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Posts Tagged 'commute'

Bay Bridge Closure

The New Bay BridgeWell it’s going to be an interesting next five days in San Francisco. Not since the 1989 quake has the Bay Bridge been closed for this long. The new bridge is in its finishing stages over the next few days and here’s what it’s like if you’re going to be driving around.

Traffic in the city was pretty light during rush hour this morning. I have to say that driving down Montgomery Street between 8-9am was pretty easy and stress free since apparently there were a lot of people driving into the City from the East Bay who are stuck with Bart or the ferries now. I’ve heard people say that Labor Day weekend isn’t a big weekend for people coming to the City or people leaving the City, but from what I saw today it was practically down right empty.

I gave a ride to someone in the Sunset District this morning who had to go down to Battery Street. This normally would take me a half hour, but today I was dropping him off in 15-20 minutes. Even he was surprised at how fast we got there. There really wasn’t anyone out there on Franklin, Van Ness, Broadway, Gough, Fell or Oak…it was actually a very nice relaxed drive.

If you’re going to be driving around San Francisco over the next few days there’s a few things to keep in mind:

  1. The Bridge is closed so they’ve cut back on I-80’s lanes. I’d actually try and avoid the freeway unless necessary.
  2. Oak Street is pretty empty. Since the Bridge is closed there’s not much reason for most people to get on the freeway so traffic was light.
  3. Franklin & Gough. Two more streets that feed people to and from the bridge. Pretty open generally.
  4. Bush Street. Ghost town practically. This is a main feeder street for people trying to get downtown from the Richmond.
  5. Treasure Island. You have to get on at 1st and Harrison. That’s the only way to get there, if you really need to go.

Oddly enough places that don’t have much to do with the Bridge [i.e. the Sunset & Richmond districts] were pretty quiet as well except around the shopping areas which were pretty much busy as always. You can add to this a big warm wet hug from @KarlTheFog with temperatures in the 70’s-80’s and humidity in the 80’s-90’s keeping everyone out here, well, moist. It’s kind of like Hawaii for people who don’t like sun too much. Enjoy!

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Strikes Happen…

This little train went nowhere...As of today it looks as if the BART strike is over at least for now. I have a feeling in my gut that sometime late Sunday things will break down and the strike will be back on Monday giving the Bay Area a break for the weekend.

I’ve realized that when I say to myself, don’t they remember? This has happened before. Most of the people in San Francisco haven’t been here before and don’t remember things like June and July it’s normal to have fog in the city and sun in the summer is considered odd. Our summer comes in September and October. Like the weather, transit also has it’s shifts.

It has been awhile since there was a BART strike which probably means that half the people in the City weren’t here for the last one. Hardly anyone was here for the 1989 quake and has forgotten how people used to get to work when BART and the Bay Bridge were closed down. I think the ’89 quake is one of the reason I never liked the idea of working outside of San Francisco. You can get to and from here in the case of an emergency, but it isn’t as easy.

During the ’89 quake people discovered the ferries for the first time in I don’t know how many years. Suddenly people were saying things like, Gee, it’s kind of nice to glide home across the Bay with a glass of wine in your hand. Yes, it does sound a bit like I wonder what the poor people are doing, but it sort of became a luxury commute for some people compared to having to drive or deal with grumpy people smashed together like sardines on BART.

Then there is the casual carpooling which has been around for years. I worked with a guy who used to drive into the City across the Bridge and he’d always pick people up who would give him money to cover the bridge fare which would also help cover his gas as well. Now that BART has been on strike there’s an uptick in the number of people looking into that way of getting to work.

There was also a boom in people who realized that they had a job where they weren’t retail and didn’t have to be face to face with people every day so they could work from home once the internet was more robust.

All of these things led to a drop in the use of BART and to a lesser extent MUNI. People found a way around the problem which in the long run was more enjoyable and gave them an alternative. This caused less crowding on BART and MUNI [I’m not sure why MUNI is affected by a BART strike, but in the past numbers have shown the two co-relate].

BART strikes to me are like a purge that’s needed every once in awhile to get ride of extra people that bloat public transit. In the long run that means less income for public transit which can lead to an increase in fares, but the ride is more enjoyable. Ultimately the solution to the problem would be for people who work in San Francisco to live in San Francisco. They could spend the money from their higher incomes in the City and give something back.

WiFI Sí! Metro No!

We got tech. Wait, they cancelled these?Not the catchiest headline, but it’s early and it’s still better than what you find in the paper here in the City. I’ve written about this once before and I was happy to see that sfgate.com finally picked up on it. The Metro tunnels still have no wifi service even though most of the people who live and work in San Francisco use them to get to work.

Chances are pretty good if you work in San Francisco you will have to take a metro train at some point on your way to work. This is the dead zone for cellphone and data reception. There were numerous times where I would hop on at Montgomery and get off at West Portal and while waiting for the 48 bus would check my phone to see a message was left telling me that they needed me back at work immediately! I note this was always poor planning on the part of the companies I worked for and most of them are out of business now.

If there was cellular service or data service available in the metro tunnels I would have pulled out my iPhone and been surfing the web and saw that I was receiving a call. Business people I’ve noticed love iPhones, but keep the ringers turned off so their butts don’t sound like they’re playing video games and because of this it’s easy to miss a call if you aren’t looking at the phone. There’s the vibration to alert you, but that has caused people to develop phantom vibration syndrome where your butt or chest sends messages to your brain that you’re receiving a call because the nerves that sense the buzz fire off even though there’s no phone there which means you tend to ignore the buzz. If you’re really hip you turn the vibrate off and then you won’t notice the call for a couple of days.

Such is life in San Francisco where we are trying to attract more and more tech companies to a town where technology doesn’t work on our transit system. This is like trying to attract dairy farmers to a town that’s made it illegal to have cows. Metro needs to get it’s act together and maybe some of the tech people will drop a dime or a million to help us out. They’ve already installed their own bus system which is more upscale and efficient than Muni so why not save some money and help out our local transit system?

The next step once the wifi is in place would be to redo the metro trains to be more suited to the laptop/iPad/tablet crowd. Maybe they could have little flip up tables that passengers could rest their devices on. This would especially be good when your train stops in the middle of the tunnel for 10 minutes to a half hour due to delays and you’re dead in the water. Muni has never been a very enjoyable ride for most people. This is probably why so many people pop in headphones and close their eyes. I see this and think that every person doing this has the phrase, there’s no place like home repeating in their head until it’s time to get off. I tend to agree that there is no place like home and if you get to look at the same screen on your way to work as you do at home that there is a connection that makes life more livable for you.

For awhile I had to take only a bus to work out in the Potrero [actually it was three buses to get there and took me over an hour to get to work as opposed to the 40 minutes to get downtown] and I had service the entire way. It gave me a great way to kill time and I actually stopped getting the newspaper because I could read it for free on the trip into work. It was a bit on the leisurely side of things and I thought about how maybe it would be good if I took the 48 down to 24th and Mission and then hopped on BART where I would be able to get downtown without losing signal, but that would add time to my journey. Besides that, the Mission District is still a high crime area. If you don’t believe me click on the link and type 94110 in and then type in 94116, 94122, 94121, 94118 afterwards. Leaving out the Mission Hipsters, the Sunset and Richmond Districts are were most of the people in San Francisco live who work downtown and specifically in the Sunset District [the largest neighborhood in the city] you’ve got to hop on a train to get there.

I seriously think it’s time for the city to get into the 21st century and get wifi in the tunnels. Some people like being disconnected from technology in the tunnels and that’s fine. You can turn off the ringer and vibration and have a nice conversation with the homeless guy telling you Elvis is alive and living as a black man to occupy your time on your trip to work. Today’s story is dedicated Greg Dewar of N-Judah Chronicles who does a much better job at pointing out the flaws of muni than I do.

My Thoughts On The Central Subway

Central SubwayWhen i was first announced the SFMTA was going to build an offshoot of the Muni Metro that would run from near AT&T Park to outer Fisherman’s Wharf. This sounded like a great idea because you could get off at the Van Ness and Northpoint and have a short walk to Pier 39, the Wharf, a little further down to the Cannery do a little shopping, maybe drop by Ghiradelli Square next door and have a sundae then head back home. Then they said because of costs they would have to stop it at Chinatown.

Of course Chinatown. If you drop it into google most of the responses you get will be in Chinese newspapers, blogs, etc. Rose Pak is usually mentioned as well. This leaves out North Beach and the Wharf. Two high money making areas for tourists. Most tourists to Chinatown don’t spend much time since they done speak Chinese. At least at North Beach and the Wharf they speak English and a few other languages which means more money they can take out of your pocket.

Now they have been talking about the extension into North Beach. This was before the Mayoral election where most of the people running for Mayor were against a Central Subway that stopped in Chinatown. It really would have only benefitted the Chinese in San Francisco and very few others. You might get a short walk to the strip clubs on Broadway, but now they’ve found a way to move it into North Beach to support the Italian community that once lived there [a few still do, but it’s mostly hipsters now.

I would still like to see the full run of the Central Subway all the way down to Van Ness & Northpoint because it would help people who live out there commute downtown as well as a greater influx of money to the city. I’ll take the stop at North Beach for now and then maybe they can extend it all the way down to the Wharf just like they did with the T. I find the Metro to be very quick and I can get downtown in about 15 minutes, so why not speed things up to get people down to the wharf? As it is right now, from where I live to get to the wharf I need to take two buses and a short ride on the Metro. That usually takes me over an hour to get there. We rarely drive as parking is steep and hard to find. If we could hop on a Metro and get there in about an half hour instead of the over an hour it takes now I’d be all for it. We should be serving the entire city, not a small part of the city.

Muni…’Nuff Said

I haven’t really had to ride Muni much in over three years. In the past three years most of my jobs have been work from home or drive from home jobs, so aside from the rare occurrence I apparently have been lucky. I used to hop on the 48 Quintara which is the only reliable bus in the city, get off at West Portal and hop on any metro train to go downtown. Sure there were a few grumpy faces, but for the most part all was good.

Well things have changed. Now things are fine until you get off somewhere downtown and getting out of the station is like running the gauntlet. I’ve heard about people being shot in the stations, one guy was stabbed in the head, then there is the crazy women who walks around in a heavy coat talking to no one who is interested in listening to her yell things like, I know why we have an AIDS crisis and nobody else does. It’s because we have people f*cking in the mouth! Nice morning commentary Gretchen Carlson.

If you’re traveling on the cheap to San Francisco you don’t rent a car you take the bus everywhere. When I took a trip to London I didn’t rent a car, I took the metro and it was pleasant. Did you know they have ice cream dispensers in most of the tube stops? When I was in NY, pre clean up, the trains while having a few shifty looking characters on them ignored you if you ignored them. We like to show everyone that we’re at the forefront, so why can’t we with Muni?

If you need to get anywhere fast you take the metro. From the Sunset District if you try and take a bus downtown you will definitely take twice as long as the metro and your entire ride will be accompanied by eau de urine. This is what we don’t want the visiting tourists to see. People not of San Francisco like to call us smug, but how can we be smug when our public transportation sucks so bad?

OK, we’ve got the cable cars and F line. Those are more kitschy tourist attractions than something very many people use to get to work and they run on their own tracks. We have new metro cars, but our buses haven’t changed much over the years. We had a few testing free wifi, but I haven’t seen those in about five years. The metro when it goes underground needs cell and wifi service. San Francisco needs to move forward, not at a standstill or move backwards. We are one of the top tourist cities in the world, but how many people come back more than once that aren’t driving? Also shouldn’t we make it safe for those of use who have to commute to work? Muni needs a major overhaul and it needs it now.

Burying The Hatchet With The Bay Bridge

As I have written before I’ve always disliked the Bay Bridge mostly for the part about it being easy to get out of the city, but hard to get back in. I have had to wait close to an hour on some weekends because of the back ups. Well things have changed a bit now.

Now that I have Fastrak, it’s a little bit easier. I got a task from TaskRabbit that I thought was virtual, but turned out that I had to drive to Berkeley. Crap, I’ve got to drive the bridge. Well the task went quickly and my gracious task master gave me the added bonus of a tip of over five pounds of homemade chocolate, but that’s for another article.

So there I am during the week driving home at about 4 pm and I see the traffic starting to slow down a bit. OK, here it comes. Actually, wait, why’s everyone getting out of my lane? Apparently people who travel to the East Bay for some reason don’t believe in Fastrak. I was in an empty Fastrak lane and breezed through unhindered.

It was actually, well, kind of nice. It almost reminded me of my daily crossings of the Golden Gate Bridge, just a whole lot longer. I may actually have reasons to visit the East Bay every once in while. If you don’t have Fastrak I suggest you get it. It saves you time and money and you only have to put $25 on it to start. It work not having the hassle of the slow downs to pull out your cash.

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Commuting the Golden Gate Bridge

I have to say that most of my commute experience has involved Muni with a short 3 month stint having to drive from San Francisco to Burlingame. Of those two experiences I’d have to say the commute to Burlingame was the worst because it involved 280, 380 and 101. Commuting to Marin is much different and I learned that highway 101 has a dark and a light side, but with the opposite meanings applying.

Traveling down to Burlingame I usually hit sun pretty quickly, but I also hit much more traffic. I could get there in a half hour to an hour and a half and you just could never tell. While I’d call this the light side because the sun always seemed like it was out even in the winter, it was also a nightmare because the traffic was stop and go most of the way.

Getting to the Golden Gate Bridge is another story, while current construction work on Fulton made it take me 30 minutes to get from Ortega and 19th to Fulton and Funston, from there it took me six minutes to get to toll booths of the bridge. I’ve figured out a work around that will get me from my house to the bridge avoiding the back up and get me to my twelve mile destination in under a half hour. The odd thing is that in this case even including the bridge toll [$6 because it’s the Golden Gate Bridge be-atch!] is cheaper than taking the public transportation route which would be Muni to Golden Gate transit and would take a little over an hour to do. It’s actually about half the price including gas.

Since I rarely have reason to travel across the Golden Gate Bridge I had forgotten what it was like. Dark, Stephen King like fog until you get through the rainbow tunnel of the Waldo grade. I had to turn my wipers on and off because the fog was so heavy a person from San Diego would call it rain, but it was just an amazingly fun drive. The Bay Bridge speed limit is 50 mph which means people drive about 70-80 mph in part because the fog is usually higher up over there and the lanes are wider and there is more of them.

The Golden Gate Bridge is 45 mph which means that people drive maybe 50 mph, but during commute it’s usually around 40 mph if not a little slower. because there are only three lanes north bound and two lanes south bound. I guess they want people to get out of San Francisco as fast as possible, but we only want to let them in at a slow and expensive rate.


I had vowed in the past to never cross a bridge again, but only realized that was from my experience with the Bay Bridge. Crossing the Golden Gate was, well, nice. It was the calmest drive I’ve ever had and I definitely didn’t feel as cramped as I did do when I ride on Muni during rush hour.

The biggest bonus was after getting out of the Waldo tunnel seeing sunlight and arriving at my destination I find that the company I’m freelancing for offers it’s employees free snacks like fresh fruit, chips, granola bars, yogurt, juice, tea, sodas, coffee and bottled water. They’ll even make a lunch run for sandwiches which you can enjoy in the employee lounge which has a 60″ HD flat screen TV and comfy couches. When I look out my window I get a gorgeous view of the Marin estuary and when I walk out on the deck I get the smell of the fresh salt air which I love while watching blue heron’s and egret’s walking around the marshlands.

I think I’m going to get used to this freelance gig really quick.