"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)

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Summary of Public Transit Changes in SF Bay Area (Starting July 1, 2009)

Public transportation is going to hurt like hell in just a few days. So here's a summary of all the changes you will experience on July 1, 2009.

San Francisco Muni (see all info here):
  • Adult cash fare increases to $2.
  • Youth and discount cash fare increases to: $0.75.
  • Adult monthly fast pass increases to $55.
  • Youth, senior, and disabled fast pass increases to $15.
  • Adult token ticket (10-ride) book increases to $20.
  • Adult special event bus service (excludes AT&T Park) increases to $10.
  • Youth and discount special event bus service increases to $7.
  • Any passenger with a valid pass on special event bus services must pay a surcharge, that increases to $5.
  • Route modifications, increases, decreases, and eliminations will happen in the coming months.

AC Transit
  • Adult cash fare increases to $2.
  • Youth and discount cash fare increases to $1.
  • 10-ride tickets increases to $20 for adults and $10 for youth/discount.
  • Adult local 31-day pass increases to $80.
  • What won't change: Youth local 31-day pass stays at $15, and senior/discount monthly pass stays at $20.
  • Adult Transbay fare increases to $4.
  • Youth/discount Transbay fare increases to $2
  • 31-day Transbay pass increases to $132.50.
  • Translink will take-over all magnetic media for Transbay bus service in a couple of months.
  • Changes in routes, including the 82/82L on July 3, 2009.

Golden Gate Transit & Ferry
There is a 5% fare increase for all services, except Marin Transit.

(All info here)
  • 6.1% fare increase for everyone.
  • Inter San Francisco fare increases to $1.75 (but cheaper than Muni).
  • San Francisco International Airport surcharge increases to $4.
  • Eight stations will start participating in $1 per day parking.
  • Weekend service wait time to increase to 20 minutes (eff. September).
  • Weekend and night service to Colma, San Bruno, South SF, Millbrae, and SFO be reduced to one train line (FAIL coming soon!).

What you can do to reduce the impact of fare hikes and route changes:
  1. Plan ahead! Check the agency's website for all route changes and remember to have your revised cash fare ready before you head out for public transit. Nobody likes waiting for you to pay your fare if you forgot the quarter.
  2. Use NextBus on your cell phone and bookmark it on your home and work computer. It means less time waiting for your bus and instead spending that few extra minutes doing something else. If your agency doesn't use NextBus, read the bus/ferry schedule carefully.
  3. If you ride AC Transit, Muni, and/or Golden Gate Transit/Ferry, get a Translink card. Faster payment means less hassle digging in your pocket for cash. Golden Gate gives a generous discount, even if you don't ride frequently.
  4. Ask your employer for Commuter Check or a similar program. People can save an average of 20% on public transit, van pooling, and parking.
  5. Since the previous BART strike, people like the AC Transit Transbay service and won't ever go back to BART. It's cheaper and you get a free local transfer.
  6. If all else fails, casual carpool your butt. Just remember the rules of being a "slug," you are getting a free ride, so don't tell the driver to change the radio or give suggestions, always ask permission to open windows, don't pay the driver any money, and always say 'thank you' to the driver when you exit.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Translink on Muni Metro Gates - Notoriously Slow

Muni Metro has an infamous reputation, from the classic "Muni Meltdown" (the ATC program that failed), and the train cars that break down often.

Now Muni can add another notorious item to it. Translink.

Unfortunately, Translink card readers that are an add-on accessory to the "exit" fare gates at metro stations and are really weak versus the readers in operation on vehicles and the stationary readers at places like the Golden Gate Ferry terminals (SF and Larkspur).

Here is now I describe the metro station gate readers as slow:
  1. Translink cards are RFID, meaning you can place the card in your wallet or purse (as long as it is within an appropriate proximity). On bus readers, you can stick your card in front of several plastic cards and a small bunch of dollar bills in your wallet, and it will read your card. On the metro gates, you would have to pull your card out of your wallet and tag it "bare" or stick it in something with much fewer layers between the reader and card.
  2. They don't respond quickly when tagged (even if done "bare"). Vehicle and stationary readers respond quickly when tagged correctly. Proof is shown in this video I did with the "Translink party" (see below). The video shows quick tagging on the vehicle reader, but poor reading on the gate.

Conclusion: The readers on the metro gates are way underpowered.

However, while underpowered, they are reliable to open the gates for entry when you get the green light, and there's no more hassling the station agent by tagging the reader in front of the booth. With the stimulus money, Muni plans to replace the gates in the future.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Prepration for BART Strike? Expect the Unexpected

BART strike? If the unions don't work out a deal with BART management, that is what you will expect as early as Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 12:01AM.

It's always every four years we hear about this. Four years ago, it was headline news with big news articles telling you what you should do. Here we go again...

If BART strikes and doesn't resolve their problems by July 3rd, they'll piss-off more than just the regular commuters, but also the thousands of passengers who will be going to the Giants/Padres series at AT&T Park (it's fireworks night on that Friday).

Also, during a BART strike, all public transit vehicles that serves BART stations will not be allowed to enter the property, so alternate bus stops will be used.

Alternatives to BART during a strike, or you passengers just want to stick your middle finger at management even if they don't go on strike:

East Bay: Your commute is going to really suck since the Bay Bridge is a nightmare.
  • AC Transit Transbay service. But you'll get stuck on the bridge.
  • Oakland/Alameda and Harbor Bay Ferries to the Ferry Building.
  • Golden Gate Transit at El Cerrito Del Norte and Richmond BART. Then transfer to a SF bound bus, or gamble on a space on the Larkspur ferry.
  • Casual carpool. Yep, stuck in traffic too.

San Mateo County: Well, nobody gives a damn about BART in that area since there's such low ridership.
  • Caltrain (DUH!)
  • Samtrans express buses to Transbay Terminal.

San Francisco: Tack on an extra hour on your journey.
  • Muni (Cough! Vomit! Puke!)
  • Taxi!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The People Have Spoken - SF Planning Commission to NOT Vote on Endorsement of Japantown Better Neighborhood Plan

I have received word from my colleague, Paul Osaki, Executive Director of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California (JCCCNC) that the San Francisco Planning Commission has decided at this Thursday's meeting to NOT endorse or reject the Japantown Better Neighborhood Plan.



The people have spoken
through e-mails, phone calls, petitions, and public hearing comments, and it is clear from the loud banging of our pots and pans that the Japantown Better Neighborhood Plan cannot and will not be endorsed by the Planning Commission "as is" at this Thursday's meeting. Now the community will have more time to review the plan and make improvements.

So what now?
The Planning Commission will instead vote on acknowledging the work performed on the Better Neighborhood Plan.

From what I understand, the City has not allocated any funding to the next fiscal year for this Neighborhood Plan, so the Planning Commission is passing a resolution to acknowledge the plan, with this acknowledgment, the Board of Supervisors can approve allocation of funding to continue this project.

If you plan on attending the acknowledgment vote, it will be this Thursday, June 25, 2009 starting at 5:00PM, but it is expected to run late. See agenda here.

To all of my readers who believe in defending and supporting Japantown during difficult times, I personally thank you for your support.


Here's a lesson to those so-called powerful leaders and special interests who believes they can make decisions about Japantown's fate:

You may have the money and influential power to sway votes, but your voice is no more powerful than the collective group of community members and concerned citizens.

(One community leader or special interest person EQUALS one community member's voice)

With hundreds (or maybe thousands) of average citizens speaking-up against the Plan, and just several community leaders and special interests trying to get City endorsement, you should put your head down in shame.

You went against the wishes of the J-Town community who believed the Better Neighborhood Plan was not ready for endorsement, and you have LOST. If you admit it, maybe I'll forgive you.

Monday, June 22, 2009

It Happened Again - Muni Fare Inspectors Checking Baseball Fans TWICE

As I previously reported last week, San Francisco Muni's infamous fare inspectors are wasting taxpayer money by checking Giants baseball game passengers returning from the ballpark twice: once while entering the ballpark platform, and another time after leaving Embarcadero station.


Let me go over what happened yesterday (Sunday):
  1. The Giants beat the Texas Rangers.
  2. I boarded the ballpark platform where a fare inspector (including infamous #32) was checking for payment.
  3. I rode the train.
  4. Exited at Embarcadero to be checked again by two fare inspectors at the fare gates.

Hasn't Muni learned a damn lesson from last Sunday? Odds of catching a fare evader at Embarcadero after a Giants game: Next to zero. Odds of catching a fare evader if inspectors moved to another station: better chance.

It really defeats the purpose of checking a second time if ALL the baseball game fans can't even get on the damn train at 2nd & King platform without showing a pass or transfer.

Muni Fare Inspectors are a total waste of tax money; why the hell should I be forced to pay $2 on July 1st, and suffer future bus line cuts and re-routes?


See this previous blog posting to learn just how much Muni wastes on these bunch of clowns' salaries.

Read more about our city's dumbass fare inspectors here

(Photo from Flickr user: qviri, using a creative Commons License)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The DIRTY Politics of Japantown and Better Neighborhood Plan

I have just received word through Japantown's Nichi Bei Times newspaper (published in paper, not posted online) that one of the lawyers hired by 3D Investments (the current property owners of the Japan Center mall) is no other than John McInerney.

If you are not familar with John McInerney, here's a refresher:
  • He is the developer of the 1600 Webster Street property, formerly known as the site of the Japantown Bowl. People have allegedly claimed that he was able to sway the influence (maybe through a backdoor deal) of a local Japantown community organization and the organization's leaders to support tearing down J-Town Bowl and put in a condo facility (read paragraph two). This went-on AGAINST the wishes of the Japantown community.
  • He also wrote a cruel and mean letter with David Zisser to the Nihonmachi Street Fair in August, 2008. See below or read both letters here:
  • This is real simple. You want to put on an event; you take responsibility. In this instance, you make a mess, you clean it up. You don't get the benefits (proceeds), without the liabilities (expenses). If your event doesn't make money, you should rethink it's usefulness. In any event, if we have to clean up afterwards, we will not only oppose the event next year we will look to small claims court to reimburse us for clean up costs. We don't need a bunch of emailing back and forth on this. It is not a negotiation.

    John McInerney
    Developer 1600 Webster Street

Well well well... this asshole is now one of the lawyers of a law firm hired by 3D investments! And what do you think this asshole and law firm is doing? ASKING THE SF PLANNING COMMISSION TO ENDORSE THE JAPANTOWN BETTER NEIGHBORHOOD PLAN.

Here's an interesting fact that also came out of the Nichi Bei Times. Just last weekend, there was a community meeting with about 70-80 people attending, and NEARLY ALL OF THEM wants to REJECT the Better Neighborhood Plan.

But it looks like there are many community "leaders," community organizations, and special interests in Japantown who wants to endorse this plan. Once again, going against the will and wishes of the community. GRRRRRR.


And you wonder, the politics in Japantown is so fucking dirty. I'm so sick of this shit.

I don't like it when community leaders and community organizations go behind the back of the general interests of the Japanese American community. Also, I'm fed-up when a high majority of it's community members totally agree on one thing, and a community LEADER or community organization fucks it all up in their own selfish interests by going the wrong route.

And to take it home... here's a letter I wrote to the Nichi Bei Times about this letter to the editor:

"After reading this letter from Nob Fukuda, it does expose the ‘dirty’ aspect of the politics of this community. I find it disturbing that there was some community leaders and/or community organizations went BEHIND THE BACK of the overall majority of the community members who believed that J-Town Bowl should have been preserved.

If you recall in 2006 during the “Save Japantown” struggle, the Japantown Merchant’s Association rejected the proposal of a ‘Special Use District’ during a community meeting and angered many attendees, including myself when I went on a rant attacking the association for going against the overall mutual goal of trying to preserve our little community.

It makes me wonder now: how many J-Town leaders, community organizations, and community special interest groups are out there today encouraging endorsement of the Better Neighborhood Plan and working their dirty politics?

If the community members (and I want to clearly say MEMBERS, not leaders) believe in not endorsing the Plan, why in the heck does it seem that many leaders, orgs, and special interests want to support it? Is this 2006 AGAIN?


Thursday, June 18, 2009

SF Planning Commission Vote NEXT WEEK on Japantown Better Neighborhood Plan

Next week is the big vote on the Japantown Better Neighborhood plan.

(The portion below is being written in a neutral position)

Here's some info you need to know:

  • Thursday, June 25, 2009.
  • City Hall of San Francisco, room 400 hearing chambers.
  • Meeting starts at: 1:30PM. Unknown time of when the J-Town part will start.
  • Agenda (not yet posted) but will be on this page. Look for June 25, 2009.
  • Public comment is allowed, but recommends you fill-out a speaker card.
  • To express your opinions, please visit the Planning Commission's website.
The SF Planning Commission will be voting to accept or reject the draft neighborhood plan.
They cannot legally "approve" it because there is no environmental report.


(The portion below is solely the opinion of this author)

I think it would be best if the Commission rejects the plan, or if possible, delay the vote for at least a few months.

Here's my reasons why I want them to reject or delay the vote:
  1. The release of the draft document came out way too late; thereby only giving any interested person who did not participate in working on the plan only ONE MONTH to review the documents before the vote.
  2. The rush of the documents is possibly because the city does not have any more funding to cover the staff who have been working on this project for the last couple of years, and the fiscal year funding is ending this month.
  3. Because of the lack of time to review the huge document, I feel that concerned citizens, including myself, needs extra time to review the details.
  4. Many people who are known as "leaders" of the community endorse this plan (not all, some prominent leaders don't like it), but there are many people who are community members (no leadership position within the community) rejects some of the details of the plan.
  5. Until a fair compromise between the endorsers and rejects is made, this community will be torn apart by the bullshit politics regarding the future of this small community.
  6. Getting a hard copy of the plan from the city costs $40. I'm broke dude. Yeah, it's a lame excuse, but makes a point.
  7. I don't like the idea of allowing the City to basically say "OK" to raising the height limits for the Japan Center. During the construction phase, we lose PARKING SPACES in the lot, and MOST OF THE BUSINESSES HAVE NO PLACE TO GO when the building is shut-down. And their compromise to have a weekly "farmers market" style events in the community is a shameful substitute to losing the revenue made everyday.
To sign a petition opposing the J-Town plan, visit this site:

Comments are welcomed! And now... you can retweet below!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

BART hates Translink or do they just hate me pestering them?

SF Appeal was able to talk to BART's Linton Johnson about the progress about using Translink cards on their system, and by the looks of the interview, they are stalling and not being truly honest to the public.

Here's what Johnson said:
  • "...we are not going to make a big deal about the fact that anyone can use it. In fact, we aren't really giving out the time and date to anyone about when our soft launch will be. The only people who will know are our preselected EZ Rider users..."
What kind of bullshit response is this? They are not going to release the trial date to the general public? Also, by the way this was stated, Johnson sounds like a jackass.

Johnson acknowledges that once it is turned-on for trial purposes, all Translink cardholders can use it; which really defeats the purpose of WHY have a trial at all. Any person of the general public can get a card because Golden Gate Transit makes it mandatory for anyone who wants the commuter discount (or used to have special tickets), and AC Transit is also going to make it mandatory for Transbay commuters using 10-ride tickets and 31-day passes to be on Translink. You ask for a card, and you get one. End of story.

I'm going to take a page from the SF Appeal playbook: If you are an EZ Rider user and being asked to convert to Translink and they tell you a release date and any more detailed information, please inform SFAppeal (e-mail address near bottom of article) and/or post it in the comments section of my blog, and I'll forward it to editor Eve Batey.

The general public is impatient, it's time we get to use our cards on BART.

(Photo is from Flickr user: "k01e" using a Creative Commons license)

Costco Selling Discounted Tickets for KING TUT Exhibit at De Young Museum - $26.99!

Just yesterday (Tuesday), I visited Costco El Camino to grab a copy of the new Family Guy DVD, and a great bargain showed up...

If you have not purchased your tickets for the King Tut exhibition happening at the De Young Museum starting in about ten days (ends in late March), now is the time to purchase your tickets.

Costco is selling the King Tut exhibit tickets WITH audio tour for ONLY $26.99 EACH. (No tax)

To compare prices, here's what you get by going online through Ticketmaster:
  • Regular ticket price: $27.50, $3.75 service fee, free will-call or standard mail, and $7 for the audio tour. TOTAL: $38.25.
  • American Express cardholder special: $22, $3.75 service fee, free will-call or standard mail, and $7 for the audio tour. TOTAL: $32.75.
Using COSTCO: You SAVE AT LEAST $5.76 and up to $11.26.

(When you buy it at Costco, you are given a voucher with a special code. You go online to the the website specified, claim the code, and purchase your ticket any day and time of your choice.)

Some tips for you crazy folks trying to get to the De Young:
TAKE THE BUS. Yeah, I hate Muni, but it's going to be totally worth it. Although the CultureBus will eventually have a painful death, the 44 bus takes you right in front of the museum. If you don't mind walking a little, the 5 and 71 drops you off at the entrance of Golden Gate Park, and the N-Judah is an extra block walk from the entrance of the park.

If you feel nuts to take your car, use this train of thought: "How early should I arrive to park my car?" Now, add an extra 2 hours to that.

In all honesty, if you have to take the car, be prepared to make it an all day trip. You may want to find a parking space deep in the avenues of the Outer Richmond District and take 5-Fulton to the museum. Good luck finding a space in that expensive garage or something nearby (yeah right).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Thinking Smarter - AC Transit Making Transbay Passengers use Translink

While we let BART lag forever with trying to get Translink up and running, AC Transit is taking the next step in fare collection with the Translink program.

On Translink's website, they report that AC Transit has decided to eliminate sales of their magnetic stripe 10-ride and 31-day Transbay tickets, and is effective June 22, 2009. Therefore, if passengers who wish to continue using these types of fare media for their Transbay rides, will have to pay with a Translink card. This new policy does not affect those who ride the local buses and Cal Berkeley's sticker pass program.

The last day to use up any remaining tickets is September 30, 2009. For those who have extra unused tickets, they can be turned-in at the Transbay terminal ticket office for a free Translink card and have their card value credited to their account.

AC Transit explains that due to the new Transbay Terminal construction and future closure, there will be far less space at their temporary terminal and that means far less time for the bus to idle for passengers to board. Translink users know that it's much faster to use their cards than pay in cash or "dunk" their magnetic stripe tickets.

Also, since there's a fare hike coming up for this agency, it's pointless to produce new tickets when Translink can easily do the job.


Smart move AC Transit! It's an easy way to stop producing paper/plastic tickets, thereby reducing cost, and makes your bus program efficient and faster due to quicker boarding.

See Muni? You can learn a lesson from this when you start charging a $10 surcharge for BART rides on January 1, 2010. Why waste printing extra passes?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Petition for SF's Japantown - The Better Neighborhood Plan is Not Yet Ready

I believe in San Francisco's Japantown's future, do you?

The Japantown Better Neighborhood Plan was published with too little time to review the entire document and in just a couple of weeks, the Planning Commission will be voting to give its endorsement or reject it.

Many community "leaders" believe that this plan is the best for Japantown, but many community members believe that endorsement should not be given at this time; it has not fully addressed the major concerns about issues especially about the Japan Center malls, and how the temporary loss of the malls will have a severe impact on the community at large.

With only the option to endorse or not, I ask you to sign this petition below and tell the City and County of San Francisco to NOT ENDORSE THIS PLAN. The community needs more time to work out the wrinkles and come to a consensus.

Sign the online petition here: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/against-japantown-plan

(The petition site is working again after a 24-hour shutdown)

I was able to collect 16,235 signatures to "save" Japantown in 2006; will you help me and support Japantown one more time?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Muni Fare Inspectors: Wasting Tax Dollars by Inspecting Ballpark Passengers TWICE

Today (Sunday) was the final game of a three game series of the Giants vs. the A's, and the game was really fun to watch, but as we all know, once the game is over, it is dreading it back on public transit or walking home.

As many people who ride Muni metro back from the game know, you must pre-pay your fare (before or after the game) and show your transfer or pass to the fare inspector before you are able to step foot on the platform.

These procedures have been the norm since AT&T Park first opened in 1999, but...

It is totally stupid to also have fare inspectors at Embarcadero station to check [the mostly] ballpark passengers leaving that station too. They did this TODAY. Everyone was already checked upon entering the ballpark platform, so it really defeats the purpose of checking again at Embarcadero where people transfer to BART.

Why not send those lazy bastards over to another station where there is a good possibility of writing tickets for a fare cheats vs. the near zero possibility of writing a ticket to the ballpark fans who were just checked five minutes ago?

For f*** sake, there were THREE checking for proof of payment at just ONE of the TWO faregate areas in the station.

And you wonder why SFMTA/Muni is raising transit fares and passes, eliminating/cutting/modifying bus service, raising parking garage and meter fees, and sticking a $3 fee on parking tickets; MUNI IS MANAGED BY A BUNCH OF IDIOTS!


(Photo by Flickr user: kelsey* using a Creative Commons License)

Friday, June 12, 2009

My Letter to the Japantown Community about the Better Neighborhood Plan

My plan was to e-mail this letter to literally the entire Japantown community, from community leaders, communtity members, old friends, colleagues; just anyone who has a shred of involvement with Japantown.

It turned out, it's a little difficult to get a list going, so I think posting it online for the entire world to see is a better option. I'm going to piss-off some, and satisfy others.

If you would like to attend a community meeting, it is this Sunday, June 14, 2009 from 2-4PM at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California in Japantown.


To the Japantown community and leadership:

Many of you know who I am. I am sometimes controversial, unconventional, and have earned the true respect of this community in early 2006 when I handed over 16,000 signatures in support of Japantown with the belief and encouragement of my late grandmother to step up and fight for what is right. If you have not read my
blog (an online diary of sorts), you are in for a treat; I dislike the way this city runs, but I always have the true respect to write about the place I call "home," Japantown. Without my strong blog readership and the local blogging community's support, Japantown would not have the numbers to stand-up against the aggression shown by the developer and tenant association president of the 1600 Webster (old J-Town bowl) last year when The Nihonmachi Streetfair was threatened.

I still recall the day when I handed those petition signatures to the Mayor's office. It was a great day for Japantown when everyone in the community and around the world came together as one and believed in the immediate "saving" of our community. It was near impossible to oppose such a passionate effort. But as I look at our community today with the Better Neighborhood Plan, we are divided, with many of our prominent community leaders in full support of the plan, while other Sansei (third generation), and a lot of the Yonsei (fourth generation) are against a drastic change to the community.

As many of you know, the SF Planning Commission will be having a vote on endorsement near the end of June, and I encourage all of you to ask the board to delay this; not endorse, nor reject. I am really curious into why we are rushing this draft neighborhood plan, as it was released not very long ago. I can understand the fiscal year will end in just a month, but what are we afraid of to just ask the commission to give the J-Town community some more time so more people can get involved with enhancing and debating a plan that may help or even hurt our community?

You must understand, the Yonsei will be the next generation of community leaders. We also have a growing population of mixed heritage Japanese Americans, where currently, 1/3 of the ENTIRE Japanese American population are of mixed ancestries. The mixed heritage Yonsei population will play a major and serious role in the future of Japantown, and is researched in my Master's thesis (if you want an electronic copy, please ask me).

If the community, including its young adults do not come together and work on a deal that satisfies all, this community will stay divided, and in the end of all this, the future leaders and community members will regret what may happen to our proud community.

While we have suffered with being kicked out of our homes and sent to internment camps, and being kicked-out again for redevelopment, I believe this unique community has stood-up and stayed strong. I call this a unique community because in such a small area, we have so much to be proud of; a shopping center, literally a destination for everything Japanese, two hotels, a community center, multiple places of worship, community organizations helping the young and old, and family businesses still here after all these decades.
So I don't understand, why change the status-quo? Why do I keep hearing that our beloved Japan Center should be torn down, parking from the lot gone, and take a huge risk of losing the character and financial economy of our community? I wrote in my blog over TEN MONTHS AGO, way before the topic of Japan Center was being discussed just a week ago:

"Today, we are struggling with the planned demolition and renovation of the Japan center. There is word that they will destroy our existing infrastructure and insert something even worse: a taller facility that houses businesses and homes, and may destroy the economy of our community. Those malls and the businesses who lease the spaces make a big impact to our community, and if they destroy the malls and the shopkeeps are forced to find somewhere else, will they ever return? Will they be guaranteed a space with the promise of the same rent rate?
It seems that nobody has the true guts to ask this question to the people.

Many Japanese Americans in our community have this feeling that they should not speak out..."

But fortunately, I am proud to speak out...

Isn't this interesting?
I think Japantown is doing well as-is. I will admit, the Japan center could really use a big refurbishment job to make it up to building codes and earthquake regulations. People believe Japantown is a "dead" place where there's no nightlife, when in fact, the restaurants are doing a killing on business. On a Tuesday evening last July, I finished an interview for my M.A. thesis project and it was quite late (8:30PM), and I decided to go to one of my favorite restaurants in the Kintetsu mall. As I walked around the mall, I noticed every single restaurant, including the very pricy Benihana, full of people patronizing and eating Japanese food. You can read more here: http://www.akit.org/2008/07/wondering-about-japantowns-future.html

I personally feel that Japantown is getting an economic boom and is helping to preserve and shape our community in new ways, including the redefinition of "community membership." To explain this, here is a very important paragraph I wrote in my Master's thesis:


[Harry] Kitano’s argument about the inevitable progressive assimilation of Japanese Americans specifically focuses on the eventual loss of Japanese American customs that have been in existence for over one hundred years; and similarly, [Rebecca] King-O’Riain also argues that people in Japanese American communities are continuing to identify with the traditional Japanese American ideals and customs. However, one complication of the theories of assimilation and persistence based on the traditional Japanese American ideals and customs is Japanese contemporary popular culture, better known as “J-Pop.” Japanese popular culture consists of imported media from Japan , such as Pokemon (“Pocket Monsters”), Yu-Gi-Oh, Sailor Moon, and other Japanese animation. The attractiveness of Japanese popular culture for Japanese American communities creates complications because it conflicts with the theories that support assimilation and persistence based only on the persistence of “traditional” Japanese American culture, i.e. Meiji-era Japanese culture that has been transformed through a century of American culture. Japanese popular culture also creates complications within membership of a Japanese American community; membership into a Japanese American community through “traditional” means that the person must be of at least part Japanese American by ancestry (King-O’Riain 57), while Japanese popular culture welcomes anyone, including non-Japanese Americans to participate and invest into the Japanese American communities. While these two issues blur the line between what is community membership and not, Japanese American communities have embraced “J-Pop” as an economic boost. “J-Pop” brings in more customers to existing Japanese American businesses and “J-Pop” themed establishments such as Hotel Tomo, and cultural events, such as the Anime Fair and Parade during the San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival, have helped reinvigorate Japantowns. “J-Pop” has also been able to contribute a kind of re-Japanification to Japanese American communities, and encourages Japanese Americans to re-identify with Japanese American identities and cultures through a non-“traditional” style.

Everyone, it is now time to talk. The future of Japantown is in our hands and we don't get many opportunities like this. Use your voice, or use that keyboard and speak your mind; don't be afraid if you are going against popular opinion or will receive retribution from your friends, family, and peers for your own views. I'm just as bold as my late grandmother to write this e-mail; Sox was up against a big opposition of Japanese Americans who thought redress was a joke, but look at what happened in 1988, it became reality.

Translink and BART - It Just Gets More Confusing

I'm scratching my head today because the Contra Costa Times released an article about BART's history of consistent delays with the Translink program.

What made me a little concerned is on one of the details: The article mentions BART was worried about their "float," the money that BART has in those remaining ticket value that people have, and sometimes just don't claim.

Examples of float: Those BART tickets with little cash value (say a dime or a nickel) or anyone who just doesn't use their BART tickets. BART can make money off the "float" in interest while still holding onto that "float" in the worst case situation that all those passengers with "float" uses up their tickets.

If Translink were to take care of the "float," then BART would lose out in the interest money made from it because the MTC would profit off it or maybe distribute it evenly to the transit agencies, thereby BART was redundant to accept Translink, and (I assume) started the EZ Rider program so they can keep their "float."

The article continues from there stating this:
"A solution was reached. When BART riders pay with a TransLink card, their fares will immediately be electronically transferred into an account designated specifically for BART, known as an "e-purse." BART is the only transit agency that will have such an account."

I know for sure that BART will have a separate e-cash balance for passengers who use those high value tickets (that 6.25% bonus when you get one of those high priced pre-paid tickets at vendors), but what makes it really concerning with Translink coming on board...
  • Will passengers who have the "universal" e-cash (valid for all agencies) on their Translink card, still be able to use that electronic purse to pay for their BART rides? Or do passengers now have to take an annoying ass step by putting on money to BART's e-cash purse?
  • What's the process of deducting the fare if you have funds on both e-cash purses?

Here's some research I found:
I've looked around in the Translink FAQ section for BART and it says:

"Starting early in the summer, transit riders can sign up to participate by ordering a TransLink
card and adding either e-cash or setting up Autoload for BART High-Value Discount tickets."
  • Now... when they mean "e-cash" in this statement, do they mean the all-agency e-cash, or the special BART e-cash purse?
I also tried looking in my comments section for some helpful answers (sometimes, to whom I believe, Translink and MTC officials), but there's no clear answer.


Akit's opinion:
I hope Translink and BART will allow passengers with their regular e-cash purse to ride BART if they don't want to take advantage of the high value discount tickets for BART. I'm personally not that interested in high value discount tickets, and it's frustrating enough want to mess with my commuter checks that are already being deposited into my e-cash account (the all-agency account).

And BART Board Member James Fang should go **** himself. Translink is not a "disaster;" you are for wasting $350,000 for a cell phone pilot program when BART could have used that money to improve service instead of just recently approving to cut trains and raise fares.


BART and Translink/MTC officials, got an answer? Post it in the comments. Opinions welcomed too!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

SF Giants Ticket Deals - Like Insane Deals

Some bad news, Costco doesn't sell the discounted ticket cards anymore because the cards were only valid to buy tickets for the months of April, May, and June. But don't worry folks, if you still have a card and don't claim it for tickets, it's converted into a gift card and redeemable for concessions and general tickets.

Never fear! Ticket bargains are still here!
  • The "K-Zone" program will offer $6 discounts per ticket for the Giants/A's game this Friday, June 12th. Buy tickets here and use promo code "GIANTSK". Valid sections for discount: Club level outfield and left field, lower box, bleachers, view box accessible, view reserved, and view reserved outfield.
  • SF McDonald's restaurants have discount codes (I can't tell the promo code here, might get me in trouble) for you to buy two tickets for $26.00. With all the surcharges for buying it online (it's the only option), it comes out to $34.00 (use will call or standard mail). But on the brighter end, upper reserved seats are just $17 each, a minimum savings of $1, but can save more on the better teams and weekend tickets. Not valid on A's and Dodgers games, but the code is valid for ALL GAMES remaining in the season.
  • In celebration of Randy Johnson's 300 wins, $10 gets view box and view reserved outfield tickets for Saturday, June 20th's game. Order here and use promo code: "RANDY". What a bargain since regular view box seats for that evening cost $30 each.
  • "K-Ville" offer gives you a lower box or arcade seat with a t-shirt, foam "K," and a stored value to buy food and gifts. It costs $55, but the stored value can be up to $20 if you choose an arcade seat, meaning you chew on $20 worth of garlic fries and spend $35 for the ticket, free shirt, and foam novelty item. Order tickets here. Limited selection of games.
Just so I don't get in trouble, here's my sources for the discounts:
K-Zone info. Promo code posted online at Giants site.
McDonald's promo information. Promo code only available at restaurants.
$10 tickets for Saturday, June 20 game. Main Giants website, promo code posted in the "Giants Jottings" section of page.
K-Ville tickets information page. No promo code needed.

Also, a tasty food deal at McGraw's Grill locations in the ballpark: Burger, fries, and small soda for $8.75. It's not advertised heavily as the hot dog meal (hot dog, peanuts, and drink) at the Doggie Diner locations, but it's hiding on the regular menu board at McGraw's. Upgrade for garlic fries is a small surcharge, but well worth it.

Plus, save 50 cents if you take BART and Muni metro to/from the ballpark. Remember to pre-purchase your Muni fare before exiting the Embarcadero BART station, or grab a BART/Muni discount coupon before leaving any of the other stations. For the discount coupon, claim the first portion with the Muni station agent, and when buying your return ticket from the ballpark, surrender the other half to the ballpark employee. More info here on how I advocated to get AT&T to accept the discount coupons.

For more ballpark deals, visit the "Fan Value Corner" section.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The sorting garbage law absurdity of San Francisco - Makes me want to move to Daly City

Remember the slogans I posted here a year ago? Here's why I would move to Daly City:
  • "We still use plastic bags and styrofoam boxes."
  • "Lower sales tax rate and we've got TARGET!"
We can add to the list for literally any city other than San Francisco: "at least I don't have to sort my trash without a garbage company rat reporting to the city government." (News stories at SFist and Chronicle).

Can I just say, I really hate the way our city operates. We now have this new law that if we don't sort our trash correctly, we will get fined. What the hell is this bullshit? Why does this city need to be some kind of "nanny state?"

Sure, I'm proud this city has the highest recycling rate in the country as it sets a good example for other cities and towns to do the same, but now making it a law to tell people to do it or be fined with $100 fines is total crap.

So like... what's the standard to get a damn citation?
  • Finding one piece of paper in a garbage bin full of legitimate trash in the black bin?
  • Finding a non-greasy pizza box in the compost bin?
  • Finding a plastic fork in the garbage bin?
What happens if your neighbor wants to seek revenge or some random person on the street dumps the wrong items in the trash? Is this city going to have to buy every citizen a padlock to secure their three garbage bins?

Isn't torturing us citizens with the ban on styrofoam and plastic bags at the grocery store enough? Sheesh.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Seattle Region's ORCA Card beats SF Bay Area's Translink Program

This is embarrassing to hear: in the Puget Sound Region (where Seattle is located), a similar Translink smart card program just took a big leap less than a week ago with a huge public launch of their ORCA card program.

But the news gets even more interesting...

The ORCA card uses the same exact technology and vendor who installed the Translink card readers in the SF Bay Area, better known as ERG (see image). The reader looks exactly the same, and if you watch the YouTube video below, it will show you similar card readers, like the ones installed at the Golden Gate Ferry terminals and Muni Metro stations.

But what makes me really curious about the ORCA program is that they are able to get NINE transit agencies in full use while Translink only has a few agencies using the card. They were also able to install the self-serve add value machines at every single rail station using the program as well. Even more interesting, it looks like the ORCA program was built and operational in much quicker time than Translink.

As you may as well know, the Translink card program here in the San Francisco Bay Area has been a slow and painful process. I think a lot of our transit agencies continue to bicker (or I call bitchin') about this program.

I was a pilot tester starting in 2001 and I've been a loyal cardholder for eight years; but I am so shocked on just how long it takes just to get only TWO transit agencies in full public use (AC and Golden Gate), ONE agency still "testing" but allows any Translink cardholder to use it (Muni/SFMTA), and TWO agencies still under "construction" (BART and Caltrain). This still does not account for the other major agencies like Samtrans, VTA, Vallejo, WestCat, etc.

Translink needs to kick it into gear NOW. We've been surpassed by many other regional transit programs out there, including in Washington D.C., and now we can add Seattle to the list. If you want the public's confidence, you need to do more public campaigning for the program.

Start out by telling the public about the goal dates for the program (not "2010," an EXACT DATE):
  1. When is Muni ready for full public use? This means: ending the trials, getting the Cable Car conductors equipped to handle the cards, installing readers on the remaining historic streetcars including the"boat" car and the "Desire" car (all PCCs are done), and start Translink fare collection for passengers leaving the SF Giants baseball game.
  2. When will BART start their public trial? "Early in the summer" is just an excuse for BART to say, "we'll try... sometime."
  3. When will Caltrain start their public trial?
  4. When will the other agencies start their public trial?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

49ers Stadium in Santa Clara with Taxpayer Money - Are you nuts?

I keep hearing in the news about the 49ers wanting to build a football stadium in Santa Clara, nearby their main headquarters office and next to the Great America theme park.

I'll admit, Candlestick Park is really getting old and way outdated and a new facility is needed, but is Santa Clara going after the deal of a lifetime or ready to get screwed?

Santa Clara is proposing to pay a portion of the stadium costs with taxpayer money, which makes me wonder, why does the 49ers organization want to pay for a stadium with the public's money?  Can't that money help pay for other improvement projects like fixing potholes, fixing schools and other local government buildings, or maybe opening a community clinic?

It also makes me wonder why the 49ers can't simply buy up the land and build it themselves with their OWN MONEY.  With the economy all beat-up, all levels of government facing layoffs, cuts, furlough, and closures; it doesn't make practical sense for a city to invest millions of dollars of tax money into building a stadium that won't be used on a daily basis.

Now what I mean by "daily basis" is this: a sports stadium is not used every day, in fact, a football stadium is used only about a dozen times a year.  If you include another sports team, that still doesn't make up for making it a fully useful facility.  I would support using tax money to build a hospital or a City Hall because the property will be used every single day for business.  Tax money on a facility not used on a near daily basis = waste of money.  Tax money on a site used daily = a worthwhile investment.

What's wrong 49ers?  Why can't you fund it yourself?

Look at AT&T Park, they built their facility without public money and did additional fundraising by simply selling "charter" seats (seat licensing).  The Cal Bears are raising money by selling 50 year ticket plans for up to $250K a seat with additional perks.  Even corporate headquarters are not paid with tax money, they have the money to build and maintain their facilities.

For you taxpayers in Santa Clara, think about what kind of debt the city and how much more in taxes you will pay for the stadium.  Give the 49ers the finger and vote against it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Translink on BART in a Week or Just a Rumor?

Word has it from the BART Rage forums that Translink on BART will start next week.

BART Rage user "SecretAgentMan" stated very early this morning:
"Your wish is about to come true. Translink will be here in about a week from now. Good on Muni, BART, and CAL Train. Say goodbye to your EZ rider, as it'll be phased out the remaining of the year."

Hmmm... this'll make BART VP Fang just more pissed off about this "obsolete" project.

True or false? Translink folks? BART P.R.?


I've also been hearing that EZ Rider will eventually not be used as a farecard for the gates, but will still be used for the parking program with their awkward mirror hang tags and their card readers installed at the insides of stations that requires payment.

Also, if you want to take advantage of BART's 6.25% discount high value tickets, Translink FAQ on BART (a PDF document) states you must use "Autoload" (automatic loading) that will automatically purchase your electronic BART tickets to your credit card every time your BART balance runs low. Strangely, you may not be able to claim your Commuter Checks anymore, but if you have one of those credit cards that deducts out of your transit checks, that way can work.

So... in the end, you can always ride BART with Translink in three ways:
--Translink e-cash purse
--Translink BART e-cash purse (high value tickets)
--Translink Muni pass (local SF rides only)