"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)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Muni 74X Culturebus Dies August 15th

One of the biggest waste of tax dollars for SFMTA/Muni will finally die August 15, 2009...


Muni posted the bus line's termination notice and its last day of service will be Friday, August 14, 2009.


Here's CultureBus' (unofficial) obituary that I wrote:
San Francisco Muni CultureBus, also known by its nickname "74X," and soon later "fail whale" and "tax waste."

Born September 20, 2008 and died August 15, 2009.

SFMTA officials predicted the bus line would obtain 168,000 to 250,000 passengers per year with an average 20-30 boardings per vehicle and running on a 20 minute frequency. It was estimated the City and County of San Francisco and SFMTA would spend $1.6 million on the experiment.

The light was shining for the 74X thanks to an article from the San Francisco Chronicle, but its extremely high $7 adult fare (now $10), very low ridership, and criticism from the local blogging community started the slow death of the bus line. Tour bus agencies argued that tax dollars should not be used to undercut the tourism industry and their vengeance also took its toll on the yellow colored bus.

Not long later, SFMTA scaled back the failing service on January 24, 2009 from 20 minute frequencies to hourly service, and from six buses to two. Still, with very low ridership, it was eventually going to be terminated by the agency due to the large financial deficit for the next fiscal year.

On August 15, 2009 Culturebus died while the 5-Fulton, 44- O'Shaughnessy, N-Judah, and 71-Haight/Noriega, easily overshadowed the 74X and provided service to visitors and citizens alike for 80% less than what the CultureBus charged.

Gavin Newsom and Nat Ford's experiment died a horrible death and at the expense of taxpayer money.

May it rest in peace.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Why are there Translink card readers on rear doors of SFMTA Muni vehicles?

If you have ever wondered... why are there Translink card readers on the rear doors of Muni vehicles?

The answer has been quite obvious from a recent article from SF Appeal; the idea is to improve efficiency of boarding SFMTA/Muni vehicles by allowing people with Transink cards to board the rear doors LEGALLY.

But with the rampant numbers illegally boarding the rear doors, lack of fare enforcement, and the honor system being shattered like glass, Translink boarding through the rear doors may never happen.

The exception is Muni metro where at all doors of the train, there is a card reader just a few steps away from the entrance for users to tag their card without going to the front door first; basically the POP/honor system makes the system work


But has anyone wondered what other purposes could the back door readers be used?

The Utah Transit Authority uses the same exact technology as Translink (but they allow RFID credit cards too!), and they explain in this YouTube video of why there is a second card reader installed on the back doors. Go to clip time 2:13 for the explanation.

(Sorry folks, but the transit authority banned embedding the video)

To give you the briefing... The reason why they have a card reader on the back doors is for research. As always, you have to tag to be allowed to ride the vehicle, but when tagging-off the vehicle, you are giving research data to the bus company; or as they proclaim to helping to make "better service."

Actually, that's not a bad idea, by tracking how often passengers ride vehicles, and by linking GPS data with real-time tagging of cards, can tell the agency of how to meet the changing demands of the pubic transit system.


Golden Gate Transit's use of the "tag-on" "tag-off" policy for Translink users is to make sure they get the proper fare deducted, plus they have to rely on GPS technology to know when they cross into another fare zone. The usage data can provide helpful information to Golden Gate Transit to see how each bus line is doing and what improvements should be made.

But on Muni's end, that may be a challenge; its buses run on a basic fare structure. Translink and Muni's policies would have to make it optional to tag-off, and the only true incentive for tagging-off is to simply give research data to possibly improve service. That could save Muni time and precious $$$$ to conduct research the old-fashioned way, a person on a random bus riding for hours and counting people with a clicker.

Interestingly, a trial of the tag-off rule is already happening with SFPD officers. Police officers who must ride a Muni bus while on-duty must tag their Translink card when boarding, and tag-off when exiting. The data provides proof to their supervisors that they did ride a Muni vehicle, tagging-off will tell how long the journey was, and with GPS technology, where they boarded and exited. Police as guinea pigs? Interesting idea...
But truth be told of when Translink on Muni will ever get going in full swing and stop calling it a trial. Cable Cars are not accepting it, not all fare inspectors carry the card readers, and local SF usage with a Fast Pass for BART is not even ready.


On a brighter note... I'm getting a monthly fast pass starting in September on my Translink card! I missed the Commuter Check deadline to get it applied for August.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What would you do if you were furloughed?

It's not a great time in the State of California. Everyone is getting furloughed, including myself, a CSU employee.

While everyone under the governor's rule is now furloughed three times a week, the UC system has an odd furlough system where depending on your salary, you are forced to take a certain amount of furlough time, and CSUs are planning for 24 days for the next ten months for everyone.

One ironic thing about furloughs is that while the government is saving money, for the individual, they are not making money, and actually spending money. In the end, you are losing out on more of your income, but at least your tax dollars are feeding the budget hellhole.

What would you do if you were furloughed?

Here's what I would do and spend very little:
  • Use my membership at the California Academy of Sciences.
  • Go to Costco and get some free samples and a $1.50 hot dog.
  • Ride Muni to somewhere scenic (I'm getting a Translink Fast Pass this September!)
  • Go for a matinee at the movies.
  • I've got some DVDs I haven't even opened.
  • Go to the King Tut exhibit since I have vouchers from Costco (they are still available).
  • Venture out and do some amateur photography and why not piss-off Muni fare inspector #32?
  • Alcatraz? That's too expensive.
  • Get a free mocha at McDonald's on Mondays.
  • Cheap seats at the Giants game.
  • Stare at Bushman on the Wharf.
  • Go complain at the Board of Supervisors or the SFMTA meeting.
  • Attend some oddball protest.
  • More blogging at Akit's Complaint Department.
  • Where's the next county fair? San Mateo?
  • Sign-up to be a poll worker for the city on election day (not a bad deal to make some money).
  • Visit "Oak Land."

Here's what some of my colleagues said:
  • Go fishing.
  • Go snowboarding in the winter.
  • Play video games.
  • Visit friends.
  • Go to Dublin.
  • Ice skating.
Got any suggestions? Post them in the comments section.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Public Relations Nightmare - SF Muni and BART

Things can't get any uglier for Bay Area public transit... could it?

Muni just had a major accident at the West Portal station when a metro train collided with a stationary metro train. Luckily, nobody was killed, but there are dozens hurt. Odds are that ambulance chasers are at SF General hospital looking for victims and fare inspectors are asking themselves... should I check for proof of payment of the victims at the hospital?

But that's not just Muni's own PR nightmare, just last Thursday, SFMTA chief Nat Ford admitted that fare evasion is a multi-million dollar problem, but as many of us have known that for a long time. Just based on what Nat Ford has stated, tons of bloggers have gone on the offensive with opinions (SFappeal, SFist, SFgate comments).


But how can we not forget about BART? Their PR nightmare is as bad as Muni's:

On Thursday, BART had a serious accident at the construction site of the future West Dublin station when a cherry picker was hovering way too low over the BART train tracks.

As always, the possibility of a strike looms over the Bay Area, but it seems like nobody gives a damn right now, but BART's PR office is as always busy putting their spin to the union's perspective.


And where's Mayor Greasyhead, I meant Newsom in all of this? No word from him, and if he wants to be a future governor, he needs to get involved in this public transit crap.

Friday, July 17, 2009

As Expected: SEIU Votes Down BART's Contract Proposal & How You can Take REVENGE

As many of us expected, BART's largest union, the SEIU has voted against a contract proposal from BART management.

SFgate reports 98.5% of union folks voted against it, with only about sixteen people saying they like the plan. Solidarity my ass, at least some want the strike to end.

What makes me scratch my head is, why do they feel like they deserve more, such as pay raise when everyone else has either been laid-off, furloughed, or had their pay cut? What makes BART so damn unique that their unions have the leverage to get more stuff while everyone else is getting crap?

It's greed. Simple greed in its purest form.

So here's my solution, go and strike, I don't give a damn anymore. You (the union) may have the power to totally make the whole Bay Area "shut down" (you got us in the balls), but the truth is, we'll find a way to survive and we'll find our ways to get revenge against BART.


Here's how you can take revenge:
  1. If you commute to/from the East Bay, why not try AC Transit? Since the last strike over 10 years ago, people tried AC Transit transbay service and never turned back. The price is right and the bus lines may stop in a more convenient spot than say... driving your car to a full BART lot?
  2. Have you tried casual carpooling?
  3. Just boycott BART.
  4. Go to their picket lines, cross it several times back and forth to piss them off.
  5. Go to their picket lines and taunt them for being greedy bastards.
  6. If BART is still in operation, keep taunting the station agent of why your Translink card is not working.
  7. BART management is on Twitter, why not pester them for a while? Haven't found Linton Johnson's twitter, still looking!
  8. BART's labor unions is on Twitter too, why not send them some creative messages?
Do you have any other revenge tactics? Post them in the comments!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

SF Muni's Nat Ford admits fare evasion is a problem - What else is new?

Muni has been mismanaged for over ten years that it's reached a point where the big chief with a $300,000+ salary admits that fare evasion a leading cause of the massive deficit that SFMTA is experiencing. Ford admits to the Chronicle/SFgate that there is a projected loss of "tens of millions of dollars" every single year.

Really Nat? Really?

I'm a person who always pays my "fare share" and I'm fed-up that I have to pay EVEN MORE for transit that still operates like a piece of crap.

Here's a big question: You claim that you had staff riding random buses and observing other locations where people board and counted how many people broke the law. Just how many of those were holding transfers that were not expired or carrying a pass? Assuming that half of rear-door boarding people are really carrying a legitimate form of proof, "tens of millions" would really be more like five million in loss revenue.

Strangely, Ford doesn't give the #1 blame to people who intentionally break the law, he also shares the blame of malfunctioning fare equipment, confusing fare policies, and lack of staffing.

Malfunctioning fare equipment? Did you know that not long ago, Cubic, the company who makes fare gates and fare boxes received the contract to refurbish the agency's aging fare boxes? As for the fare gates, they work OK on the Metro system, but stimulus money will eventually replace them. The big problem is the change machines at certain metro stations, they are slow and just plain terrible, and they won't take $5 bills.

Confusing fare policies? It was easy to understand in the past, even with the inter-agency agreements like BART/Muni 25 cent discount coupons, Golden Gate Ferry free Muni transfers, and a Muni pass option for Samtrans and Golden Gate monthly pass users...

but with the birth of POP, the can of worms didn't just open, it exploded.


The mismanagement of Muni is to blame for all this. Muni never increased service with the growth in population and ridership in San Francisco. Sure, you can put a new metro line to serve Third Street (massive failure), new metro cars, and articulated buses on the 71 line, but that doesn't stop the problem.

How about those bus drivers who have to stick to a schedule and drive the busiest bus lines in town? If there was a swarm of people trying to board, they'd be waiting for a long time to get people on the vehicle if front-door boarding was the only method. Have you ever experienced the F-Market going toward Fisherman's Wharf at the Ferry Building stop? I was on one of those vehicles and it didn't move for FIVE MINUTES to get everyone on the vehicle.

How about lack of enforcement? Yeah, fare inspectors do suck ass, but many drivers don't give a damn about fare evasion. Fare evasion is next to zero on the non-downtown routes (i.e. "crosstown" routes) because it's easier to get caught and the drivers DO CARE. But for many of the routes that goes to/from downtown, it's like the drivers don't really give a damn and have to stick to their driving schedule.

Where's some of the many improvements needed to make Muni to operate faster and more efficient? You just can't add more limited or express buses to stop the problem. Bus bulbs are an easy solution with some concrete to extend the bus stop further out so that the bus doesn't have to waste time pulling into the curb to pick-up passengers and be compliant with ADA laws. You could also install pre-paid fare machines at many major stops so that passengers can flash a ticket at the driver instead of lining-up to slowly insert their two dollars in the fare box. Signal priority lights are an interesting thing to have, but do cost money and does require a dedicated Bus Rapid Transit line to make it work at its peak efficiency.

Fare inspectors are grossly expensive because they pay them over $50,000 and that doesn't even cover their medical and dental plan, uniforms, union benefits, etc. They should do what they tried before, and it is effective! BOUNCERS. They don't have ticket writing authority, can't check fares, but they can sure enforce the back door policy strictly, this means more cash in the fare box. In this economy, people will work even for minimum wage and no benefits, so that's a big bargain for Muni. For the price of 5 fare inspectors ($250,000 at $50K a year), you can easily hire about ten or fifteen with no benefits. But this is San Francisco, so your health plan will be the bare minimum and you'll get a few days of sick time.


And I keep arguing this forever: TRANSLINK. Think about how much faster it is to board a Muni bus and pay your fare.
  • If you don't rely on a Fast Pass (can't make-up the cost), a Translink card is just as fast to deduct your fare and get you on your way.
  • Reduction in printing costs since all passes and transfers are electronic.
  • Reduced cost on maintaining fare boxes and fare gates.
  • Hassle free adding of funds through a pre-tax commuting program like Commuter Check.
GET YOUR BUTT ON IT MUNI. STOP PROMOTING "TESTING" AND ALLOW REGULAR USE. If you have to cut certain policies like no more paper transfers and e-transfers only, people will grab those cards quick.

But I don't get it, why do some people just hate the Translink program? I put a comment about Translink on the SF Gate comments page and get booed down every single time.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

BART's Second Largest Union Says "No" to Contract Offer

As many of us Bay Area folks have known, BART's unions are getting too damn greedy, and you can smell the stench miles away after their second largest union (Amalgamated) voted "100%" on not accepting the contract offer proposed by BART.

Really, that kind of solidarity of 100%?

The big sticking point to all of this is that BART proposed a wage freeze for three years and an increase of 0.75% in the fourth year. By going on BART's plan, it would save $100 million.

But for the union, their proposed plan was kicked in the nuts by BART because it would only save $60 million, still short of the agency's deficit.

In this economy, you'd be lucky you even have a job and odds are that getting a pay raise is near impossible. As BART is a taxpayer paid agency, why should they deserve a raise when other public workers (of the non-transit type) are getting their butts furloughed and salaries cut?

Higher fares, lower ridership, and greedy unions... something is definitely wrong here.


SF Muni has posted some helpful options for you struggling people, this map shows the numerous city owned and private parking lots within the downtown region, but you should also be aware that SFMTA has established sanctioned casual carpool areas near the carpool ramp of the Bay Bridge in the event of a strike.
  • Beale between Harrison and Folsom serves Fremont and Dublin/Pleasanton routes.
  • Beale between Folsom and Howard serves Richmond and Pittsburg Bay Pt. line.
Muni also provided a map for local buses and trains that serves all the SF BART stations, including the Daly City station.

One mistake is that Muni forgot to tell passengers to use the 28 and 28L lines also serves Daly City station. A passenger can easily transfer to/from the 28 and 28L by using the "M" Ocean View line at either Stonestown platform or SF State platform. The 54-Felton is not usually the best bus line, but a quicker ride to/from downtown would be the 28 and M.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Golden Gate Park Shuttle? Does anyone ride it?

I have to really question the folks who manage Golden Gate Park. As we all know, the entire city is in a budget mess and that includes the Park's department as well.

As you may also have known, the parks folks have pimped their park out to the OutsideLands festival for $1.5 million, and everyone knows that last year's event was an entire disaster, not just for Muni and the people who suffered, but the park's irrigation system was destroyed, grass damaged, and litter everywhere.

So how does the Golden Gate Park management get the money to contract a shuttle service from Bauers charter bus service? Bauers is known for their ultra premium commuter service that shuttles people in comfort to their work places and in prominent locations in certain cities.

And... the buses used are mini sized buses with those super comfy commuter seats.

The price: $2 for an all day ticket.
Sounds like it's subsidized.

I was waiting for the 44 Muni bus next to the De Young Museum last Saturday and a one of those shuttle buses pulled-up. Did I see anyone in there? No.

It's almost like the farce known as CultureBus. Empty and wasteful. Save the city budget, stop wasting money government folks.

Monday, July 13, 2009

It's Spare the Air Day on Tuesday - But No Free Transit

Word from our air pollution specialists from the State is that a "Spare the Air Day" has been declared for the SF Bay Area tomorrow (Tuesday).

While there's no real law forcing you to curtail your polluting ways (passing gas?), you should try to curb some of your usual acts of polluting the planet for at least one day:
  1. BBQ with coal or wood.
  2. Gas powered lawn mower.
  3. Driving your car.
  4. Reducing energy use (some of your electricity comes from plants that emit carbon dioxide).
Try taking public transit for one day.


As always, this is the complaint department, so it makes me wonder why don't we have "free transit days" anymore?

The biggest complaints about the free days is that lazy people will ride the bus just for one stop, people encouraged to illegally board the rear doors, the annoying teenagers with nothing better to do has held-up buses and trains in the Bay Area, and the smelly unpleasant people are sleeping on the vehicles.

Sure, the budget is in a terrible wreck, but what if the money was restored? Would there be free rides?

I would say, they should change the policy and reduce transit fares to half-price. Instead of a $2 Muni ride, it's just a buck. That reduces or prevents lazy folks for taking a super short trip and the unpleasant people not scoring a free ride. If a transit agency can double their ridership for one day to make-up for the reduction in fare cost, they may be able to retain those people the next day when prices return to normal.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Caught in the Act - San Francisco DPT Officer Vomits

I caught this photo of a San Francisco DPT Officer on a the Muni Metro shuttle to AT&T Park on July 11, 2009.

The train had to stop at this spot because there was a T-Third ahead of us and the passengers was staring at this dude with his head hanging out. The officer didn't know the whole train was watching!


I think this guy had too much to drink at the free Slurpee day at 7-Eleven.

At least the Giants won and everyone saw a double rainbow in the bay!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

BART Strike Update: On Hold for Union Vote

A fresh update just came up minutes ago from KPIX news at 11PM:

BART has proposed an offer to the Amalgamated and SEIU unions, and now the unions are forced to make their members to take a vote on this.

Since organizing a vote would take some time (within a week), this means a delay in a possible strike.
  • If the vote passes: No strike and everyone goes home happy.
  • If the vote fails: Back to the bargaining table or possibly a strike.
But at this time, the reports show that a strike is unlikely at this immediate time while the formal procedure of an employee vote is completed. But as my favorite college professor once taught me, always expect the unexpected.

Prepare to Soil Your Pants - BART STRIKE may Start at 12:01AM Friday

If you are reading this and today is Thursday, you might want to ask your boss for tomorrow off. A brand new report from KPIX/CBS5 is that a BART strike is possible starting at 12:01AM tomorrow (Friday).

The article states that the 72 hour notice was only effective during the contract extension. Since the contract ends tonight at 11:59PM, it means the unions do not have to give prior notice to strike one second after midnight on Friday.

I'm re-posting my tips to alternate ways to get around without BART and add some new ideas (new ideas will be in green):

East Bay to SF: 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 via Richmond Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge. Then transfer to a SF bound bus, or gamble on a space on the Larkspur ferry.
  • Casual carpool. Yep, stuck in traffic too.
  • BART said in the news last night that they could hire strike breakers to drive buses from certain major stations to SF, but since they depend on our freeways, expect long delays and confusion.
Inter-East Bay:
  • AC Transit's local service. Rapid likes 72R and 1R will help a bit.

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

Inter-San Francisco: Tack on an extra hour on your journey.
  • Muni (Cough! Vomit! Puke!). But Muni will offer increased service in areas like Mission St. and the N-Judah (where Caltrain stops).
  • Taxi!

San Francisco Giants Fans, the San Diego series is happening this weekend:
  • Check with Golden Gate Ferry, Vallejo Baylink Ferry, and Oakland/Alameda Ferry for direct service.
  • AC Transit Transbay service, but be warned of traffic on Bay Bridge.
  • Dumbarton Express and transfer to Caltrain.
  • Just sell your tickets on StubHub, there's no chance hell you are going to make it in time.
For more strike tips, visit: http://www.511.org

UPDATE: BART's unions are talking to the media and they claim "reasonable notice [of a strike]" is at least ONE HOUR. What the hell is that? They are curtailing that answer by not claiming "one hour."

Adding Translink E-Cash or Passes via Phone or Web takes 72 hours - Here's Why and How to Fix It

FYI: It's called "Clipper" now, but it's all the same product.

I've been keeping an eye on Twitter about the Translink card program, and while users have complimented about the program, the most frequent complaint I notice is the "72 hour" rule about adding funds and/or passes to your account. People think this is a stupid policy, but it's not really a policy at all, it's purely technical.

I'm going to take a moment to explain why there is a "72 hour" rule:

The "72 hour" rule is for anyone who calls the customer service center or uses the internet to upload funds (e-cash) and/or passes to their Translink card account.

The reason why they have to tell you this "72 hour" disclaimer is because of the technology used on the vehicles and stationary readers.

Assume you called the customer service line and asked to add $20. The card readers on the buses and trains are NOT instantly updated that moment with your new e-cash amount. In fact, the data gets updated every time the vehicles goes to the garage and will inform the card readers that $20 has just been uploaded into your account. When you board the vehicle with updated information in the reader and tag your card, the card gets the new info of the increase and will deduct your transit fare in one quick transaction.

If your second bus/train doesn't have the new data of the e-cash increase and your card has been revised of its amount, it will acknowledge the updated info on your card since it is the most up-to-date information.

Translink vehicle and station readers are not connected to a network 24-hours a day to instantly update your information when making phone or web fund uploading (it's not a credit card terminal that dials-up for approval every single time). That would make the program even more expensive and wasteful.


This is how you can get your funds added INSTANTLY and is usable WITHOUT DELAY:

  • Visit a ticket office that allows purchasing of Translink funds.
  • Visit a Walgreens location.
  • Use the automated machines like at all Muni Metro stations and the Golden Gate Ferry terminal in SF.
What happens when doing it in person is the machines are connected instantly with the Translink transactions network; since your card is inserted in the machine, it will instantly update your funds in your card for immediate use.


Think of your Translink card as an iPod, and all e-cash and pass transactions are iTunes:
  • If you make a purchase WITHOUT your iPod in hand to sync (Translink lingo: phone or web transaction), your new purchase won't be updated until you sync it (Translink lingo: wait up to 72 hours for the card readers to update so you can tag your card to sync it).
  • If you make your purchase WITH your iPod in hand to sync (Translink lingo: make a transaction in-person or a ticketing machine), your new purchase will be playable on your iPod instantly because you synced it on the spot (Translink lingo: your card is inserted in the machine and updates your card for instant use).

You can also stop the delay by telling Translink you want the "autoload" program
. Similar to FasTrak, if your card funds reach a certain threshold or your pass expires, Translink will charge your credit card with an updated cash balance or new monthly pass. Expect the 72 hour wait for this process to be updated on all card readers.

It's not always 72 hours, sometimes it is just the next day. It all depends on how often the vehicle goes to the depot. Stationary readers are typically updated at a more reliable schedule since they are hardwired to the Translink network.

Disclaimer: I don't work for Translink or any other public transit agency. This information is from several years of experience as a participant of Translink.


UPDATE: The 72-hour process is similar with other agencies that also uses RFID transit cards and allows purchasing by phone and/or online. The process is known as "store and forward" and is used by Octopus Card (Hong Kong), one of the most successful transit fare card programs in the world. London's Oyster Card and many of other card programs also uses the "store and forward" process as well.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

72 hour advance notice of a BART strike? Yeah Right

As you may have known, in order for BART and their unions to have a contract extension for nine days, the unions agreed to provide advance notice of a strike and it must be at least 72 hours.

A notice for an upcoming strike has not been released, so it looks like the negotiations are continuing.

When you think about it... a 72 hour notice is helpful for the public to prepare for the worst nightmare in the Bay Area.

But really...

The union doesn't have to give notice. They could call a strike at any time without advance warning if negotiations falls through.

Like what's the punishment for all the employees of BART if they strike without advance warning? Everyone gets fired? Fat chance, then the system will have to train new people and that will take many months.

Maybe the punishment will be a lockout from BART management; but in a PR point of view, that's a really bad image for the agency because locking out their workers for even one day will cause the general public to hate on BART for a long time. Even the last strike took ridership away when it ended, this is because people loved the AC Transit Transbay service so much that they stuck with it.

Hey, while BART's going trigger happy and I want to make their blood boil... when will Translink be activated?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

BART strike? Will there be one this week?

If many of you are familiar with the word around the public transit sphere, BART contracts are being negotiated with management at this time and the threat of a strike was to happen at the stroke of 12:01AM on July 1st, but the unions and BART agreed to a nine day contract extension that would end this Thursday at midnight.

It sounds a little confusing on when the extension ends, is it 11:59PM on Wednesday or 11:59PM on Thursday? Based on this question, would the strike start on this Thursday or Friday?

But with all the attention on Michael Jackson's memorial service in the headline news today, what about the possibility of a BART strike? The local media agencies are not talking about this big elephant in the room that's ready to stomp the crap out of all the commuters who depend on this transit service to get to work, school, college, and just everything else that keeps this Bay Area moving.

Checking on BART's website this morning, the contract negotiations are still going on, so the possibility of a strike may happen, but word from BART is that in order to have the nine day extension, the union had to agree to give the public 72 hours advance notice if they are to strike.

With so little media attention on this issue and the potential for a strike, will the 72 hour notice come-out in time? What I'm hoping won't happen is that Governor Arnold will pull off the "cooling off period" and we let this drag into the Labor Day weekend when traffic will be crippled on the Bay Bridge and people have no choice but to take a ferry or alternate bridges because BART decided to strike at this perfect time.

Monday, July 6, 2009

New Idea for Fixing the 38 Geary - Fort Miley Shuttle

Since my previous posting about the possible changes approaching in the months ahead for SFMTA/Muni, I was wondering how feasible it would be to modify service on the 38-Geary and save money.

Muni's original proposal (the "TEP") says the agency wants to eliminate service on the 38-Geary Ocean Beach branch and force the 18-46th Avenue to take-over that eliminated route.

I argued that changing the two bus lines serving the Outer Richmond was not a good idea mainly because of access issues for disabled passengers on the 18 serving the Cliff House, and regular commuters who depend on the 38-Geary Ocean Beach branch being forced to wait up to 20 minutes for an 18-line to take them home. You can read about my arguments on page 19 (PDF document). As expected, Muni didn't give a damn in their response.


I just spent my weekend riding the 38-Geary local because the 38-Geary Limited on Saturday was a holiday and Sunday service does not provide limited buses. I thought to myself, is there a better way to cut service on Muni and limiting the frustration and damage to the public?

I knew the solution!

Instead of deleting service to Ocean Beach, why doesn't Muni consider deleting service to Fort Miley (a.k.a. V.A. Hospital) and replace the short segment with a shuttle service?

Here's why taking away the 38-Geary Fort Miley service is a useful idea:
  1. 95% of the route covering Transbay Terminal to/from Fort Miley is already being served by the 38-Geary Limited (weekdays and Saturdays to 48th Avenue), and 38-Geary (regular/local to 48th Avenue) on Sundays and holidays.
  2. I see many hospital workers exit at 42nd Avenue and walk it to the hospital. This includes the passengers riding the 18-46th Avenue towards Legion of Honor who also exit at 42nd Avenue.
  3. Ocean Beach passengers can continue to take the local bus directly to their destination.
  4. 18-46th Avenue passengers who have limited mobility can still access the Cliff House without struggling the steep hill.
  5. 18-46th Avenue passengers who work at Fort Miley hospital will not have to transfer at 33rd Avenue/Geary for the Fort Miley bus (assuming if TEP eliminates the 38-Geary Ocean Beach branch).
  6. For disabled passengers and people who cannot make it up the hill to the hospital, Muni should provide one shuttle bus (a mini bus used on the 89-Laguna Honda) that serves the hospital and serves all local stops up to 33rd Avenue. Why 33rd Avenue? See below.
  7. 33rd Avenue should be a transfer point for all local bus passengers riding the 38-Geary Ocean Beach branch so they can cross the street and wait for the Fort Miley shuttle. For 38-Geary Limited passengers, they can exit at any point between 33rd Avenue and 42nd Avenue for the shuttle.
  8. If Muni wants to save money by only using the shuttle on days when the limited bus is in use (weekdays and Saturdays)... the regular 38-Geary service (weeknights and Sundays) should revert to their old service that was "48th Avenue via Fort Miley" where outbound passengers can request service to the driver for Fort Miley, and when waiting for the bus at the hospital, they press the signal button that notifies the driver at 48th Avenue/Pt. Lobos to pick them up.
I believe this is a great solution that does not drastically affect an entire neighborhood.

If Muni can run one shuttle bus that serves Laguna Honda hospital from Forest Hill metro station, why can't they do that from 33rd/42nd Avenue to Fort Miley? Why run 60 foot buses every 15 minutes with so few passengers to Fort Miley terminal, when one shuttle bus can just run in circles for the short hop down a hill to ride the super fast 38-Geary Limited or to 33rd Avenue to catch the local 38?

I see plenty of passengers wait for the 38-Geary Ocean Beach branch going towards downtown (I shop at Safeway frequently and eat at Kam's), and the 18-46th Avenue can continue to serve the Cliff House where accessibility problems are a big concern. I wonder why the hospital workers who depend on the 18 doesn't complain to Muni of making it a big inconvenience?

Plus, the Ocean Beach terminal has plenty of bus parking spots; if Muni eliminates that segment, extra buses will be forced to crowd-up at 48th Avenue or Fort Miley, and they are usually full during the day hours, and forces buses to park illegally.


I would love to hear your comments about my new proposal. Will it work or will it fail? I know that folks from the MTC, Muni, and elected officials read this blog, so what you suggest may work!

It worked for me when Phil Bronstein and Eve Batey helped me out by getting Muni to BART discount coupons accepted for AT&T Park fans, and I'm still thankful for their help.

(Photo from Flickr user: ocu-master using a Creative Commons license)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Promises Broken - Translink on BART

If you are sick of BART taking their sweet time getting Translink on their system, join the angry mob of people who hates getting their BART tickets demagnetized, and wants an easy solution to paying for their fares without hassling with ticketing machines. SF Appeal's Eve Batey has been helping to put on the pressure to BART and my blog as well.

Why isn't BART keeping their promise to start in "early summer?"

Their press release statement on May 8, 2009 from MTC's John Goodwin and BART's Linton Johnson clearly states: "BART expects that TransLink will be accepted on the system early in the summer" (1st paragraph, last sentence).

Now let's progress to June 17, 2009, SF Appeal editor Eve Batey asked a few questions to Linton Johnson about the progress of Translink on BART and got a rude answer from BART's PR guy Linton Johnson: "...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" (paragraph 10). Eve Batey also learned that Translink may not start-up on BART until "June 2010."

(In my own opinion, Linton is a JACKASS)

To make things more interesting, Eve Batey did a follow-up story on July 1st where she asked anyone who rides BART and carries a Translink card to continuously test the card every single day until the damn card readers accept it. As expected, it didn't work, and BART violated their promise to start allowing people to test the program in "early summer" (this is already mid-summer).

I also found out today on the BARTrage forums in a section titled "So f-ing sick of demagnitized tix!!!" (just posted recently) that a station agent by username "commonsense" stated: "BART came out and trained ALL the agents over a 3 week period on Translink as if it was coming out immediately. We have some of the equipment in the booth and we have been trained on it. Now were are told it will be out by the end of the year... MAYBE! Gotta love it!"

I guess with BART, promises are a bunch of bullshit. I have strong ethical convictions, and if I make a promise to someone, I keep that promise; if I am unable to keep that promise, I make a formal apology. BART on the other hand can make promises, but doesn't publicly apologize when they have to delay Translink once again.

There's a reason why people don't trust our public transit agencies, they don't hold-up their end of their bargain.


For your information:

As you may know, once BART activates the gates, any person with a Translink card can use it regardless if they have registered with BART to participate. It's the same concept as SFMTA/Muni where they maintain a list of registered people testing the program, but allows people who use their card for AC Transit and Golden Gate Transit/Ferry to use it. (AC Transit and Golden Gate Transit/Ferry are using Translink full-time and not "testing" anymore)

Doesn't BART know... if people use Translink, it will save BART tons of money by wasting less plastic on their magnetic striped cards (some say BART throws away 600 pounds a DAY), and less maintenance is needed to maintain the ticket machines and fare boxes since Translink RFID requires no moving parts (i.e. getting your ticket or money jammed in a machine).

BART has a HUGE deficit, if they used their brains a little bit more, Translink is the perfect solution to saving MILLIONS. If you have trained the station agents, that's enough to say, "let's turn on the switch."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Where's the 2nd SF Muni Translink Survey?

San Francisco Muni/SFMTA is really slacking-off about the Translink program. They were to occasionally send surveys to the people who registered for the trial, but hasn't sent one since last February since I published it on my blog. That's FIVE MONTHS AGO!

While I have your attention, when the hell will BART activate the gates for Translink cards to be accepted? 2010 is a bullshit answer BART PR. Stop slacking off and turn on the damn thing.

If the SFMTA/Muni and/or Translink doesn't want to publish the survey, why not do the survey by copy the questions below and pasting it with your answers in the comments section! As long as you have a Translink card and used it on Muni, you can participate (regardless if you registered with Muni for the testing program).

1: On a 1-5 scale, where 1 is terrible and 5 is excellent, rate your overall satisfaction of using the Translink card (in general).

2: Using the same scale, rate your overall satisfaction of using the Translink card on vehicles (buses, metro, and historic trolleys). Use "N/A" if you have not used it.

3: Using the same scale, rate your overall satisfaction of using Translink on the metro "exit" gates. Use "N/A" if you have not used it.

4: How many times have you used the Translink card in a week?

5: Have you encountered any problems with the card reader? If yes, describe.

6: Have you encountered any problems with Muni employees when using the Translink card? If yes, please describe.

7: Did you encounter a fare inspector while in possession of your proof of payment, the Translink card? If yes, what did they do with the card? (Examples: Flash and it's OK, use their own card reader device, and tag the card to a vehicle reader).

8: Do you have any other comments?