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or, better yet, give him a job."
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Friday, January 30, 2009

Outside Lands Festival to return for 3 years... Is this a joke?

"Welcome to San Francisco, where GREEDY government people screws this city."

That's our new slogan because the a new report shows that the San Francisco Park and Rec department has just signed a three year contract to have the OutsideLands festival come back. The city claims they will make $1.7 million a year with this contract.
Did I hear this correctly... OutsideLands II, III, and IV? NO THANKS.

If anyone recalls from Akit's Complaint Department, I posted three blog entries during August 2008's event and attracted so much attention, I received the highest number of visitors and comments ever in a single day. Even one of my newly hired co-workers knew about these blog entries.

See articles here:
"Outside Lands Festival - No Park Street Closure Information"
"Outside Lands Festival - Muni Terrible, Complaints, Not Making Friends"
"Outside Lands Festival - Goodbye, Get Lost, and Never Come Back"

Bringing back Outside Lands? Is the city nuts? So the city raises $1.7 million dollars for each one, but the reality is the city will more than likely fry that $1.7 million and more tax dollars on police overtime, traffic officers, additional Muni vehicles, Muni overtime, trash cleanup, claims of damage by homeowners nearby the park, and plenty more.

And does $1.7 million also cover the anger the residents of the Sunset, Richmond, and Panhandle areas will suffer? Traffic jams, no neighborhood parking, people trashing the neighborhoods, urination and deification in the streets, and the loud noises? People have complained of the noise from Golden Gate Park all the way from THE PRESIDIO. Even a concert at the Polo Grounds in the 70's got complaints from UCSF HOSPITAL, and that's really far away.

Golden Gate Park does not have the appropriate capacity to host a three day nightmare. One day events that are held on a Sunday are good because of low traffic, and it doesn't put a severe impact on the surrounding neighborhoods.

But when you make it a three day event, including on a Friday, you don't just piss-off the residents, but you also tick-off the Friday commuters who have to ride sardine packed trains and buses when trying to get home, and the park road closures WITHOUT ANY NOTICE. Last year, commuters were really mad at both Muni and Outsidelands for the suffering.

And to just prove my point about the event from hell last year, here's a photo from the NextBus program that Muni participates in:

If this event ever returns, the city and event organizers will once again SCREW THINGS UP. Here's a list of things that will go wrong:
  • The park will get trashed. The event's goal is to be "green." Yeah right, even the employees littered.
  • It's way oversold.
  • Muni can't take this kind of abuse. Drivers can't be forced to work days they are not scheduled for, and their union will probably support that.
  • OutsideLands organizers will not provide money to provide additional transportation.
  • Call these phone numbers and visit these websites: 311, 511, your local SF Police station, your local fire station, your local paramedics station, 511.org, SFMTA.com, the concert's website, and your city supervisor's office. They'll give you all different answers on park road closures. Just wait until you have a heart attack and the paramedics can't rescue you because they were NOT TOLD WHAT ROADS ARE CLOSED.
  • Not enough porta toilets, I guess people will be doing their business in a neighbor's front yard.
  • One word: STAMPEDE.

If the city still has a chance: ELIMINATE THE CONTRACT. Find a promoter that is willing to host events on Sundays ONLY (three Sundays in the row is not bad).

Send OutsideLands to CANDLESTICK. They've got one hell of a large parking lot and stadium to use.

(First two photos courtesy of Flickr user reidspice under a Creative Commons license.)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Is Muni's Proof of Payment "Expired" Transfer Policy Fair?

SFMTA/Muni's "Proof of Payment" program is one of the more citizen hated Muni programs, especially the fare inspectors who just love to piss passengers off by checking you in some cases, twice, or even three times if you get lucky.

But while this program is supposed to catch the people who fail to pay for their train fare (in which I applaud), it also has a disturbing side to it as well, when it comes to the "validity" of the "proof of payment." More in particular, the Muni transfer, which is issued in a few ways: the tear-off that comes from the vehicle operators, the fare gates at metro stations, ticketing machines at platforms like S.F. State, and the Translink e-transfer.


According to SFMTA/Muni's policy on POP in the metro, it states:
  • "Don't get stuck entering with a transfer/fare receipt that will later expire while you are waiting on a platform or riding in a vehicle. If you are not sure your transfer/fare receipt will last, then pay for a fresh transfer/fare receipt on the surface or at a faregate in the subway."
This policy is not clearly noted on the metro vehicles. They say in a very bland manner that a transfer/pass must be valid at all times. To me, it sounds halfway legitimate, but I think it could be a little more clear.

Maybe Muni should add signage saying: "If your transfer is expiring, please buy a new one."

How about this one? "If your train is delayed, ask the operator for a FREE fresh transfer since you just been probed in the butt by our poorly maintained equipment." Actually, in Japan, if your train is late or delayed, you are given a little note about the delay to give to your supervisor at work so you don't get in trouble.


An even more disturbing policy is highlighted here in their FAQ section of their website, where they answer the question on what to do when your transfer expires, in particular:
  • "Don't try this (get a new transfer) if Proof of Payment enforcement officers are aboard the vehicle or present in the paid area of the station; it is too late to correct the problem."
Hey Muni, this quote is just really bad P.R. If your transfer just recently went invalid, how about giving the passenger a break, and encouraging him/her to obtain a new one? It's NEVER TOO LATE.


In my point of view, the "expired" transfer policy doesn't even seem really that fair at all. Journeys can be longer than we may sometimes expect due to delays, incidents, etc., and people who ride Muni generally knows that once you enter a Muni vehicle with a valid transfer that has not expired, you will be allowed entry without question; even if a passenger has just 15 minutes left on the transfer; that's not a problem on the buses and historic streetcars, but will be a problem on the Metro 15 minutes later.

Here's a few situations that may happen to you:
  • Say your train is stuck in the metro tunnel due to a train ahead that is disabled, or possibly an incident that occurred (which is more likely to happen today). Once the train finally enters the station and you exit, you get nailed by a fare inspector simply because your transfer was expired, but surely your transfer was valid while suffering in the tunnel.
  • Your paper transfer issued by the operator was less than 90 minutes or the ticket machine at the metro platform cut it short (which happened here), how the hell do you contest that? Muni could argue that you didn't look at your transfer when it was issued. Yeah, tell that to a visually impaired guy appealing his ticket.
I say, wouldn't this way be more fair way to enforce validity?
  • If the transfer is expired by no longer than one hour, then it is fine. Now, I'm saying just an hour because traveling on the Metro should not take more than an hour. It takes 45 minutes on the 38L-Geary Limited from end to end (Transbay to 48th/Pt. Lobos), so an hour is fair enough on a metro ride.
  • But if it is more than an hour, then a citation should be issued, especially if it is by more than two hours, that's obviously a violation of someone trying to cheat the system.
So Muni, I encourage you to chase the folks who evade fares, not the recently expired transfers. At least the people who have recently expired transfers paid their $1.50.

Also while you are at it, how about reducing the number of fare inspectors at one station? Recently, I saw NINE at Powell (four at the main gate area, three at the secondary gates, and two on the platform). Even worse, three of them was harassing a family of Japanese tourists. Gees, that's a nice welcome mat we put out.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user: "rick" from a Creative Commons license.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hey SF Muni - Where's my Translink Trial Group Confirmation?

On a previous post here at Akit's Complaint Department, I talked about having more trust in the Translink program on SF Muni after spending one day riding the trains and buses with my green colored card, and also mentioning that I may register for the test group.

I posted that on December 29, 2008, and now it's January 21, 2009. I registered online just a day after my previous posting (via Survey Monkey link on SFMTA/Muni and also on Translink's website), and I have heard NOTHING after 22 days from the folks at the SFMTA/Muni and Translink authorities who promised at the end of the registration to contact me no more than two weeks after submitting my request online.

I have learned that others who have registered for the program to test Muni received a letter (not sure if e-mail or snail mail) that states their participation in the program. I do not know if the person registered with an existing card with Translink or is a new user who had to be issued one. But from past experience, the document can be helpful in gaining leverage when confronted by Muni bus drivers, station agents, and fare inspectors when trying to prove that the Translink cardholder is testing out the program.

There have already been accusations by cardholders that when using the card to e-transfer to Muni metro, it doesn't show-up on the fare inspectors' card readers for "proof of payment" and if true, that's a serious flaw in the Translink software that can waste tax dollars when those inspectors have to issue tickets and the time wasted to appeal the citation which would include Translink staff conducting research on the past history of tagging the card.

For example: "David G." of Yelp posted this complaint about Translink:
"The bad news - Muni's utterly stupid fare policy. I got stopped by a Muni Cop a couple of days ago doing a routine fare check and she pulled out her little machine and read my card. Seems I was out of compliance - a fare cheat - and then proceeded to explain the policy. Apparently once you tag your card, you can ride for 90 minutes on the Muni system. After 90 minutes, you become a fare cheat - and subject to fines if you get caught - unless you re-tag the card. Now in this particular case, I tagged my card at Montgomery, went to Davies for a doctor's appointment, and took the N Judah back downtown. When I got on the N, I tagged the TransLink card a second time. The reader told me it wasn't decrementing anything from the balance, because I still had time left over from my initial tag. So even if I had only one minute left out of my initial ninety, the reader wouldn't re-tag the card. The cop checked my card something like 5 minutes into my ride. She told me I was technically out of compliance - but she didn't ticket me because Muni is still in the "adoption / passenger education phase" with TransLink."

(Please note: I only used the portion mentioning the confrontation between the card user and the Muni fare inspector)

During my run as a very early adopter of the Translink pilot program in 2002, I carried a letter in my wallet that came from Muni's revinue department that described my participation in the pilot program and that all vehicle drivers are ordered to accept the Muni monthly pass sticker on my Translink card when a Translink reader is not available. That letter alone saved by back a few times when confronted about the legitimacy.

But still (and to re-mention), there is no confirmation of my registration from SFMTA/Muni and Translink. They have not sent any e-mails to me, and have not invited me to take surveys that is promised on the SFMTA/Muni and Translink websites. Plus they are offering "prizes" which, with this budget situation, sounds a little odd. I never wanted the prizes, unless if Nat Ford wants me to meet with him and grant one wish, which would be, eliminate the CultureBus program!!!!

The question to the SFMTA/Muni and Translink authorities: do you feel that am I such a threat to this program for being an outspoken critic who posts on a blog, that you have quietly rejected my application? As an agency of the city government (Muni), and state government (Translink is part of the MTC), they are required to respond to all requests, no matter how much the agency doesn't like them. It is good business practice to reply to any requests or questions for all public/government agencies and private businesses. I work for the state government and if anyone leaves a voicemail or e-mail, I always call or write them back.

Here's an example: There's a guy who has been making numerous "Sunshine requests" for city government documents just to clog-up the system, but the city government still has a responsibility to obtain the documents he requests, no matter how much the government dislikes him.

Actually, I hope that Muni and Translink doesn't "dislike" me, I hope they can think of me as a person who knows the quirks of the Translink program (from a local citizen's POV) and accepts me as an citizen advisor to improving the program to make sure it works for everyone.

If you will accept my application, please write back. If you reject it, write back too, I'd like to learn more about why, then post it here for everyone to read.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

SF Muni Scales Back 74X CultureBus Service

San Francisco's Muni, home of the useless 74X CultureBus... a.k.a. the bus program that wastes tax dollars. Unfortunately our dreams have not come true and it has not been eliminated, but has been trimmed back in an effort to save money.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports today that the empty CultureBus will be reduced to hourly service, instead of every 20 minutes. The savings for Muni will be about $620,000 with the reduction in service; only two bus drivers will be assigned to the route, and three vehicles will be available (one is a backup vehicle).

But in my opinion, I believe that Muni can save EVEN MORE MONEY is by simply eliminating the CultureBus service and simply move the drivers and vehicles to other lines in the city that needs the demand. The 38 Geary and 38L Geary Limited are the most heavily used bus lines in the city, with an average speed of 8 (yes... eight) miles per hour. Extra vehicles and drivers can help reduce the crowds.

Muni's existing bus lines serve the stops that the CultureBus makes, and transferring to another bus line is not that bad. The 5-Fulton serves the heart of downtown (a short walk to Union Square where the CultureBus stop is), stops nearby the Academy of Sciences and the De Young Museum, and makes a stop at Civic Center plaza where the Asian Art Museum is located. And for people wanting to go to the Legion of Honor (a non-CultureBus stop), the 5-Fulton's terminal at Ocean Beach (La Playa and Cabrillo) is a transfer point for the 18-46th Avenue, and the 18 line also serves the zoo.

So SFMTA, what's the real point of the CultureBus? Taxpayer money to serve a "tour bus" route? The private tour bus agencies already offer a "hop-on, hop-off" bus service and serves more areas than the CultureBus, and while the cost of the private tour bus is more, it's offset by the more areas they visit, the fast service, and the open top double deck vehicles, perfect for photos. SFMTA/Muni is supposed to serve the residents and commuters to get to where they are going. We are not a dedicated tour bus agency, we are a public transit agency. Tourists are surely welcome to use Muni, but please understand that you share it with the local residents and commuters who need to get to work and home. The bus and trains will stop in obscure neighborhoods that you tourists may never visit, but at least it will eventually stop at your tourist attraction.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

More Stupidity on the Streets of San Francisco (Involving a Dog)

Remember watching Inspector Gadget and at the end of every episode, Gadget would always give one of those quick safety/common sense PSAs, just like what the GI Joe program would do?

There was this one particular PSA where Gadget talked about safety in the car, and particularly mentioned that dogs (in particular, the dog "Brain") should never stick their head out of the car.

Well... on the streets of San Francisco yesterday (Saturday), somebody didn't watch that particular Inspector Gadget episode. Dr. Claw strikes again. Or maybe the late George Carlin wanting to smack you in the back of the head.

Behind me was this SUV with a dog in the rear driver side window sticking out, with its front paws on the window edge. I was approaching a signal that turned yellow, and pressed my brakes to slow down since I did not want to risk running the red. But the SUV behind me with the dog sticking out did a sharp and speedy swerve into lane to the right of my car, ran the light, and the swerve forced the dog to fall out of the car.

I literally screamed, honked my horn like a maniac, and the lady stopped her SUV about 100 feet away. I thought the dog was messed up, but then it stood up and walked around like nothing ever happened.

Hours after this incident, I was thinking to myself... damn, are there people in my city truly deserves the idiot, stupid, and/or moron award? Buy one of those mesh cage things that most pet lovers put in their station wagon and SUV trunks. At least they won't fall out of the vehicle, unlike the dummy lady did yesterday.

So remember parents, make your kids watch cartoons, they tell important life lessons that you might forget to teach them, like how to hack the cable box to get HBO.

Friday, January 16, 2009

SF City ID Card - Not quite an ID, more like a discount card

Yesterday, the City and County of San Francisco's Clerk office started the "San Francisco City ID" program which is a city/county issued identification card. It is only used for a select number of services and purposes within the city borders, and has no practical use outside of city lines, State of California (such as a driver's license), other states, federal purposes/services, and nearly all private businesses requiring ID (such as accepting checks, credit card applications, etc.).

It looks like many of the commentators of the Chronicle's website, SFgate, thinks this is a really stupid idea:

In one (really stupid) comment, this was featured on the main page of SFgate:
Sorry "triplx" the ID can't be used for applying for credit cards. State identification cards and passports are the legal proof for applying for something like that. And even then to get a municipal ID, people still have to prove their residency in San Francisco, with such items as a passport or state ID, and a utility bill (this is a really strict list of requirements here). Fake names? Low chance. Possibly the clerk's office checks the info on a national database, and that's why they can only produce 30 ID cards a day. As for the SFgate editor who posted that comment, you DID NOT READ THE ARTICLE.

A lot of other comments from SFgate on this story loves to target illegal immigration, for example:
Is it always that when the city is in a financial crisis or spends too much money on projects that our citizens always uses the "illegal immigrant" or "sanctuary city" scapegoat? Doesn't seem that we blame Muni as often anymore. Can't fill all the potholes? Some idiot SFgate commenter will just blame "illegal immigrants." Geesh. Not everyone who gets a city ID is an illegal immigrant, maybe it's just for some other practical reason, such as just another piece of plastic to stuff in your wallet, or maybe just some good old fashioned San Francisco pride showing that you are a "true" San Francisco resident.

So what's the practical use of the ID card anyway? Or maybe ask the question this way, why an ID card? Here's my take on this:

I don't really believe it is an ID card, I think it's more of a membership discount card. Think of it this way, the city makes $15 for each ID produced (reduced price for kids, adults, and the poor), with homosexual marriage temporarily blocked off due to Prop. 8 (which brought income through marriage licensing), the city needs to make some money, and the card comes with all kinds of city government benefits/services, plus discounts to a large list of local merchants and businesses:
  • City government services accepts the "ID" as proof of identity and residency ONLY. It doesn't prove immigration status you fools. The city issues IDs only to people who show documentation from official government sources, so that's proof of identity. Same for banks too, they require ID, Social Security number, and other documents to prove your identity. The City is just following the same standards as banks, and even the DMV. With that in mind, even people who can't get a U.S. Passport or State ID (for I'm assuming immigration status), can still use local city government services, like if you were badly hurt, and SF General Hospital only have your city ID, they can use it to find out your emergency contact so that family members can be informed.
  • SF Public Library access. Plain and simple, live in SF, you should have the privilege of borrowing books and videos. But still, I don't really see any purpose for a city sanctioned ID for this.
  • Park and Rec services. Sure, I want to rent a picnic site, don't you? This is for sure one decent reason to have the city ID because even if you are an illegal immigrant, at least you can rent a picnic site, thereby the city makes even more money on rentals. Local residents also gets discounts on accessing the city owned swimming pools too, so the city makes more money that way. Libraries don't make money, at least that's what I know.
  • Banks and credit unions. The city ID can start the process of opening an account, but federal law requires more identification due to terrorism laws so that money isn't funneled for the bad guys. Many credit unions require proof of residency in San Francisco because that's part of their requirements/charter rules (as per Federal law), thereby the SF ID can ONLY WORK AS PROOF OF RESIDENCY IN SF. You still may need to prove with a social security card, passport, etc. to pass muster for federal policies to establish an account.
  • Goat Hill Pizza is one of the many businesses that accepts the SF ID card for discounts. 10% off everything is not a bad deal, especially in this economy. Combine that with other local merchant discounts, and you'll save more than the price you paid for that "ID." See merchant list here.
To summarize this list, the real purpose for the San Francisco ID is to grab the cool discounts from the local merchants, because your California ID won't get you that 10% discount on pizza, will it?

Really... it's more like a membership/discount card that is good for a few years and it's cheap in price. I say, if you are hungry for food or bargains, why not get a card? This economy sucks, so a $15 investment can go a long way. Sure beats that $35 "Entertainment" discount book that's only valid for one year.

Another way to think about the SF ID card is that it is like a college ID card. The college ID can't establish immigration status, and only proves that you attend the university. The SF ID only establishes identity and residency, not immigration status.

How about I compare the benefits of a SF ID card to a college ID, say the S.F. State University ID card (OneCard)?
  1. Access to government services: SF ID: yes to city government services. SFSU ID: yes, access to SFSU services (registrar, medical clinic, etc.).
  2. Library services: SF ID: all SF Public libraries. SFSU ID: SFSU library only.
  3. Park and Rec: SF ID: Yes. SFSU ID: Yes, access to gym, pool, weight room, etc.
  4. Banks and Credit Unions: SF ID: Yes to establishing SF residency. SFSU ID: Yes to credit unions on establishing membership (membership rules also note, you don't have to live in SF, but can attend college in SF).
  5. Discounts: SF ID: Yes to specific places. SFSU ID: Yes to the entire food court at Westfield San Francisco mall, and AMC movie theaters.
Even for college students who moved into San Francisco for a couple of years who don't want to mess with changing their address with the DMV, getting an SF ID establishes proof of residency in the city, even if it is only temporary. You live in our city, but have a driver's license that says otherwise? You should get the same benefits that our local residents get.

Lastly, this is for SFgate commenter gojira who commented on my previous comment on the "Gate:"
"I'm off to the SFgov website right now to download that [discount merchant] list. Those merchants won't see a dime of my patronage."

My reaction: Yeah right. One of the best bakeries in the Mission is on that list. I don't think you can resist their freshly made and delicious pastries. Also, one of the nation's newest and best museums is on that list, the California Academy of Sciences. I guess you won't go to that as well. Do yourself a favor, go f*** yourself. Tell your kids that they can't go to the museum because the SF ID is accepted, they might just break your legs with a baseball bat. "Look daddy! I was trying to hit your baseballs (testicles), but I hit your leg instead!"

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

When pedestrian common sense goes out the window

Scariest thing happened today. It was just about 30 minutes ago where I stopped at an intersection, looked both ways, and here comes some jogger darting across the street while my car is in motion, and luckily I hit my brakes just in time to not hit the guy.

And I'm thinking to myself... where is your common sense? He was wearing iPod earphones, jogging down the street, AND wearing a dark red sweatshirt!

Come on folks, you need to use some common sense when running, jogging, or even walking at night in the city.
  1. Don't run or jog while listening to your iPod when crossing the street. Remember the Muni advertisement campaign of listening for vehicle sounds before you cross the street?
  2. Wear some damn bright colors at night! That guy was wearing a very dark red shirt, and that doesn't reflect well to light. Wear at least a white colored shirt or jacket, or even better, spend a few bucks for a bright orange safety vest. $3 for a vest, or a $5,000 hospital bill? Every Halloween, the news TV folks remind kids to carry a flashlight and wear bright colors, for adults, take the message SERIOUSLY 365 days a year.
  3. WALK across the street, don't run. That's the same as starting to cross the street when the countdown clock is ticking away, you risk getting hit when you realize you have two seconds left and you dart across the rest of the intersection. If a pedestrian darts a crosswalk, and times it perfectly with a driver who very recently scanned the crosswalk and thought it was clear, BANG! This is similar bicyclists who think it's OK to run red lights and stop signs and the car driver thinks going through the intersection is OK, and then WHAM.
  4. Make eye contact with the driver, if you don't make eye contact, don't risk it.
  5. Lastly, just don't exercise outdoors at night. It's like that Simpson's Halloween episode when Ned Flanders was doing his night fog walk and Marge hit him with the car. I hear having sex is exercise, why not stick to that? And if you are single, get a fleshlight.
So basically, for you pedestrians, make yourself obvious. Drivers at night makes themselves obvious by turning on their headlights (in which we may get ticketed for a burned out bulb), so why don't you pedestrians do the same by making it easier for you to spot?

As for me, my lesson is to look more carefully for stupid pedestrians.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

SFO Airport Incentives for Hybrids - Bad Idea Mayor Newsom

If you did not know, San Francisco International Airport is owned by the City and County of San Francisco, even though it is situated away from city borders and next door to South San Francisco and Millbrae.

Mayor Gavin Newsom announced today (courtesy of KPIX news) that alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles rented from the airport will receive a $15 incentive. The incentive is not per day, but just a one time offer regardless of length of rental.

But reporter Jeffrey Schaub noted that while the incentive will reduce the rental cost slightly, it still costs (on average) $15 more per day to rent one of the hybrids or alternative fuel vehicles. So basically... if you rent an AFV/hybrid for more than one day, you are not getting such a bargain after all. In fact, Schaub noted that a conventional fuel vehicle after a week of renting it, you would pay $75 less than getting the AFV/hybrid.

In my opinion... what a bad idea Newsom! Here's my reasons why:
  • Mayor Newsom did it too late. If he offered the incentive during the high cost of fuel prices, people would pay more attention. If you rent a car, you will drive it around the Bay Area, and you can literally fry half a tank driving from SF to San Jose (round-trip) on a conventional vehicle with average gas economy. If Newsom offered the incentive during the rise in fuel prices, visitors and business people would rent the hybrid because of it's fuel savings, and after a lot of driving, that slightly higher cost for the car rental would reduce the amount you pay at the pump.
  • If you are visiting San Francisco, have hotel accommodations in downtown, and don't plan to go outside of city borders (unless if you can access BART and the ferries) you don't need a rental car. Nothing against the rental agencies; let's all remember that parking your car at at downtown hotel's parking lot will cost you PLENTY. If you plan to rent a car, find a hotel or inn with free parking or street parking (without 2-hour parking zones and meters). Areas in the Sunset and Richmond districts that have inns and hotels offer free parking and usually next to a major Muni line. Seal Rock Inn on 48th and Pt. Lobos offers free parking, and you are just steps away from the 38L, 38AX, and the 18-46th Avenue.
  • Smart tourists know the ways to save money on car rentals. You just don't pick-up your car from the airport. You go to one of the rental agencies (a.k.a. "local" centers) to get your car. Go to a fancy hotel, call Enterprise, and like they say, they'll pick you up.
  • The economy is in a terrible state and people are trying to save money as much as they can. If they can find a cheaper car (a conventional fuel vehicle) and know about it's fuel efficiency, they'll rent it and say, "no thanks" to the hybrid.
So really Mayor Newsom... this is just a PR stunt. The news report states that a representative of one of the agencies said it is a better deal if the city did not enforce this $15 incentive. It looks like the city is not forking any money, just forcing the rental agencies to discount, even though the agencies can simply raise the price $15 to spare its losses.

Monday, January 12, 2009

SF Muni to Raise Fast Pass to $55

Are you ready to pay more for San Francisco Muni?

A report by the Chronicle talking about fare inspectors shows that Muni may raise the price of an Adult "Fast Pass" from $45/month to $55/month. The new hike will be effective on July 1st, 2009.

Let's do a little bit of math on what the fare hike will do to your pocket:

Assuming the regular fare will remain at $1.50 per person...
  • The current pass price is $45, one must use the bus pass at least 30 times or 15 round-trips to get its full value.
  • The new pass price is $55, one must use the bus pass at least 37 times or 18 1/2 round-trips to get its full value.
For the average commuter... lets assume there are 20 working days per month and they ride Muni for every single workday. In a month, a person will ride 40 times or 20 round trips. (Also assume they do not use it for Cable Cars, special service, CultureBus, and service on weekends).
  • Using the current pass price, the commuter can miss five days worth of rides (due to illness, holidays, driving directly to work, carpool, etc.) and still get the value of the pass.
  • Under the new pass price, the passenger can only miss TWO days of commuting (or three trips due to the fraction in calculations) to lose the value of the fast pass. So if you are scheduling a day off to the dentist, a friend giving you a lift to/from work, or you are just sick, you might be wasting money on your public transit.
Missing two days of commuting is $6 a month, so multiply that by twelve and you lose $72.

So Muni, if our citizens do the math on their commute and realize that raising the pass price will actually force commuters to lose money, won't that make the buses even slower? Passengers will have to pay in cash or token tickets to save money.

If Muni wants to make A GOOD INCENTIVE... offer Translink cards that includes a discount on a monthly pass. Translink fast passes would cost $45 or no more than $50. But since BART is not ready and god knows when Cable Cars will be ready, keep the price low in exchange for killing off BART and Cable Cars (for now). Muni pays thouands of dollars to produce passes and transfers, so Muni can save money and give a deal to passengers by reducing printing costs by getting people on Translink.

Lastly, did anyone notice on the back of the January 2009 Fast Pass that it does not mention about the 3-day grace period after the end of the month? That's odd, the SFMTA website says the 3-day grace period is still valid. So if you ride Muni Metro, click on that link and print out that page, some moron fare inspector might claim "well, the back of your pass says nothing about a grace period." Then show the person that printout with the date stamp, and say "I hope you brought your reading glasses!"

(Photo from SFGov website, public domain since it is a government website)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The San Francisco Manners Quiz

I'm going to rip-off an etiquette quiz on SFGate by publishing my own set of questions, have fun!

Question 1: You notice a Muni passenger picking his nose on the bus (and I mean, the guy doesn't use the other hand to cover it). Do you:
  1. Let him keep picking for fools gold.
  2. Make an insulting joke at him saying: "Pick harder! You'll reach your brain soon."
  3. Give the idiot a tissue.
  4. Record it on your cell phone camera and post it on YouTube.
  5. Slap him with the morning newspaper.

Question 2: Aboard the quiet express bus, a phone rings and a lady answers it. She starts having a conversation for ten minutes, and nobody tells her to shut-up.
  1. Let her chat away and listen in: "My butt itches bad, and this cream is not working!"
  2. Tell her to shut up.
  3. Get on your phone and have a 'counter' conversation, telling her of how much of a bad passenger she is.
  4. Slap her with your morning newspaper.

Question 3: You see Mayor Gavin Newsom scratching his butt in public. What do you do?
  1. Ignore it.
  2. Offer him some Preparation H.
  3. Snap a photo and post it online.
  4. Yell out what he's doing. "Hey everybody! The Mayor is scratching his butt!"
  5. Slap his scratching hand with your morning newspaper.

Question 4: You are driving down the street and a moron starts crossing the street when it's the red light for him. Do you:
  1. Honk your horn.
  2. Mow him down.
  3. Yell out how much of an idiot he is.
  4. Conduct a "drive by" slap of the morning paper.

Question 5: The front end of the Muni bus is packed, but the back part is empty. What do you do?
  1. Wait for the next bus, surely it won't be that bad.
  2. Be like those pushy folks in Chinatown getting aboard the 30 Stockton.
  3. Yell out: "Fare inspectors!"
  4. Tell them: "In Japan, they have these Japanese dudes shoving you in the train. Now, why can't we be like that?"
  5. Just start slapping people with the morning paper to move aside.

Question 6: You just entered your car at the parking lot. Another car wants your space. What now?
  1. Hurry up, get the engine running and let him/her take the space.
  2. Screw around with the other driver for five minutes by just sitting in your car. Hell, I'll just activate the brake lights once in a while.
  3. Read the morning paper, then go up to the other driver, offer him/her the paper, then slap the driver.

Question 7: You see ashamed ex-supervisor Ed Jew walking down the street. Do you:
  1. Just ignore him.
  2. Point your finger and laugh.
  3. Offer him a gift certificate to an erotic toy store, since prison will be "lonely" time with his fleshlight? (Or getting it in the butt).
  4. Slap him with your morning paper (preferably one with his picture on it).

Question 8: KRON 4 is having a live call-in show with financial consultant Rob Black. You and the entire city hates KRON channel 4. What do you do?
  1. Watch the show.
  2. Turn off-the TV.
  3. Make a prank phone call, get through the screener with a B.S. question, and insult the station and the guy live on TV.
  4. Visit the KRON studios and slap him with your morning newspaper on live TV.

Question 9: You ride Muni metro and the train breaks down in the tunnel, just short of the next station.
  1. Wait patiently while Muni find a solution to evacuate the train.
  2. Sing an insulting song about Muni's problems.
  3. Pull the emergency door lever and walk 50 feet to the next station.
  4. Wait until the Muni supervisor tells everyone to hold on for another hour, walk up to him/her and slap him with your morning paper because now you are late to work and there's no cell phone reception to call your pissed-off boss.

Answer key:
  • If you picked the slap with the "morning newspaper," maybe it's time to switch to a different type of coffee.
  • If you ever recorded a person doing something bad and posted online, you've got some guts.
  • Lastly, if you do nothing, um... can I buy you a punching bag for you to unleash your rage? You can't can it forever!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums - Hilarious Screen Capture

This came from KPIX/CBS 5's "Eye on Blogs" where editor Brittney Gilbert made a posting showing a YouTube video of Mayor Ron Dellums talking to citizens about the riot in Oakland due to the police involved shooting and death of a passenger at the Fruitvale BART platform.

Whoever made this YouTube video chose the perfect screenshot of Dellums. Doesn't he look kinda high or drunk? Makes me want to use this on some of my username photos.

I don't usually blog about other Bay Area cities, but this is one exception since Dellums looks totally funny. And if you don't know who Ron Dellums is, join the club. It seems many people don't like the guy, and people on the SFgate comment boards likes to make fun of him.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

SF Muni's Fare Inspectors - A Waste of Tax Dollars?

A report from the SF Chronicle today reports that San Francisco Muni is allegedly catching "50 percent" more fare evaders than the last fiscal year.

So let us do some math straight from the stats of the SFMTA:
  • There are 50 fare inspectors hired.
  • The fiscal year reports: $492,232 of fines and late fees collected for the violations.

Divide the two numbers and you get $9,844.64, meaning this amount is collected in fines for every single fare inspector in a year. Of course, this does not count for people who appeal and get dismissed, and the ones who just refuse to pay the fine.

But think about it. Fare inspectors make at least $30,000 a year (although I think that they make more than this), and include benefits running about 70 cents per dollar. The SFMTA literally pays with tax money: $51,000 a year per fare inspector and the each one only writes out $9,800 in fines? This is what our tax dollars pay for?

Really, our city could do better if they get their accountants to do the math. Muni should compare their costs of the Muni Metro of the "old days" of when all passengers entered in the front and required NO inspectors (it was not necessary), and the new policy of boarding any door with the cost of 50 inspectors.

If Muni decides to revert to front door boarding, the changes needs to happen: One train operator per car, or at least one non-certified train operator managing the second train car. For the new POP platforms on the T-Third line, Stonestown, and SF State, hire a few to manage those platforms or regions, instead of enforcing the entire network.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Update: BART Erases "Hall of Shame" Gallery

As previously reported on Akit's Complaint Department, I mentioned that BART created their own sanctioned Facebook page, featuring the "Rude Rider Hall of Shame."

There was only a couple of pictures on there of "bad" passengers, but it looks like BART has decided to back-off and placed this statement on their Facebook gallery today:
"Looking for rude riders? We've heard that not everyone is comfortable with that kind of photo sharing. We respect that, so we're leaving it to Flickr and TwitPic. Thanks to everyone who submitted photos here and, yes, we agree: it's not ok to bring aboard a full-sized mattress or leave a spilled bag of Cheetos on the seat. If you have any other ideas for photo sharing sections please let us know!"
It looks like pressure from the local bloggers (including myself) and the folks at SFist have spoken their opinions about BART doing their own sanctioned "hall of shame." Will BART spokesperson Linton Johnson try to cover-up/sugarcoat this screw-up? Who knows?

Is the Muni CultureBus really necessary?

Many local bloggers and a KPIX are noting that the San Francisco "CultureBus" (a.k.a. 74X) is the laughing joke of Muni.

KPIX reports that only 200 passengers a day are riding the bus, thereby the average number is about five per vehicle per route. Plus, it costs over a million dollars a year to run the route.

So with such poor ridership, why should we San Franciscians foot the bill for such a useless Muni line? Surely, the idea of an express bus that can zoom you from Golden Gate Park to Civic Center and Union Square is a nice idea, but the tourists don't know about it, and the locals hate it.

Before the CultureBus started, operators of the local tour agencies of San Francisco (such as Gray Line) argued in front of the SFMTA board that the program undercuts the tourism industry because the CultureBus is a taxpayer subsidized program that's literally a tour bus/shuttle service to all the major museums. Many tour agencies in S.F. offer shuttle services to MULTIPLE locations around San Francisco and have buses that are at least half-full, even on the "value" tourist season here in our beloved city.

Here's why I believe the CultureBus program should be cut:
  • The fare is $7, the same fare offered on express buses to Candlestick Park for 49ers games. But the transfer provides unlimited rides on the CultureBus and other Muni lines, excluding the Cable Car. Many locals call the $7 fare a serious rip-off for CultureBus, but $7 for the Candlestick express is a good deal and travels a LONG distance. The CultureBus travels less than five miles.
  • The fare for Fast Pass and Passport Holders is an additional $3. What kind of crap is that? Fast Passes are allowed on Cable Cars, so what the hell is wrong with the CultureBus?
  • The service does not cover the Legion of Honor and the Zoo. This means, you will suffer a long and horrible ride on the ever packed 38-Limited, the loud L-Taraval, and the stop-and-go 18-46th Avenue.
  • Muni is suffering through a budget shortfall, that CultureBus money could be used to add buses to operate on the heavily used 38-Limited line.
Muni could save the program and make it profitable if they do the following changes:
  • Promote the program.
  • Reduce the fare to the regular $1.50 price. Or offer it at a lower charge (such as $3) to keep the commuters off the bus, and focus it on locals and tourists who wants to visit the museums via an express bus.
  • Accept the Fast Pass, Muni Passport, and the tourist's CityPass with NO surcharge.
  • Accept the BART to Muni transfer for a 25 cent discount.
  • Work with the major museums to create a discounted "superpass" that offers unlimited admission for a set number of days, and includes free transit service on all vehicles, including CultureBus. (The "New York Pass" program is an excellent example, if you hate a museum, at least you didn't waste $30, and can just visit another one, all on a timed card, but there's no free transit option on there).
  • Extend out into the other major attractions including the Zoo and the Legion of Honor. Heck, they could run a second route starting from the Academy of Sciences/De Young, and drive off to Legion, and continue on Great Highway to the Zoo. I think the locals would love this route because they don't have to suffer the slow ride on the 38-Limited, and the stop-and-go ride on the 18-46th Avenue route. Just a buck fifty extra? I'd pay that.
(Photo is from CultureBus website, since Muni is a public government agency, it is public domain).

Friday, January 2, 2009

So BART Starts a Hall of Shame Photo Gallery

Word from SFist and the SF Weekly is that our beloved BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) agency has started a Facebook page and features a passenger "hall of shame" gallery.

Unfortunately, BART doesn't like bad publicity. In an attempt to post some of my "hall of shame" photos on the Facebook page, it is not possible for people who register as a "fan" to upload photos, thereby it is up to BART's discretion of what goes up and not.

I have a couple of great BART hall of shame photos, showing a Daly City Station Agent hogging TWO parking spaces on MULTIPLE occasions. See the two photos here. But I guess that since BART controls what photos goes up on their own "hall of shame," I guess BART and their little happy union won't like it if my agent "abuse of powers - hall of shame" photos gets posted there.

Unfortunately, BART is not the first to start their own "hall of shame" gallery regarding their transit agency, "BARTrage" started theirs much longer ago then the transit agency.

I even started my own hall of shame dedicated to "aggressive drivers," "idiot parking," and "parking hogs" where I snapped photos from my journeys around San Francisco (including this one I love a lot). I even started my own worldwide group called "Parking Space Hogs" with over 190 pictures from around the world.

At this point, I really have to question BART's own intention of making their own sanctioned "hall of shame gallery." Sure, in one way, it's legal ("Johns" who get arrested for soliciting for prostitution gets plastered on a billboard), but from a moral standpoint and as a quasi-government agency, I think it's also inappropriate. Leave it up to the amateurs like BARTrage, SFist, SF Weekly, and myself to nail those morons.