the local ridesharing companies and in a few of the posts I have made on Facebook, friends of mine have suggested that I write an article about it. In no way is this a reflection on any of the ridesharing companies that operate in SF. This is more just observations of people I’ve met along the way.

At first many people have said things like, I bet you have a lot of stories to tell. In reality, I don’t. Most of the people are nice normal people. Actually they’ve become a lot nicer and more normal since there have been a few changes to the way the system works so the oddballs I don’t see too much of anymore. There have been a few that I’ve given rides to and those were in the mostly under 30 range so they haven’t had the time to realize some of the things they’re saying. As an example…

JOB INTERVIEW GIRL

Nice girl. Kind of bubbly, but in a good way. We’re talking as I’m giving her a ride and she says to me…Is this dress too slutty for a job interview? OK, my mind is racing with responses. Like, depends, what position are you trying for at the Mitchell Brothers? or If you have to ask… No that wouldn’t be good to say because then she would ask what I asking. In the end I just asked her if her interview was with a law firm and she said no, Hot Topic. OK, you’re fine. That’s good because most law firms don’t like pink and purple striped hair in general.

THERAPY GIRL

Girl gets in the car while talking to someone on the phone and I can hear that the conversation is going bad. OK, bye… and the flood gates open. She starts crying. I suggest that she have some candy that I have in the back because candy makes everything better. She then starts to tell me why she’s crying.

Her: I told my boyfriend we were getting too serious and that we should start seeing other people.

Me: and let me guess. He’s seeing other people.

Her: YEEEESSSSSSS! <wailing tone>

Me: Well that’s what you wanted to do right?

Her: Yes, but I’M not seeing anyone else yet.

Me: Well generally when you say we should start seeing other people that usually means you’re already seeing other people.

Her: I know I fucked up didn’t I <still crying>

Me: So where are you going now?

Her: A bar. [name deleted so people don’t think it’s a spot for finding rebound girls]

Me: It’s Friday night, fix your make up and everything will be better tomorrow.

Her: I know it’s still early.

Me: He was probably an asshole anyway. [that’s still a line all girls tell their friends right?]

I would have sent her a bill for the therapy session, but all I had was her first name and I don’t want to get labeled as a creepy driver for contacting riders later unless they left something in my car.

I’M NOT A SLUT, YOU’RE A SLUT!

Oh boy. I’ve seen a lot in my life, but I didn’t expect this one. PLEASE people when you accept a ride from someone you have to remember whether it’s a rideshare company or a cabbie that there is someone there who is driving the car that can hear what you’re saying. Two girls get in the car and I knew right away this was going to be kind of different.

Girl 1: So remember that guy I hooked up with a couple of weeks ago that I’ve been seeing?

Girl 2: You mean the one you said had a small penis?

Girl 1: Yeah, I call him “little Richard”.

Girl 2: You do not!

Girl 1: I do

Girl 2: So how is he? How are things going?

Girl 1: Alright, but he’s kind of sleazy.

Girl 2: How so?

Girl 1: He like pulls it out of my ass and tries to put it in my mouth.

Girl 2: <silence>

Me: <Dare I ask if it was the first date?>

That pretty much ended the entire awkward conversation until I dropped them off and they ran away from the car.

HIPSTER DOUCHEBAGS

This was a first for me. I’ve talked about hipsters, heard other people talk about them, but I had never met one or more that were so stereotypical.

Hipster 1: The Yeah yeah yeahs were awesome!

Hipster 2: True, but I was there for The National.

Hipster 1: It’s so weird that we just met at Outside Lands and we both live a block away from each other in the Mission.

Hipster 2: Yeah I know. I’m going to get a burrito when we get dropped off.

Hipster 1: El Farolito rocks!

Hipster 2: Quesadilla Suiza DUDE!

Hipster 1: So what do you do?

Hipster 2: Well a just moved out here a couple of months ago and got a job with a tech company and I’m the ambassador of their product line so they send me to London to get their social media voice more prominent.

Hipster 1: No way! I do the same thing for my company, but they send me to South America to do the same thing. I usually stay over an extra week so I can more fully experience their culture, but I usually spend it drinking on the beach.

Me: ????

If I am lying, I’m dying. I did not make that up. The only thing missing from that conversation was PBR and American Spirit cigarettes. Now I understand much better the locals who complain about the hipsters ruining their taquerias. On the plus side I got a 50% tip.

Farting Passengers

Look, I understand it’s a natural body function and all that, but if you’re only going to be in my car for around 15 minutes don’t you think you could at least hold it until you got out? Or maybe, oh, I don’t know. Roll down the windows afterwards? This is something that I found seemed to happen with the under 30 crowd which I’ve been getting less and less of now that we’re getting closer to the end of summer here. The biggest problem for me is that I have to air out the car before the next person gets in because you don’t want people complaining that your car stinks when they rode in it. Luckily I carry a can of ozium just in case this happens and I pull over and spray the car and close it up for a couple of minutes before I start driving again. Since people used it in the 70’s to get the smell of pot smoke out of the air I figured it would be a good choice and it works really well against, ahem, offensive odors. Luckily it’s something that I haven’t had a problem with in the past couple of weeks.

That’s a pretty good sample of some of the people I’ve given rides to, but as I said most are pretty normal people. I’ve got four people who are regulars who I feel like they’re my best buddies since they get in and we carry on where we left off a few days before. Those people I’ve given cards to so they can read my blog. The people I’ve written about above, I don’t want to give cards to. I don’t mean any ill will towards them, but they really need to be careful about what they’re telling people when they get into the car with a stranger…

The Purple Mile

The Purple MileI think you kind of have to be kind of old to remember slot cars from the 60’s and 70’s, but our own Playland at the Beach had a famous track built into the original location of Topsy’s Roost that many of us old guys who were kids back then remember.

The Sovereign 220 [The Purple Mile was it’s nickname] was to slot car racers what Mavericks is to surfers. Slot cars were sort of like hot wheels on steroids. They were bigger and had a little pin that stuck down into a slot that received electricity from a hand grip that you squeezed. The tighter you squeezed the more electricity would go to car making it go faster. There were several tracks you could buy for home, but it was never the same as the Sovereign 220. I remember going in their with a friend of mine somewhere between 1965-1969 which was probably towards the end since I would have been about seven when it closed. I remember the smell to this day. Now I know it to be the smell of ozone as the electrons were splitting the oxygen in the air and making it recombine into a not very safe gas.

The track was big. It was the largest slot car track ever built and being a small kid I could barely see the end of it so you’d sort of lose track of where your car was on the track. I can’t remember how much it cost to run your slot cars on the track, but being seven I didn’t really care about money back then. I was still having adults pay for the penny candy I was eating all day long to fuel  me up to run around like a madman.

Unfortunately slot cars were starting to be old news by the late 60’s just like Whitney’s Playland at the Beach. It was closed down and the track was sold to someone in Texas and it was sold again and probably again until it wound up being bought by a hobbyist in Ashland, Massachusetts who restored it to it’s former glory. I managed to find a video of the track as it looks and operates today which isn’t much different than it was back in the 60’s now go grab some electrical wire and a 9-volt battery to click the wires together to make sparks so you can get that same smell in your room just like the old days at the slot car track.

The Cable Car Museum

Cable Car MuseumSan Francisco is known for it’s museums, but some of them don’t get noticed. San Francisco’s Cable Car Museum is one of these, even for people who were born and raised here.

If you’re from San Francisco you probably don’t ride the Cable Cars very often and just sort of take them for granted, but they have a history that is truly San Franciscan and the Cable Car Museum is the best place to learn about this. Andrew Smith Hallidae conceived of a cable driven transport system in 1869 and brought it to life in 1873 starting on Clay Street. The hills of San Francisco were just too much for the horses to pull the cars loaded with people so he came up with a way around it that has become one of the main symbols of San Francisco ever since.

The Museum itself was built in 1974 and is operated by the Friends of the Cable Car Museum as a nonprofit educational facility.

Located in the historic Washington/Mason cable car barn and powerhouse, the museum deck overlooks the huge engines and winding wheels that pull the cables. Downstairs is a viewing area of the large sheaves and cable line entering the building through the channel under the street.

On display are various mechanical devices such as grips, track, cable, brake mechanisms, tools, detailed models, and a large collection of historic photographs. You’ll even get a close up look at how the cables work.

The museum houses three antique cable cars from the 1870s. The Sutter Street Railway No. 46 grip car & No. 54 trailer and the only surviving car from the first cable car company, the Clay Street Hill Railroad No. 8 grip car. The museum store offers a variety of cable car memorabilia, books, clothing, cards and even genuine cable car bells! Hours for the museum are 10 am – 6 pm, April 1 thru September 30. 10 am – 5 pm, October 1 thru March 31. Open every day except New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Admission is Free. Phone: 415-474-1887

The House On Telegraph Hill

The House on Telegraph HillIt’s time to look at some more San Francisco movies and I did a little searching for some other than Bullitt and I found one I had never heard of called, The House on Telegraph Hill. It’s a 1951 movie so it doesn’t have the campiness of the 60’s movies, but there’s still a good car scene the type that you can only make in San Francisco.

If you want to read a synopsis of the movie I suggest you check out the write up at Wikipedia.org since that’s pretty accurate. Let’s just say in the cliff notes version it has Nazis, poison and car brake failure.

OK, Nazis, poison, car brakes fail…Wait, car brakes fail? Must be a good time to introduce the car scene. It seems like there was a time when if you filmed a movie in San Francisco that you had to have a car scene. This was the car driving around all crazy on the verge of crashing and if you were lucky they would drive out of Golden Gate Park and drive off the piers at the Wharf. Geography was always an after thought in movies filmed in SF and that’s usually the fun part when you can tell that Golden Gate Park does not exit onto Fisherman’s Wharf or some other strange place.

Car scenes like this are for the die hard residents who know San Francisco backwards and forwards. Just looking at the clip below I saw streets that several of my friends have lived on now or in the past. For me at least, the car scenes are why I like watching movies or TV shows filmed in SF.

Bullitt: San Francisco History

The movie Bullitt is an iconic movie about San Francisco, but wasn’t really about San Francisco. It was a cop movie released in 1968 that is famous for the car chase scene from Fisherman’s Wharf through Pacific Heights and ending with cars driving into the water and, yes…I have a connection to this movie.

Unlike Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, the car chases were pretty accurate for the most part. They kept things together within a few blocks during the scene where Steve McQueen in his Mustang Fastback was ripping and sliding around the streets in that classic green car which I wish they were still producing today.

My connection to this movie is through my Uncle Al who ran Podesta Divers. They were a salvage operation that worked off of the piers of course. He was hire to pull the cars out of the bay when anyone filmed a movie here. While I can’t find it anymore because I was a little kid when Bullitt was filmed Uncle Al got me an autographed picture of Steve McQueen because I loved the car chase scene so much. Little boys love cars and to watch them racing around made them awesome.

The thing that makes this film so iconic for San Francisco is that during the chase scene you get to see so much of San Francisco in a short period of time that it’s almost like a walkthrough at high speed. They did such a good job that the National Film Registry in 2007 selected it for preservation for being, culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant. I would agree with them. The film just oozes San Francisco for that time period. The Mustang Fastback used in the movie was made famous on screen and became a must have car in 1968.

Steve McQueen was Bullitt who was a man’s man. He was more bad ass than a honey badger and didn’t take sh*t from no one. His attitude and the fact that he drove that Mustang in most of the stunts made him more of a bad ass of an actor. I was only able to find a part of the car chase scene, but enjoy it and if you haven’t seen the movie yet find a place where you can get it if you love San Francisco because it’s a part of our history and we shouldn’t forget.

The Day I Bought A Burger

Looking back in time I thought I be a bit nostalgic today. There was a time many years ago when I finally got my first car. It was a 1979 Silver Anniversary TransAm. That was some car to have as a first. I was 28 when I was able to get it. A friend of mine worked on cars a lot and he fixed this one up and tricked it out in every way. I had just broken up with my girlfriend of six years so I kind of considered this a good consolation prize.

I hadn’t really driven before because it wasn’t really necessary in San Francisco and I just figured that anywhere I needed to get in the city would take me about an hour on Muni. Things were about to change for me. I could date outside my neighborhood for one. Hell, I could date outside the city even. It took me a while to realize that. Since I wasn’t used to driving even though I got my driver’s license at 21 I mostly just drove around the neighborhood. Then about a week after I had the car I drove and bought a burger.

It wasn’t really much of a trip and I wasn’t even really that hungry, but I drove the car across the park the Richmond to the Jack in the Box on 11th and Geary and bought a burger and fries. I sat in the car eating them and just realized that I had the ability to do something as stupid as hop in the car and drive 10 minutes to get a burger. Not an hour on Muni, but 10 minutes. The world suddenly got smaller. I kind of had a feeling like Mel Gibson in Braveheart where I wanted to stand and scream FREEDOM! [granted in the movie he had just been castrated and disemboweled, but I’ll leave that part aside.]

Soon I worked up the courage to drive on freeways and suddenly I was driving to friends houses in South Bay or Marin for parties. Why I actually got so good at driving that I was pulled over on Mission street at 4am and had a cop screaming at me for going 75mph. I didn’t get a ticket that night, but did realize that I was letting things go to my head a bit.

I dialed things down a notch and started getting better gas mileage. I remember being outraged at having to pay $1.39 a gallon for premium gas. Times were good back then. There was less to worry about we all had jobs and money and I could drive all over the city to buy stuff. I miss my TransAm, but I don’t miss having to wonder if it would start in the morning or having my head under the hood changing the spark plugs every couple of months [the car had 139,000 miles on it when I bought it.]

The car lasted me only about eight months before it became too much of a burden and I had to sell it after getting a toned down 1984 Firebird. It wasn’t turbo-charged like the TransAm, but it still had a lot of muscle. I still have fond memories of that first car and it’s huge ass tires and how I learned to drive it slow so I could get girls to stop and look at me. Those were good times, yep, good times.