EEF33646-832E-47C7-9329-A006153AD436 Muni | Baghdad By The Bay - Part 2

Posts Tagged 'Muni'

Ditch The 66

This one has been on my mind for some time and after checking the route of the 66 Quintara bus. I think it’s time to put it out of commission. It is the shortest bus route beating the old winner the 37 Corbett and runs from 30th and Vicente to 9th and Judah now. If you need to get anywhere along that route there are other buses that can serve the need in a better way.

There was talk some time ago of making the 48 Quintara run all day and not just during rush hours which I have been in favor of since I first heard it. I have to note that I do live on a street where the 48 Quintara stops at my corner, but the 66 Quintara is only a couple of blocks away and I have had a reason to ride it in over 30 years. When I do see the 66 there’s hardly anyone on it in either direction so it’s not filling a need for riders. It used to have a longer run and my Grandmother who used to work as the secretary to the Dean of Medicine at UCSF used to take it to get to work every day. When I was a kid I used to take it with her to go to the swimming and trampoline lessons I was taking at UCSF, but it doesn’t go that far anymore. I believe it used to run down Parnassus and then somehow mysteriously continued to downtown, but it’s been so long I can’t remember anymore.

I’ve ridden the 48 to get the West Portal and have even had to ride it down to the Mission a few times. It’s interesting how it will be packed until West Portal and then it empties out [except for the few kids staying on to go to McAteer High School] and stays empty until you start to get close to 24th Street when all the Mission hipsters get on and most dump out at 24th and Mission. This is a well used route that could use more service. Work is no longer a 9-5 sort of thing. My last two jobs I would sometimes have to go in at 10-12 to start work so I’d have to walk down to Taraval and hop on the L. Granted four blocks isn’t a lot [it’s actually equal to .32 miles], but the 48 is one of the most ruthlessly on time buses coming every 10 minutes with very little variance. I can get down to 4th & Mission in about a half hour for a bus in San Francisco, that’s impressive.

The 66 has done it’s time, but I think it’s time to move those drivers over to the 48 line and lay the 66 to rest and make the 48 full time, or maybe they could move a couple of drivers over the 29 Sunset so that you don’t have to wait a half hour during rush hour to get one.

Muni Needs WiFi

For a short period of time I had to take the 48 Quintara down to the Mission on a daily basis. I found it actually a relaxing and interesting trip that I wrote about previously as I could sit there with my iPhone and read my email and get constant updates on what was going on along with all the other riders because of the 3G access we all had, but if you like the other thousands of riders who have to take the metro downtown you’re out of luck.

There’s no signal in the tunnels at all. Granted, traveling from West Portal to Embarcadero can be rather quick, but it leaves you with unproductive downtime where if there was an emergency at home I couldn’t even get a phone call in most cases for 45 minutes. On the other hand, BART when I got on one day politely asked me if I’d like to connect to their free wifi service. Hell even going through the bay tunnel I could make cell phone calls. Why isn’t San Francisco looking into this?

There was a time a couple of years ago where I saw buses in San Francisco touting free wifi service they were testing out. You don’t see those today. In a city that says it’s so tech friendly I would expect wifi to be everywhere and available. Well, it is pretty much everywhere, but not always available.  There was a plan at one time to make wifi available throughout San Francisco, but it never took hold. Couldn’t we at least find a way to first make wifi available in the metro tunnel running downtown and then making it available on the buses? It would make the need for 3g/4g data plans almost superfluous and give everyone with a smartphone/tablet computer access to the internet while they have to sit during their commute. Most people complain about how slow Muni is, but if you had something to do during the time you were waiting you wouldn’t notice it so much.

Hell, if I could watch Indiana Jones while I was stuck in the tunnels for two hours I wouldn’t mind the wait as much.

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Muni Can’t get out of First Gear

Well I have to say it’s been a couple of months since I’ve had to take Muni and now I have something to compare it to and I have to say that I have to side with Greg Dewar of NJudah Chronicles on the sad state of Muni.

I have a job in Mill Valley, California. I have roughly 12 miles to travel to work by car and I can drive from the Sunset District to Mill Valley in about 20 minutes. When I  went to the SF Weekly awards last Friday I drove up and parked at West Portal station to get the quick route downtown to Montgomery station. Total travel time…35 minutes, total distance, less than 5 miles.

I don’t understand how a metro service that is located underground and with no traffic interference would take longer than getting in a car to cross the Golden Gate Bridge where there is traffic and narrow lanes and tourists that don’t know the area so they drive at the speed limit or less sometimes. I have previously written about my hatred of crossing bridges in San Francisco because it was easy to get out of the city, but hard to get back. That mostly applies to the Bay Bridge. The Golden Gate is a pleasure to drive in comparison.

To take a cab downtown equals about the same time as it does for me to drive to Marin. It’ll cost you more, but if you’ve got to get somewhere quickly why is it a car does it better than a Mass Transit System? Isn’t the idea behind a Mass Transit System is that it does a better job of moving people from point A to point B more quickly and efficiently than a gas guzzling car?

You also have to remember that we’re talking about a subway system here and not buses. If you had to take a bus from point A to point B it would take you at least an hour.

Muni has been in the papers lately due to the fact that they’re paying their people a lot of money, but not delivering a good on time rate. Then there is the Central Subway debate that is supposed to run from King St. to Chinatown [which to be honest, I used to walk from Market St. when I worked at 500 Washington St in about 15 minutes.] It was originally supposed to run from King St.. to Fisherman’s Wharf and then cut back to North Beach which would make more sense as you would have gotten more tourist dollars into city coffers instead of running from Market St. to a ten square block small area of the city. I honestly can’t be in favor of any expansion of Muni lines at this point in time until they can get it right with what they already have.

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.

Crossing the Slot

San Francisco is a city that as my wife once quoted a person from Maine as saying, “Ya can’t get there from here.” Traveling is a difficult task because of the central hills and Golden Gate Park that has caused our transit system to bore holes through the hills to make it easier to get to downtown. The Richmond and Sunset districts occupy approximately half of San Francisco and are divided by the Slot, or Golden Gate Park. Originally, Market street was referred to as the Slot and the SoMA region was called South of the Slot, but today Market St is more of a slit for travelers than a slot.

Golden Gate Park is a massive part of the city being three times the size of New York’s Central Park. The problem with it is while it is a great outdoor open space there’s really only four places to cross the park. I’ll address each of these individually. The first is Ocean Beach where while it is a great place to drive is only two lanes in either direction That’s rather sumptuous compared to other places, but it is also subject to frequent closures due to public events such as the Bay to Breakers and other public events. It’s still one of my first choices when I have to travel to areas northwest in San Francisco.

The next is the 41st avenue [Sunset side] and 43rd avenue [Richmond side]. This is one lane in either direction with two stop signs to slow you down and leads to traffic pile ups.Quite frequently if you need to get to the northwest section of town crossing here will be slower than traveling down to the beach and using Great Highway. It’s a beautiful drive, but it will add time to your drive that feels like house when it is only minutes.

Next is 19th Avenue which while on the Richmond side is Park Presidio all the traffic reporters refer to as 19th avenue. This is the biggest three lanes in either direction transit point for getting to the Golden Gate Bridge. Because of this it is always crowded. There have been times when traveling there are smooth, but they are rare. If an accident occurs here it is usually within Golden Gate Park and will back up traffic all the way to Daly City.

The last is at Stanyan Street which most people ignore because even though it is two lanes in either direction, it’s a nightmare of traffic to wade through even though people supposedly ignore it. The Stanyan street corridor is one of the most congested streets of the city. I always use it as a last resort because even during the day when you would expect little traffic it has lots of traffic.

There are a few other areas you can use to get around such as the Lincoln Blvd and Fulton Street areas that run parallel to the park, but those usually get congested during rush hour because they’re the only areas with wide enough lanes to allow drivers to travel over the speed limit [c’mon admit it who hasn’t hit 60 mph on one of these streets?]

When I used to live out closer to the beach I used to enter on 41st Avenue and actually drive through the park in the mornings. It was a leisurely drive that few people take. While it is on the slow side, it is quite pleasant overall. It may add some time to your trip, but at least you’ll have a smile on your face.

San Francisco needs to realize that with half of the city being taken up with residents of the Richmond and Sunset districts that it needs to find an easy way to get there from here. Richmond residents have Geavy Blvd to get them downtown that while large is frequently crowded. The Sunset has no direct route to downtown by car except the Oak Street/Fell Street corridor along the panhandle which in the mornings is a nightmare to travel. SFMTA riders have access to downtown via West Portal station, yet Richmond riders have only the 38 Geary to get them downtown. Yes, there are other busses in the Richmond, but they take you twice as long as the Geary.

The next Mayor of San Francisco will have to take a look at finding a way to get the citizens of San Francisco from here to there quickly and efficiently.

Look Look Butt Shop!

Traveling on the San Francisco Metro system can be very interesting some times. You can see the strangest things and even like today, hear the strangest things.

I had to take a trip downtown and since driving downtown is crazy and slow and expensive I decided to drive to West Portal and hop on a metro train. Here’s where the fun began.

As I got on the train I sit down and try and tune out everything around me. There was a Chinese couple sitting across from me and they were speaking Cantonese. I’ll get to how I know it was Cantonese and not Mandarin later. So as I’m tuning everything out I suddenty hear. “LOOK LOOK BUTT SHOP!” OK, something like that you don’t just let slip by you.

My minde started wondering what a place called the Butt Shop would be, or maybe it was called the Look Look Butt Shop, kind of like one of silly Asian companies that put English words together to name their company, but not exactly choosing the best words like, “Happy, Sunny Egg Place”. No I’m serious, I actually saw that one time. Maybe the Look, Look Butt Shop sold fanny flattering attire to women who aren’t getting enough attention? Maybe it was a plastic surgery place that fixed dented derrieres?

OK, I’m thinking a little too much here and as I got off the train I realized what she was saying thanks to my Kung-Fu teacher who made us count in Cantonese [Thanks you Sifu Wong!]. They were numbers. 6, 6, 8, 10. They just happened to sound close enough to English words that my mind created the Look, Look Butt Shop out of those sounds. The closest I can come to what the words actually are is luk, luk, baht tsup.

Of course, while I can get my face slapped in about 12 different languages, my knowledge of Cantonese is pretty limited so maybe they weren’t numbers and they really were talking about the Look Look Butt Shop. I tried putting it into google to see if it came up and it didn’t, but maybe that’s a good name for a company that I can make lots of money off of. It’s certainly better than the Cranberry and Apple juice combo that was called “CRAP” when it was released in Japan.

So now I have to ask, what other foreign words can sound like something odd in English and what English words sound like something odd in other languages? Let me know I’m kind of interested in this.

Damn those backpacks!

There. I’ve said it. I feel much better now. If you’ve ever taken Muni during rush hour you know what I’m talking about. People wearing their backpacks on the buses and metro that stick out almost a foot from them blocking people from passing them. Even worse is when the turn sideways because they think their thinner and end up smacking with they’re backpack loaded with bricks or what ever the hell they need to carry with them to work or school. 

When it was just school kids I could understand. They’ve got all those books to carry and help cause spinal deformaties during their growing years [ok that’s for another post so I’ll stop that now], but adults who feel a need to carry two cubic feet of “stuff” with them to work I don’t understand. I tend to be a bit of a frugal guy and can pack a weeks worth of clothes into a carry-on. I also tend to choose the most compact multitasking things I need when I travel. Like my cell phone. It’s an mp3 player, a clock, a camera, a video camera and an FM Radio [and no it’s not an iPhone]. What the hell are they packing into those things? I think I might have to start asking them.

One of the things that would be a good idea for people to do is to take the packs off when you get on metro and carry them down in front of you then put them down between their feet when you get to your space. Yes, if you have to move you’ll have to waddle a bit like a penguin, but you’ll only have to move a foot or two at the most. I’d almost go so far as to say that should be the law, but let’s try and work together and make it just a rule to live by when you’re taking public transportation.

I’m a cranky old man, and I approve of this message. 🙂