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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lack of Communication between San Francisco Government Agencies?

You would expect that in this day of age and a modern city government, that their agencies/departments would be communicating with each other so they are all on the "same page." Surely the 311 program has helped bridge that gap by directing people in the right direction when they need services and information...

Yet, there are still problems between agencies sharing information so the public can be informed with straightforward information, instead of getting one answer here and a different one there.


Example #1: Just today, I was riding Muni's 18-46th Avenue bus to work and noticed that Upper Great Highway was shut down due to sand on the road. Both entrances at Sloat and Lincoln (north and south directions) had to be closed.

But whatever city agency shut-down that road segment did not inform SFMTA/Department of Parking and Traffic (DPT) about the closures so they can switch the road signals at those two key intersections to 4-way stop.

How did I learn this fact of lack of communication? I called DPT traffic signals directly, instead of calling the incompetent idiots of 311 who would just ask questions of why the signals should be changed.

This leaves two big problems, lack of communication between city agencies, and if the signals ran their normal (three color) cycles, some person may think it's OK since it's a green light and ram the steel gates closing the road and this means a possible LAWSUIT against the city for negligence.


Example #2: The PGA golf tournament (President's Cup) is coming to San Francisco's Harding Golf Course next week (October 6-11) and this will bring in up to 25,000 golfing fans every single day to the south west region of the city. As always, combine it with over 32,000 SFSU students who are getting their education right next to the golf course, and hell will be here in no time.

But to the point: The city is informing the public that the entire length of John Muir Drive will be closed (south end road of Lake Merced, also home to the SFPD shooting range), and a portion of Skyline Blvd. from at least Sloat to Great Highway. While they are informing drivers with big electronic signs, 311 has not been helpful if these closures will affect SFMTA/Muni's 18-46th Avenue bus line that goes directly into both of these closed areas, mainly because city agencies failed once again to share information.


Bravo City and County of San Francisco, bravo. How long until Mayor Newsom's term is up?

AC Transit Transbay Buses: No magnetic tickets starting tomorrow

Attention AC Transit riders: if you take any Transbay line and pay with a magnetic striped (paper) ticket media, today is your LAST day to use it.

Starting tomorrow, October 1, 2009, Translink will take over all paper media for the Transbay bus lines. From what I've learned, they decided on this switch for three reasons: Need for quicker boarding due to temporary terminal to be opened soon, closure of the AC Transit ticket office at Transbay Terminal, and the fare changes with a three month grace period to fry the old transit tickets. This basically translates into cost savings for the agency.

This policy of forcing all paper ticket holders to switch to Translink is following a new trend; it's working very strongly on Golden Gate Ferry with over 70% of weekday riders paying with Translink, and Golden Gate Transit with about 24% of their weekday ridership using the card as well. Golden Gate gave-up on the paper tickets as a cost measure, but to also encourage people to feed Commuter Checks electronically via Translink to also save trees by not sending out vouchers to registered users.

For those paying with cash or you Cal students with a flash pass, you can still use those types of fare media.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Michael Jackson's "This is It" Advance Tickets Available & How to SAVE MONEY

If you haven't heard the word, Michael Jackson's "This is It" movie tickets are now for sale! It will be an exciting thing to watch the late "King of Pop" show his moves.

But here's the big deal folks... how about saving some money for the big show?

  1. Fandango is offering all Visa Signature cardholders until September 30th to get buy one, get one free tickets, regardless if you buy a ticket for a show today or something in the future. There's a limit of one offer per month, but since it's near the end of the month, why not bring a friend? Save about $12 with this offer. Info here.
  2. Go to Costco and purchase Cinemark/Century Theaters vouchers that can be claimed anytime. They cost almost $15 for a pair, but you save money.
The best deal is the Visa Signature offer if you bring a friend, but if you are only going by yourself to see Michael Jackson on the big screen, get the Costco voucher.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Clipping Nails on Muni - Very Annoying

The unofficial rules of the bus is to stay off the cell phone, don't take more than one seat, do not block the exit doorway, and keep conversations in a quiet voice.

But someone always has to break that silence... the nail clippers. The sound of the clipper making that loud clipping sound disturbs the peace of public transit. Regardless of where you sit on the bus or train, someone in that vehicle is doing something really nasty.


I've had one experience when I was riding the bus back home and the passenger behind my seat was clipping her nails in public. It lasted for nearly 15 blocks until I finally snapped, turned around, and told her to stop doing it. Her excuse: "don't speak English."

In my pissed-off rage, I told her very slowly, "DO NOT CLIP YOUR NAILS ON THE BUS" and even did a mime impression to show that it's not right.

Sure enough, she didn't get the damn message and just kept clipping. The bus driver never got involved and I was the only passenger with the balls to confront her.

I'm proud of what I did, you don't do that annoying crap EVER in public. Get your butt home and you can spend your precious time clipping your nails.


There has to be a health code violation or something... especially when the person litters them all over the ground.

What do you feel is the most annoying thing people do on public transportation?

(Photo from Flickr user "Mr. T in DC" using a Creative Commons License)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Translink Card program updates from the MTC management

Yesterday, Translink released their report to their management group/board members consisting of representatives of the local Bay Area transit agencies.

Instead of making you read all the crazy numbers and such, I'm going to highlight some of the new updates about the program and some new items of interest for you cardholders:
  1. There has been a major increase in the use of the Translink cards and the average weekday patronage is now 37,000 (per day). This increase is credited due to the addition of BART, Caltrain, and the local schools and colleges reopening for the Fall semester.
  2. There is a proposal to change the current Translink RFID cards from ones with the contactless card with the contact chip, to be solely contactless (basically, no more shoving it in a slot to add funds).
  3. Golden Gate Ferry is in the lead with 70.05% of their weekday commuters paying with their Translink card, primarily because they have forced their commuter discount book users to convert. Many other participating agencies are less than 5%, except Golden Gate Transit with 26%.
  4. SamTrans has tenatively scheduled installation of Translink equipment for September 28th, 2009.
  5. SamTrans is having new buses built and has worked out a deal to have the buses all wired-up so installation can be faster and easier.
  6. VTA is planning to install Translink equipment in October.
  7. BART ticket machines will be able to do Translink transactions starting in mid 2010.
  8. Golden Gate Ferry may consider buying automated ticketing machines similar to Muni's planned purchase of gates and machines that accepts Translink only.
  9. VTA and Caltrain is in the bidding process for having their ticketing machines upgraded to do Translink transactions.
  10. SF City owned parking lots are considering to introduce Translink cards as payment and the pilot program will start no later than December 31, 2010.
This is good progress for Translink, but there will be no significant changes or major announcements in the near future; unlike what we have seen in the last three months with the addition of BART and Caltrain, and the demonstration of the new SFMTA/Muni metro gates.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

BREAKING: Cal State University to Issue Bachelor Degrees to Japanese Americans Interned in WWII

This is truly a bittersweet moment to hear:

The Trustees of the California State University system will issue honorary bachelor degrees to any CSU student who was forcefully sent to internment camps during World War II (1941 to 1943).

The SF State Golden Gate [X]Press reports that all trustees voted in favor bill AB 37.

There are many Japanese American CSU students who were in college at the time of the war and had no choice but to leave when President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 that forced all Japanese Americans on the west coast to evacuate to assembly enters, and eventually internment camps.

Executive Order 9066 is considered one of the worst modern day violations of civil liberties and human rights in the United States. It always puts tears in my eyes when the U.S. government finally said they are so sorry for committing such an atrocity and hardship on the interned Japanese Americans, and compensated them with $20,000.

It took the efforts of the JACL, NCRR, and advocates like my late grandmother, Tsukayo "Sox" Kitashima to campaign the government to issue a formal apology and designate funds to compensate the survivors, and that dream came true in 1989.

Today, in 2009, we can proudly say that the CSU system can now issue bachelor degrees to any surviving and posthumously students who had their lives shattered with the stroke of a President's pen.

It would truly be an honor to witness a commencement ceremony this year at SF State to have President Robert Corrigan issue that degree.

If you know any individuals that should be issued their bachelor's degree, or need to inquire about the passage AB 37, please contact: (562) 951-4723.

Please make sure to advocate to the appropriate CSU campus President to also hold a ceremony at their commencement ceremony in May.

Monday, September 21, 2009

$10 tickets for $20? AT&T Park ticketing surcharge crazy

Have you ever seen such a rip-off on event tickets?

AT&T Park is hosting the Supercross event where motorcyclists race against each other on a huge dirt track for one night only.

So... AT&T Park is promoting these great seats for just $10... or is it?

Take a look at the photo and you'll see that when you add all the service fees, you are paying 100% more (double) the cost of the face value of the ticket. THAT TOTALLY SUCKS.


Even crazier is that the UFL is coming to AT&T Park by hosting three football games for the new team known as the "California Redwoods." Since season tickets are not that expensive, I went down to the Giants Dugout Store at AT&T Park to purchase tickets, knowing well that by buying advance tickets at the event site, you DON'T PAY A SURCHARGE. I saved over $35 for this Giants baseball season and picked out the best seats in the house.

With that in mind, I spoke to one person who could not find it in the computer. A co-worker came by and said that non-Giants tickets are sold there, but a surcharge would also need to be paid. I refused to pay the fee because every person knows that it's surcharge free when purchased on-site.

I even tried the automated machine (which I was told was not working by the idiotic employee), and they only sold Giants tickets.


What's your thoughts? Should surcharges be levied on people who wants to see events?

Should there be a state law that regulates the maximum a service fee/surcharge can be levied? Some charge 17%, UFL tickets average 13%, while the Supercross event can charge up to 100%.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

iPod Touch 3.1 at a Cheaper Price? How 3.0 Users got Ripped-Off

If you own an iPod touch (the non-cell phone brother of the iPhone), you know that Apple has been telling you to upgrade your software to the 3.0 and 3.1 versions in order to promote new features, such as copy and paste.

But what I don't understand is, why did I pay $9.99 for the 3.0 version upgrade and get the 3.1 upgrade version free...

while other people who are still using 2.0 or bought a new iPod Touch with 3.0 pre-installed are now being told that they can get the 3.1 version for $4.95?


That doesn't seem fair. While I appreciate Apple for giving me a free 3.1 upgrade for buying 3.0, I feel I've been financially ripped-off for this iPod software upgrade/update. 3.0 was on the market for a mere three months until 3.1 was released at a lower price.

I hope Apple decides to give an appropriate refund to people who paid the higher price, or give us future software upgrades at no cost to us.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Akit's Furlough Adventure #4 - SF Giants Game

Sorry for the delay in posting this furlough adventure, it's been quite busy at work.

Furlough Adventure #4 is the SF Giants game on Tuesday, September 8, 2009. I went with one of my co-workers since the tickets I purchased came in a pair.

Fire Boat near AT&T Park
This night was for the local firefighters and people who bought special tickets got a really interesting mug shaped like a firefighter's boot.

Bumbarner on the big screen
This night was also Madison Bumgarner's first Major League baseball game because just a few hours before the game, Tim Lincecum was experiencing back spasms.

Bumbarner's First Major League Pitch
Here's a photo of his first Major League pitch.

Want to see more photos? Look below for the slideshow:

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Time to say goodbye to the Nichi Bei Times

It's hard to believe the Nichi Bei Times will stop publishing this month after 63 years of printing their newspaper.

The Nichi Bei Times board has decided to shutter its doors on September 30th, and the last printed newspaper will be published tomorrow (Thursday, September 10th).

The Nichi Bei Times has been a staple of the Japanese Americans around the nation by keeping them in touch from particular issues or concerns, local community sports teams, major events, and the local churches. A lot of the material they publish targets the Japantown community of San Francisco and it allows everyone to be connected, regardless if a person visits the community every day or just occasionally.

Personally, I am very thankful for the Nichi Bei Times. They have helped me in so many ways, from publishing every "letters to the editor" I've ever submitted, publishing an article about my important thesis research on mixed heritage Japanese Americans, covering my work on the "Save Japantown" movement in early 2006 when the malls and hotels were put for sale, and honoring my late grandmother known as the "Godmother of Japantown."

Without their effors to inform readers about important topics and issues, it would have been much more difficult to secure redress for all surviving Japanese Americans interned in the camps during WWII.

For the Nichi Bei Times, publishing newspapers is becoming a dying breed. The internet and our web based cell phones can get news quicker and faster for free; printed media is becoming much more expensive with this economy: people are cutting back on their subscriptions, printing costs have skyrocketed, and paying for postage to mail the newspapers is so expensive. Look at AsianWeek, in just a flash, a nationwide newspaper disappeared.


So, what is next for the Nichi Bei Times? The veteran staff are trying to start a foundation that will be a non-profit and supported by donations and grants, and they will face an uphill battle to get something in print. As I mentioned earlier, there are many cost factors going against printed news media. I hope they can raise enough money to keep this community newspaper going.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bay Bridge reopened at 6:30AM Tuesday

Good morning!

Thanks to the hard working folks of CC Meyers, the Bay Bridge reopened at 6:30AM today.

What a relief!

That also means you can take advantage of the great Giants game bargains for tonight, including $6 game tickets for the upper deck (no, not the crappy seats).

Monday, September 7, 2009

Ouch, Bay Bridge will not re-open in time

Well folks, the word is the Bay Bridge won't open at 5AM on Tuesday, so that means... get ready for insanity. People planned early for the Friday closure and was able to get time off, but don't expect your boss to give the OK a second time. Lucky me, my butt is furloughed tomorrow, but I'll have to take the brunt of the Giants game with fighting for an afternoon parking space in a lot.

Isn't it strange that just a month ago, BART unions threatened to strike during Labor Day Weekend, and now they are the heroes for transporting people to and from work during this extended closure?

Let's learn about the alternatives to getting around:
  1. The other bridges can take the brunt, but get ready for traffic hell.
  2. BART will not run 24-hour service, so if you miss the last train, you are screwed. They will run all the trains in their stock to make-up for the massive crowds.
  3. The Alameda/Oakland ferry is running half-hour service and will still do the Giants ballgame service.
  4. Golden Gate Ferry will add one extra departure at 7:30 at Larkspur using their slower Spaulding boat. They will do a Giants game trip.
  5. Golden Gate Transit will NOT add additional buses (assholes!).
  6. Baylink (Vallejo) ferry will NOT have Giants ballgame ferry service. An extra boat will be running to transport people.
For a summary of all expanded (and not so expanded) services, visit here.


Giants fans, Tuesday's evening game is going to suck...
  • BART and Muni is your best bet, but you'll get jammed with the commuters trying to get home.
  • Ferries is a good idea, but the only one I can find right now is Golden Gate. Baylink WILL NOT have service.
  • If you live locally, how about getting a parking permit? Check on Stubhub for those.
Tickets are going for cheap for Tuesday's game: Use code "GIANTSK" at the Giants website and get...
  • $43 Club Outfield tickets.
  • $29 Club Left Field
  • $23 Lower Box
  • $6 View (Upper) Reserved
Dang... I got sucker punched because I got $20 upper box tickets.


Lastly, if you are going to the Giants-Dodgers game on Friday, you can get $25 upper reserved tickets instead of paying $32 with code "CAIN."

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Akit's Furlough Adventure #3: Oakland's Rockridge District

Other than someone rigging the poll at the last minute, the winner for "furlough adventure" #3 is Oakland's Rockridge District.

Rockridge is a popular commercial district with independently owned restaurants and shops and is easily accessible by BART. It is also easily accessible from Cal Berkeley because AC Transit's 51 bus line passes right through there.

Let's take a little photo tour, shall we?

My Unhealthy Breakfast
Before my journey out to that area, I stopped at Powell BART for an unhealthy breakfast. My doctor is going to kill me. I wonder why the Burger King restaurants I visit doesn't serve "turbo" coffee?

Thanks BART for the Chocolate
Since the public was suffering during the Bay Bridge closure, I was one of the lucky ones to get a free chocolate square as part of a promo.

Rockridge District
It took about 30 minutes to get there and I got there way too early. Not everything was open.

Zachary's Pizza
Yep... way too early. Zachary's was not even open yet. Zachary's is one of the best pizza places in the entire Bay Area and is famous for their super deep dish pizzas, known to take up to 30 minutes to bake. If you eat it there and there's no open tables, you place your pizza order and when your name is called for a table, your pizza will be there in no time. You can also order to-go deep dish pizzas, including ones that are half-baked so you can cook it later.

Funny Oakland Graffiti on Parking Machine
Hey! It's the controversial Oakland parking meters! You remember them in the news, right? Oakland parking meter maids are running around giving tickets to anyone whose meter has no time left, even if you are just paying for your meter voucher. It's profitable and pisses a ton of people off.

Penguin at Cal Academy
After touring around Rockridge district, I killed some time at the Cal Academy of Sciences. Amazingly, it was not even crowded! I got a nice seat to view the Philippine coral reef tank, and there was even planetarium tickets available.

See the entire slideshow:

Saturday, September 5, 2009

BREAKING: Bay Bridge may open LATE

Late night breaking news folks, during the closure of the Bay Bridge to move the temporary structure into place, bridge inspectors found a huge crack in the eastern span of the bridge.

SFgate reports the crack is two inches thick and halfway through the eye bar (not i-beam). With this problem happening, it is possible that the Bay Bridge may not reopen on-time on Tuesday.

While a possible delay of reopening the bridge might suck, let's think of the brighter side of this situation:
  • Without the inspection crew doing a thorough job, this problem could have turned worse if they permitted traffic to run through and the bridge had collapsed.
  • More people are taking public transit to get around town, this helps the transit agencies with record low budget deficits.
  • Also, taking public transit relieves the traffic pressures and pollution.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Muni Fast Pass goes up January: How to still save money

If you thought the $55 cost for a Muni fast pass was totally crazy, just wait for the odd price change coming up on January 1, 2010.

SF Appeal reports SFMTA/Muni will raise the price of the adult Fast Pass to:

$60 without BART
$70 with BART

Update: The pass hike has been confirmed by the SFMTA on November 6, 2009.

Doesn't this remind you of the era of Mayor Frank Jordan when Muni changed their passes to reflect a "basic" pass that only gave passengers regular and limited buses, and the "premium" pass that included express buses, BART, and Cable Cars? The public was not happy and quickly changed their policies back to a single adult pass with all privileges.

For now... we just have to bite the bullet with the new pass structure. And once it goes into effect, make a big ruckus that this sucks.


Let's do a little bit of math:
For the average passenger, one day's worth of Muni rides is $4 a day.
  • At $60 per person is 15 days to match the value of the pass.
  • At $70 a person is 17 days, plus one ride to match the value of the pass.
There are 20 working days this month (not including Labor Day), so assuming that you ride five days a week, you would save $20 for the $60 pass, or $10 for the $70 Muni/BART pass.

Just to note, this does not count for days when you may ride Muni on weekends, take the Cable Car, and/or using the BART benefit. Using it more often will increase your savings.

But be aware, BART only costs $1.75 for a local ride within San Francisco, so while you get to your destination faster (assuming you don't need to transfer to a Muni bus), you'll lose 25 cents per ride than taking Muni using your pass.
  • Doing the math on this, you need to ride BART within San Francisco six times to make it worthwhile to purchase the BART add-on feature (assuming if you also ride Muni round-trip at $4 per day).
  • If you ONLY ride BART within San Francisco (NO MUNI RIDING) and use the BART privilege on the Muni pass, you must ride it 40 times in a month to break even.
Also, you can save even more (around 20%) if your employer offers a pre-taxed commuter benefit program such as Commuter Check.


How about the "BART Plus" pass, is there any savings?

The answer is no if you only travel on Muni, but actually worth it if you take BART outside of San Francisco and ride other agencies, except AC Transit, Caltrain, and Golden Gate Transit.

The cheapest one you can get is $86 a month ($43 half-month passes) and comes with $30 in BART fare value ($15 BART 15-day fare due to the half-month ticket policy). Inter-San Francisco free rides with the BART Plus ticket is not allowed.


Will Muni actually print two types of passes?

While there is no official answer, it would be in their best interest to at least sell the higher pass price to only be used with a Translink card. Why? BART station agents would not be repeating the same answer to Muni pass holders that their cheaper pass can't be used on BART. Plus, if a "cheap" pass holder rides BART with the Translink card, BART makes money on that trip since the fare is deducted from the user's e-cash purse.

But it should be noted that Muni will start replacing their metro fare gates with new Translink only gates starting with the Forest Hill station in January and full conversion should be completed by the end of 2010. With this fact in mind, it would just be beneficial and cost efficient to stop printing passes and get all pass users on Translink.

This is why I keep telling people, there's the potential for a shortage of Translink cards if a transit agency mandates all pass holders to switch from paper to an electronic card. Get your card NOW. You can buy one at a Walgreens location (green dots) if you don't want to buy one online at Translink's website.

Update (12/29): Muni has printed two types of passes. The "M" pass is $60 and the "A" pass is $70. TransLink also sells both types of passes online and at their automated machines, but if you are getting them automatically loaded on a monthly basis, your pass will be automatically converted to the $70 pass. If you need the "M" pass, tell TransLink NOW.