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.
I had to take a trip downtown the other day and started thinking about some of the jobs I used to have down in the financial district before I had my iPhone. Mobile devices don’t work in the tunnel once the train starts in past West Portal station. They barely even work inside the open air station for some reason, but more importantly it can take you 20-30 minutes to get from West Portal to the Embarcadero and you don’t have access to the outside world from the inside.
You can’t make phone calls which some people appreciate because of the thick concrete and you can barely get 3G/4G service at a couple of stations and that’s only for about a minute. I think it’s time that SFMTA installed Wi-FI or at least allow 3G/4G access while in the tunnel. There are a couple of reasons for this idea that I like.
First, it eliminates the need for big bulky newspapers. I always hated people sitting next to me stretching out their hands reading the morning paper on a crowded streetcar or the occasional elbow as a person flips a page of a book they’re reading. With a mobile device you have a much better confined reading space that fits with a crowded streetcar better than paper.
The second is that some people like to use social media apps or read their email or stay connected to their place of work in case something comes up on the way in. It’s really sad to me that I am more connected hopping a 48 Quintara to the Mission than I am on a streetcar going to the financial district.
There’s lots of things you can do to occupy yourself with a mobile device to kill the time, especially when the driver tells you there’s a delay and you’ll have to wait. Most of the apps though require a hook up to the internet to get you the information you was to use. Happy passengers aren’t grumpy and crazy. If I’m stuck by a delay and find out that after 45 minutes on the train that my wife was in a car accident or something happened to my daughter that would be bad, very bad.
BART understands this and I wrote about this previously. I hoped BART one day at Embarcadero and happened to notice as I hit the tunnel under the bay, that I could hook up for free to BART’s wi-fi service. The trip was almost an hour and the entire way I was surfing the web, sending emails, made a couple of calls just fine. I even had a cell phone signal under the bay. This leads to more productivity for some people or just happier riders for the less productive who just want to hop on in their trip from one part of town to another and watch a TV show on Hulu or Netflix. It would give them a chance to tune out the crazies or people who talk too loud to the person sitting next to them. Now we just have to figure out who’s job we would have to cut to make that happen. Maybe a marketing director or two since you wouldn’t need them if they made the trip more pleasant.
You have to have lived in San Francisco for awhile to remember the elephant train that ran at the San Francisco Zoo. Later becoming the zebra train for some odd reason, I still miss the original zebra train tours around the zoo.
I think they cost about 75¢ at the time which tells you about how old I am. You would hop on by the Children’s Zoo and ride around the entire zoo getting a little lesson on all the animals that you’d see. It was a good way to start your trip to the zoo, then you could walk around and take your time. For elderly people who had trouble walking around the zoo it made it much more accessible. While to many the zoo seems large today, it was even larger back then when they were using more of their space.
I have heard, but can’t confirm that it original ran from Playland at the beach to the zoo back in the day when it didn’t cost anything to get in. It was also said to have been used at one time to help students get around at SF State University, which if people thought of the place as a zoo that would give them proof.
I do remember going on field trips to the zoo and that was always the best way to move the kids around the zoo quickly and then get them back to the school. Field trips like that made going to school fun back then. It’s hard to find pictures of the trains now and I couldn’t even find one of the zebra train that replaced it. It’s even harder to find any information about them, but I believe the zoo stopped them in the early 80’s. I can’t even find out when they started using them there. There’s actually more information out there about the Little Puffer train, but doesn’t mention that it runs on a shorter track today than it used to. There’s a lot of stuff out there about the old zoo like Storyland which every kid had to see back then. Sure it was a little beat up and run down when I was a kid, but it was still fun to see all your nursery rhymes and storybook characters in 3D.
I’m a bit out of shape and when we got back from taking our daughter to the zoo today I was out of breath and sweating. I think that’s part of the reason I really miss the elephant train.