"Akit is the man. He knows Clipper." (spenta)
"It’s a fantastic blog for any San Franciscan."
"Your blog is always on point, and well researched!" (Nina Decker)
"Everyone's favorite volunteer public policy consultant..." (Eve Batey, SF Appeal)
"You are doing a great job keeping on top of Translink stuff. Keep up the good work!"
(Greg Dewar, N Judah Chronicles)
"...I don't even bother subscribing anywhere else for my local public transportation info. You have it all..."
(Empowered Follower)
"If anyone at City Hall wants to make public transit better for all San Franciscans, it would be wise to follow Akit religiously...
or, better yet, give him a job."
(Brock Keeling, SFist)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Translink and SF Muni listens to Akit's blog

There's an odd feeling in the air today. No, it's not the rain, and it's not those steroid pumped Tour of California bicyclists; I'm talking about Translink and SFMTA/Muni.

It looks like they are taking the time to read my recent postings about Translink and taking action on some missing documents and some simple requests. Just recently, the first survey to trial cardholders was released after mentioning it in this posting.

But more importantly is the Translink and Muni people are really getting into the groove of public relations (I guess they want the trial program to run successfully). Due to a posting on my blog demanding Translink and Muni to provide a letter that confirm trial users' participation when they have an existing card, I mentioned that the letter can provide additional support and protection when confronting a hostile (or sometimes stupid) Muni employee. SFMTA and Translink released a PDF copy of the letter online on the Translink website.

Read the letter from Executive Director Nat Ford here (PDF file). You can also read the text of the letter near the bottom of this blog posting.

They have also attached some additional documents to the Translink website about Muni. The documents was provided to trial users via snail mail who received a new card, but was not provided to existing cardholders who simply registered online. Muni and Translink corrected these errors and also posted it online:
  • They provided a print-out copy of their "pocket guide" on how to use the green colored card on Muni vehicles.
  • There is a "Tag 2 Win" contest where registered (Muni) cardholders who use their Translink card on any Muni vehicle, will be entered in a drawing for free prizes including an iPod, gift cards, cameras, and others. Even more interesting, the more you tag your card, the more entries into the drawing. So "tag" your card like a crazy person. $1.50 fare for a free gift? Just go nuts until that transfer expires.
Read Muni's "pocket guide" on Translink here (PDF file).
Read Muni's "Tag 2 Win" contest rules here (PDF file).

How interesting... Translink and Muni officials do read my blog after all. You see, even the little guys (the average citizen) can make a major transit agency and program change their ways.

If you want see the place where the documents are posted, please visit: http://www.translink.org/TranslinkWeb/muni/index.do

(Photo is from Translink website)


Below is the text from the letter from Nat Ford:
Dear Valued Muni Customer:

We appreciate your participation in the Muni TransLink® trial group.

In this packet you will find a free TransLink card, a brochure on how to use your card, a pocket guide to using TransLink on Muni and information about how you can win prizes just by tagging your TransLink card on Muni.

As a participant in the trial group, your card is already registered under your name; however, you must call the TransLink Customer Service Center at 877-878-8883 to set up your “My TransLink” account. Your “My TransLink” account allows you to manage your account, protect your card balance, add value to your card and set up Autoload to automatically reload fare value on your card.

You can also use your TransLink card to pay for fares on AC Transit and Golden Gate Transit and Ferry by adding electronic fare value (e-cash) or corresponding transit agency passes to your card. Please note: TransLink is available on all Muni buses, light rail trains and historic streetcars. TransLink is not yet available on cable cars, Caltrain or BART (including inside Metro stations).

We thank you for agreeing to periodically complete surveys about your experience using TransLink throughout the trial phase. As a measure of our appreciation for your time and feedback, Muni will be offering additional incentives for completing and submitting your survey forms.

Again, thank you for your participation. The feedback that you provide is essential to TransLink’s success on Muni. Together, we can make using Bay Area transit more convenient.

Sincerely, Nathaniel P. Ford, Sr.,
Executive Director/CEO
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency

Monday, February 16, 2009

Tour of California - Closing roads TOO EARLY?

It's a wet day on my commute this morning from my home in the Outer Richmond district to SF State University. Although it is a major holiday for the governments, it is not for this university (it's a long story).

So I left my home at about 7:45AM and I always take my normal route that goes along the Great Highway (via Pt. Lobos (Cliff House)) and the police and DPT shut down the road for the "Tour of California" bike race. See my 'normal' route below:

View Larger Map

If you have been watching the morning news or reading the Chronicle, everyone knows that the bike race won't even enter the city limits by 8:45AM, which asks the question, why did the city shut down so early?

I called San Francisco "311" and asked. The guy on the phone said that based on their permits, the bike race folks requested a shut-down at 7AM. REALLY? 7AM? What is the purpose of shutting down a major North/South thoroughfare at that early in the morning? The 311 staff member REFUSED to note down my comments/complaints of the early shut-down.

Where is the common sense of both the event organizers and the city for closing the road that early in the morning? They knew that the bike riders won't even leave Sausalito until 8:30AM, so why spend 90 minutes shutting down a major corridor?

People like me still have to commute to work and we are forced to take a completely different route, which involves driving through flooded sections of Golden Gate Park and taking Sunset Blvd. See the route I took below:

View Larger Map

And just to show just how ticked-off I am this morning, here's a statement from the Department of Parking and Traffic:

The Tour will be in San Francisco beginning at approximately 8:40 AM and be at Hwy 35 by 9:15 AM.

The route will take riders off of the Golden Gate Bridge onto Lincoln Boulevard to El Camino del Mar into Lincoln Park onto Legion of Honor of Drive and leaving the Park onto Clement to Seal Rock Drive and out to Pt. Lobos Avenue and The Great Hwy.

Between 8:30 AM and 9:15 AM, traffic will be detoured or delayed in the area as the bicycle riders and associated vehicles pass by. Local access will be allowed for residents in the area with some delays expected.

WAIT A SECOND. The city just clearly said in writing, 8:30AM is the closure of roads and the use of detours. SO WHY DID THEY SHUT DOWN AT 7AM? Why did they mess-up my commute? The city gets another frowny face sticker.

I wonder how many people of Daly City and Pacifica at Highway 35 (Skyline Blvd.) got their commute screwed-up as well when the race won't even enter their area for a while.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

President's Day equals painful reduced SF Muni service to SFSU

Monday is President's Day for this country, which means it's a federal, state, and local holiday. Government offices, banks, and many public schools will be closed for this day.

But as always... there are people who have to report to work, including myself! Since I work at SF State University, the campus is open, and therefore we all report to our jobs and the students report to classes.

San Francisco's favorite punching bag, a.k.a. SFMTA/Muni has decided to trim their regular bus service to "Saturday" service. This means Muni will operate less vehicles on the street, no peak hour express buses, and Muni metro will be starting later than usual.

For SF State University, "Saturday" service means big trouble. I hate to say it, but Muni does not really care if a major university in the city is in business on a holiday. This is especially true for SFSU that has tons of commuters by public transit and depends on the M-Ocean View, 29-Sunset, and 28-19th Avenue lines. The 18-46th Avenue is not drastically affected since they run every 20 minutes everyday (but do add an extra bus during peak hours).

I've told Muni on numerous occasions that they should increase their bus and train service that serves SFSU when there is a federal holiday that does not affect the campus. And what do they do? They send out ONE CAR "M" Ocean View trains on the route and it comes less frequently.

Even more embarrassing about the metro service running on a "Saturday" is that the metro system does not open until 7AM! On a weekday, they start at 5AM, like regular commuters would expect. SFSU students won't have a very pleasant ride if they have class early in the morning when they have to take the metro "owl" buses. I wonder how many commuters to downtown will realize that their express won't show-up or their favorite "limited" bus line won't come or start real late?

OK SFSU folks! Get ready to be packed in like sardines!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day - Last Minute Shopping Bargains at Costco

Happy Valentine's Day from Akit's Complaint Department! Or for you singles, it's better known as "singles appreciation day" (thanks to my co-worker for this suggestion).

But if you forgot to buy your lover some valentine's gifts (and maybe some condoms), Costco is the place to be today for your last minute gifts.

Yep... Costco. I had to do some grocery shopping today, and since I am single, it's always nice to buy a few things for mom on this day (and make my dad ticked-off for going over the top).

Here's two great bargains at Costco today that will save your Valentine's day, love life, or just guarantees you some good ol' loving in the sack:
  • Roses: Costco has a dozen roses of various colors, including a dozen of the classic red roses for $14.99. The flowers are fresh cut and big!
  • Godiva gift cards: Costco has a special TODAY! Get $50 worth of gift cards (two $25 cards) for only $29.99. It's ten dollars lower than what they usually sell everyday ($50 certificates for $40). It's 40% OFF TODAY!
So if you are a little broke, get your butt down to Costco.

However, condoms are not on sale at Costco, but I don't think you need to buy a 40 pack. Also, do they sell a gallon bucket of sensual lubricant? Just kidding.

(Disclaimer: Getting laid is not a guarantee... you might still have to sleep on the couch tonight).

Rose photo courtesy of Flickr user Lyubov using a Creative Commons license.
Clinton box courtesy of Flickr user TopTechWriter.US using a Creative Commons license.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Death of Bay to Breakers?

There is a lot of word around the local press and blogs about ING's decision to change the rules to the 2009 San Francisco Bay to Breakers.

San Francisco Citizen *
SFist (Article 1* and Article 2)
* = NSFW photo

The three big rule changes are: no drinking alcohol, no nudity, and no floats.

And in my personal opinion... ARE YOU NUTS? Actually, it's more like: WHAT ARE YOU SMOKING AND/OR SNORTING?

The Bay to Breakers is literally known as the craziest foot race in the entire country, or even the entire world. While there are serious runners who participate in it, the big mob (which rakes in a ton of cash) is the walkers who walk the route like a swarm dressed in costumes, in the nude, riding floats, and drinking booze. It's literally like a protest march, but it's the biggest party of the year (well... until Halloween in the Castro, hee hee hee).

I want to give my opinions about these three new sins/bans in place:
  1. No drinking alcohol: That'll be hard to enforce. Just bring a paper bag. Even then, the route is lined with nearby liquor stores and supermarkets. I personally think public urination is wrong. Maybe some of the residents on the route can offer their bathrooms for a $5 fee and rake some dough off it.
  2. No nudity: Oh come on. Running nude is a classic B2B thing. Even the Romans in the earliest Olympics did it that way. B2B has a reputation to be an adult event, its not for kids! Think of it this way, running nude is the same as running with a costume.
  3. No floats: OK, this is the dumbest idea of all. Floats are a true B2B original classic. Does anyone remember the tiki hut and the folks inside making margaritas for the crew who pushes and pulls the hut? The Tiki hut is a B2B ORIGINAL, and something to always recognize. Falun Gong can't bring a float to the Chinese New Year Parade, but they sure can express themselves at B2B!
And who is complaining about this? A police captain at the Park station, a couple of government jerk-offs, and the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association (NOPA Neighborhood Association). Really? So a neighborhood association thinks they rule their neighborhood?

I am going on the attack with this NOPA Neighborhood association:
  1. Who the hell do you think you are? Were you truly elected by your "neighborhood" or was this some type of communist crap? The Chronicle reports a person by the name of "Leela Gill" is some kind of board member (bring rotten eggs folks! When's the next board meeting?).
  2. Do you truly represent the views of your entire neighborhood, or just little punks who think they can shove their weight around?
  3. Supervisor Ross truly represents the neighborhood, let him take the brunt of pro and con arguments.
  4. Here's an interesting statement by a NOPA resident on SFgate: "I live in NOPA. Who gave these guys the right to speak for the whole neighborhood? When I went to the polls in November I don't recall electing Ms. Gill and she sure doesn't speak for me. They are self appointed representatives, kind of like how Stalin was a self appointed representative."
This NOPA group sounds a lot like those similar complainers from the Parkmerced Residents' Organization who feel like they are bigshots who assume power and allegedly represent the best interests of their community (and possibly the thousands of students who live their for a year or so). When in reality, they are a bunch of whiners attacking San Francisco State University from upgrading their facilities and making more spaces to add classrooms and services.


Akit's note: I need to clarify my view about being an alleged "NIMBY." As you may have noticed, I have criticized events like OutsideLands, and supported events like Cherry Blossom, Nihonmachi Street Fair, and Halloween in the Castro.

I give my support to hold major events and festivals only if it lasts one day, in particular, on a Sunday, or an entire weekend.

I don't support events that can:
--Disrupt commuters on a weekday (i.e. hold events on a Friday during commute hour)
--Hold three day events (i.e. Outsidelands)
--Have events that have noise, public transit issues, and parking problems that lasts more than two days and covers a weekday as well.
--Have loud noise continuing through the night, especially if it lasts multiple days; even if it may be legal until 10PM (city law).

As you may have noticed, I give my support to keep the Bay to Breakers the way it is. Changes are BAD.


So readers, in conclusion... either BOYCOTT the Bay to Breakers, or CRASH the party by drinking your booze, shoving your tiki hut float, and run naked (or at least body paint)! And if you have to pee, there's a storm drain on every city intersection, although I don't think watchers wants to stare at your wee wee. Maybe the porta john folks can create urinal stations that takes up less space than a typical portable toilet.

If you think my blog is bad, take a look at the hate messages on the ING Bay to Breakers "official" facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/wall.php?id=122208920450

There are also people who are resisting the bullcrap from the Bay to Breakers folks:
Boycott the 2009 ING B2B facebook page (if you think this is nuts, they already have 401 people supporting them! Definitely more numbers than a police captain, some government jerk-offs, and a few NOPA NIMBYs)
Save Bay to Breakers

Monday, February 9, 2009

SF Muni Releases First Translink Survey

So after all the suffering by us Translink card testers, SFMTA/Muni finally releases their first survey to their volunteers. Records from the SFMTA meeting shows that the public test phase of the program started in November 2008, and after three months, their survey is now available. This was sent via e-mail.

If Translink and Muni's plans are correct, their goal is to conduct an even larger public trial of the program this April and eventually be released for every citizen to use in "2009." Now Muni did not say when in 2009, maybe just to cover their nuts if they set an actual day and month and I catch them failing in their part.

Now as always... this is city government, and when they say "24 hours," they actually mean one week. Plus, it does not yet work on BART and Caltrain. These two agencies are up next for the Translink trial program, but there is no word from either agencies on their progress. If BART can get linked-up, then you have the perfect network to ride all these agencies in the city, East Bay and North Bay: Muni (on trial), BART (not yet ready), AC Transit (in full public use), and Golden Gate Ferry/Transit (in full public use). Adding Caltrain will extend that network as well, but BART is extremely vital to the full success of a "one card" program since it connects with a ton of transit agencies.

Regardless if you have a Translink card or not, sign-up to be a volunteer (a.k.a. victim) of the testing program for Muni: http://www.sfmta.com/cms/mfares/translink.htm. People who do not have a card can get one for FREE.

Plus, giving your feedback is really necessary. If you encounter any of these problems:
  • Stupid bus drivers who hate their jobs and don't like Translink users.
  • Idiot station agents.
  • Clueless fare inspectors.
  • Malfunctioning readers.
  • Readers that are turned-off.
  • Muni employees mouthing-off at you.
  • Mayor Newsom saying... what the hell is that card?
Call Translink and tell them! At least the program works most of the time, see here:

Saturday, February 7, 2009

It's Akit's Complaint Department's Birthday TODAY!

It's a big happy birthday here at Akit's Complaint Department! Actually, its the birthday of my domain name: Akit.Org.

I started Akit.Org on February 7, 2002, and ran it through a simple Geocities web site program. But after many years, the website was total junk, and it really had no real potential.

So, on February 17, 2007, I decided to dump Geocities and started a blog on Blogger. I was really becoming an accomplished opinion writer, and was frequently getting my "Letters to the Editor" published in newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle and the Golden Gate [X]Press.

I could not really think of a name in the beginning to call my blog, but I thought... well, I do have a lot of complaints that I wanted to express, and influences like George Carlin, and Penn & Teller's Showtime program made me decide to start up "Akit's Complaint Department," literally home to San Francisco's complaints and sarcasm galore.

My first posting on February 17, 2007 was towards the local TV station I hated so much for their crappy programming... KRON channel 4. But a rookie Blogger didn't get much attention those days.

So after two years of writing and 165 postings (not including this one), what's the two most frequent topics I write about?
  1. Muni
  2. Translink
Public transit... if it worked so well, I wouldn't be writing about it! But since it's going so badly, there's always a good posting to write!

Here are some of my proudest moments with Akit's Complaint Department:
  1. Literally being the place to read all the negative reviews of the Outsidelands festival in August 2008.
  2. Making public a disgraceful letter from a condo developer and condo owners association president against a community festival in Japantown.
  3. Targeting government waste, like the anti-Halloween campaign to get people to stay away from the Castro.
  4. Being an "insider" of the Translink program. I was a pilot tester and knew all the ins and outs.
  5. Being featured on SFist, Curbed SF, Eye on Blogs, N-Judah Chronicles, and many other local blogs.
  6. Making a policy change on SF Muni with help from Phil Bronstein of the SF Chronicle about my article on why Muni will not accept "Muni to BART" discount coupons after baseball games. Then catching MUNI in the act ON VIDEO (see below).

I'm happy today that my blog has grabbed a lot of attention. I'm appreciative of the readers who use RSS, Feedburner, Google Feeds, and even e-mail subscriptions to read my insane and sometimes nutty opinions and thoughts.

Thank you to all you readers! Keep on reading!

And oh... I earned my M.A. degree!!!