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or, better yet, give him a job."
(Brock Keeling, SFist)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

UPDATE: Google Maps Now Includes Muni's Upcoming Service Changes

This is an interesting piece of news, Google Maps updated their "transit planner" for Muni when you tell the system you plan to take a trip on or after 12/5/09.

I noticed this change on the map posted on a recent entry on my blog addressing Muni about why new bus and train schedules are not posted for the public to view.

To give you a particular example, let's say I wanted to do these criteria:
  1. Departure date: 12/5/09
  2. Departure time: 10AM
  3. Starting point: 9th Avenue and Irving (Inner Sunset)
  4. End point: 4th and King
Now, if this trip were to happen before 12/5, it is obvious I would take the N-Judah for a direct ride (no transferring) to 4th and King streets. Muni's service changes website states that the N-Judah will not operate to Caltrain on weekends starting on 12/5 and I should transfer to a T-Third train along the subway portion of the N-Judah line.

Let's see what Google Maps created for me:

View Larger Map

Google Maps now tells me to take the N-Judah and transfer to the K-Ingleside/T-Third line at Embarcadero, and it will be a 10 minute transfer period until the next K/T train will arrive.


If you recall from my recent complaint about the 18-46th Avenue not working on Google maps and telling me to take the 91-Owl at 4AM on 12/7, I have a surprise... the map has been updated! See below.

Google now instructs me to take the 18-46th Avenue along the modified route (the former Ocean Beach branch of the 38-Geary) at 7:27AM, and I will arrive at SF State University at 7:57AM.


What does this all mean Akit? These updates to Google Maps means that it now officially works if you need to plan to get around the city after 12/5/09.

511's transit planner IS NOT YET READY and the SFMTA has NOT published time schedules for those who don't want to use a trip planner.

The power of one person can change city politics for the good. I'm proud of my accomplishments, and I thank my fellow Tweeters (like munialerts, munidiaries, and whole_tost) who helped spread the word around to hundreds or even thousands of people around San Francisco.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Akit's Furlough Adventure #7: Japantown

Being on furlough this week is sort-of boring and I'm trying to find things to kill time. I thought it would be fun to go to one of my favorite neighborhoods, Japantown!

San Francisco's Japantown is home to a lot of great Japanese restaurants, non-profit community organizations, great hotels, and a heck of a shopping experience.

I know if you have gone to J-Town, you have been to Ichi Ban Kan, a place full of housewares, food products, personal grooming supplies, and ice cold beverages for a low price. They even carry unique items from Japan like Hi-Chews in a larger pack than the ones made for the United States distributors. They even carry unique flavors including peach.

Daiso recently opened-up in Japantown as well, and they are a huge Japan based worldwide chain store famous for items at a low price. Around the stores in the United States, they sell 95% of their products for only $1.50. One of their popular items are the keychain lights (in photograph) that retail at places like Brookstone for about $15, but it's only $1.50 at Daiso. The store in Japantown is SMALL and the one in Serramonte is huge with a big variety of items.

Between the two places, I like Ichi Ban Kan better with the large food variety. But I will admit that I like Daiso for the affordable plastic containers and such, and I prefer the one in Serramonte over the Japantown location because they accept credit cards.

As for lunch, a hearty meal for under $10 at Mifune includes cold soba (buckwheat) and udon (rice) noodles with tempura and their famous dipping sauce.

Have a happy Thanksgiving! If you are going out for Black Friday shopping, get there early and dress warmly.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hey Muni, Where's the New Route Schedules?

Everyone in the city knows about the major service changes happening on Saturday, December 5th, unless if you don't understand English such as the Chinese Americans in Visitation Valley who didn't learn about it until Marlene Tran started rallying the troops.

(On a side note, Ms. Tran is a really great person to meet. I met with her during my first semester in Graduate School when she was teaching ESL on behalf of City College)

What really scratches my head is that both 511 and Google Maps (for public transit) does not have any information whatsoever about the route terminations and changes.

Here's a particular example: on Google Maps, I want to go from 33rd Avenue and Geary Blvd. to Lake Merced and Font Blvd and arrive at 8:00AM on 12/7/09. Easily, the 18-46th Avenue is the route I will have to take to directly get there (even if the line gets re-routed). Instead, Google Maps suggests I take the 38-Geary and the 91-Owl at 4AM to get to SF State three hours early. Google basically deleted every bus and train route that is being changed and kept the ones that will not be changed.

UPDATE: 11/26: Google maps updated their Muni routes for after 12/5/09 including time schedules. What you see below in this updated Google map shows the revised route for the 18-46th Avenue.

View Larger Map
Full description including what times I have to catch the bus are posted here.

In 511's trip planner program, the route changes and schedule changes have not been fixed. If I were to take the exact trip as I did for Google, it will tell me to take the 18-46th Avenue, but it takes the pre 12/5/09 route that goes around the Cliff House.

The public wants a time schedule NOW. Not everyone takes a major bus line that comes around every 5-10 minutes; I wait up to 20 minutes for the 18-46th Avenue and I have the right to know when my bus is scheduled to arrive so I can minimize waiting in the freezing cold.

If a time schedule does not get released soon, Google Maps and 511 will become USELESS.

Lastly, Muni should get their staff out into the streets putting up notices of line terminations or major changes at bus stops that will be affected NOW. There's a little more than one week left.

Monday, November 23, 2009

TransLink Management Meeting Update 11/23 (The Good Stuff)

TransLink's management board had their meeting earlier today and the MTC always posts their agenda online and also a couple of presentations by the TransLink staff to the board.

For the past few meetings, I've been giving you all the juicy details and skipping over the garbage that the public doesn't want to hear (mostly about dollars and cents).

So here's Monday, November 23rd's great information you should know:
  • In October 2009, there was 40,000 transactions, and is over double the amount from last year.
  • As of November 5th, 88 Samtrans buses are equipped with TransLink and continuing. Gillig buses are being pre-wired during the bus building process so TransLink equipment can be installed faster.
  • VTA will start installation in January 2010. It is estimated to be "revenue ready" by April 15th, but the installation may start late.
  • Installation of add value machines at the Transbay Temporary Terminal will be done in early December.
  • For those who transitioned from EZ Rider to TransLink, BART sent out surveys to those people.
  • SFMTA/Muni is continuing to distribute discount TransLink cards (elderly, disabled, and youth).
  • BART is still working on having their ticket machines be able to add funds and should be ready in late 2010.
  • VTA and Caltrain are also working on having their ticket machines to add-value, but has no date of planned completion.
  • TransLink is looking into a contactless only option (no gold chipped cards and no need to insert cards into slot).
  • The elderly/disabled Muni pass program that allows BART access is underway and TransLink is looking into integrating it into their program.
  • TransLink is looking into purchasing handheld readers for Cable Car usage.
  • A proposal by TransLink to add card readers at exit points on the Muni Metro subway sections.
  • Caltrain's monthly parking permit program is considering to be integrated with the TransLink card.
  • The TransLink contractor is working on a computer programming script for transaction history requests so it can be executed faster. TransLink claims they are able to save 500 man hours by taking advantage of computer technology.
Just looking over the documents shows a lot of the same material mentioned from previous meetings.

I don't agree with the idea of adding card readers at exit gates on Muni, unless if the data is being used to track rider patterns to improve service and/or make it easier for fare inspectors.

Lastly, I like the idea of TransLink getting history reports quicker and I hope they will be able to fully automate it online so everyone can review their history reports instantly instead of the few day waiting period.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Update: Muni's 18-46th Avenue Passenger Shelters Removed

Within 48 hours of my recent posting about the removal of key components of the bus shelters on the 18-46th Avenue bus lines for the soon to be defunct route covering Geary and Pt. Lobos, Muni has removed all the shelters on that route segment.

18-46th Avenue at Pt. Lobos & 48th Ave

The Shelter for the 18-46th Avenue is Gone

Here's all the before & after photos I have taken:

I'm disappointed at Muni for removing the shelters way before the route changes are in effect. It's freezing cold at the stops near the Cliff House and the shelters are the only protection.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Muni already dismantling 18-46th Avenue bus stops

The above slide show is Muni's preparations for the end of the 18-46th Avenue segment that serves Geary and Pt. Lobos. While the route changes are about 20 days away, Muni has already removed the glass, route map, and lettering indicating it is a bus stop designated for the bus line.

To make matters worse, within a day of the removal of items, graffiti artists tagged-up the two bus stops at Pt. Lobos and 48th Avenue.

Just removing the glass makes things look sad for one of my favorite bus lines that takes me to and from work at SF State University. There's no protection from the elements and I was freezing my ass off waiting for the bus today.

Did Muni ever put a notice on these bus stops that they will be terminated on December 5th? No.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Is the Muni Metro the butt of jokes about the agency?

It's almost every single day, there's something wrong with Muni metro. Just today, SF Appeal reported the automatic train control systems was not functioning properly and Muni had to supplement the backed-up trains with bus shuttles.

I feel it is universally understood that Muni Metro is one of the big disasters about this agency, and its troubled past tells a big story:
  • Before the metro system, PCC cars ran along Market street and served the current metro routes of Muni (except the Embarcadero extension and the "T" line). The K, L, and M lines went through the Forest Hill tunnel by entering/exiting at West Portal, and at Market and Castro.
  • When the metro system and BART was being constructed, the PCC cars ran on temporary tracks because the agency used the "cut and cover" method. Basically, it means digging a huge trench and replacing the roadbed.
  • Once the metro started, the new Boeing cars was placed into service, and soon showed the major flaws about the system. The stations were high platform, and became a major issue for people with disabilities exiting along the surface routes, and while the cars were OK for use in the 80's, as the population grew, things didn't get pretty.
  • Muni metro was able to run manually and four train cars can be connected with the Boeing set, but customer complaints of the lack of air conditioning and the limited number of subway boarding doors made the cars a total piece of garbage. Muni sought the next generation of cars.
  • Muni awarded the contract to Breda to build the LRV 2 and LRV 3 generation of metro cars and was much more roomier with air conditioning and more room for passengers. But this also had problems: it was overweight, too long to operate with four cars, allegedly damaged the foundations of homes, noisier than the Boeings, and the cost of each vehicle was starting to climb as the city was paying to fix the problems associated with the earlier generation of Breda cars.
  • At the same time these new cars are being rolled-out, Muni added the automated train program for the subway portion and created the infamous "meltdown." This was caused by two major factors: A mix of automatically and manually operated trains in the system, and the Boeings couplers were not compatible with the Bredas to make longer trains.
  • After several years, we reach today; the automated system works better, but the Breda trains are starting to show their scars. The air conditioning on some of the train cars are totally inoperable and doesn't allow any cool air to circulate around the train, trains are more prone to breaking down, speed has been dramatically reduced on in the tunnel portion between Forest Hill and Castro, and there have been a number of accidents including the crash at West Portal.
I have to ask myself, with such a bad rap about our metro system, why is there a plan to build BRT corridors and have them ready for light rail service? When you think of light rail, all you can think about is the terrible metro service, but for me, installing light rail may be a bad idea because at least buses can go around each other when one is inoperable, a light rail car that is down is stuck and you have to be lucky if there is a track switch somewhere nearby.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cucumber in your Sushi - Yes or No?

Here's a good question: Why do some Japanese sushi bars and restaurants include cucumber in their rolls while others don't?

I have experienced this situation many times at various restaurants. About 65% don't include cucumber (unless if you order a cucumber roll), but the other 36% do include it, including many vendors who sell sushi at SF State (SushiGo and Healthy Eats) and at Lucky's at Sloat where a part-time sushi chef makes rolls for take-out.

In my opinion, I don't like cucumber in my sushi rolls, and it's especially frustrating when the restaurant didn't tell you that on the menu. I don't want a crunch in my rolls, I want to taste the fake crab and avocado in my California roll! I'm part-Japanese, and I'm confused!

So... what do you think? Do you like having cucumber in your sushi?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Muni Fast Pass Hike Now Official - Akit Caught Them Red Handed

It looks like the attention my blog forced SFMTA/Muni to update their website with some very critical information of changes to their fare/pass structure that goes into effect January 1, 2010.

This was regarding my blog entry about the Muni pass hike without any public notice.

It looks like I caught them red handed because they made modifications to their website on Friday, November 6th.


I reported on my blog on Thursday, November 5th that Muni did not give notice to the public of a pass hike, and I mentioned the affect it will have on people who orders their passes through a commuter benefits company. I was aware of this when an anonymous person who works for the city e-mailed me the day before telling me that he got notice of a pass hike, but it was not generally known to the public.

It looks like Muni caught onto my blog and they posted their pass hike information online. The photograph below is proof that they added this page to their website on Friday, November 6th at 4:55PM (one day after my blog entry). You can also view this photograph for additional proof.

Proof of SFMTA Muni Pass Price Changes

The rumored pass hike is true: adults will either pay $60 for a new "M" pass (Muni only), or $70 for an "A" pass (includes BART).

I really think it's great that a single person can change government policy. I did this before in July when I argued that Muni did not accept the Muni to BART transfer coupons for the return trip from AT&T Park and with the help of Phil Bronstein of the Chronicle, he was able to help me change the policy. Read Phil's three entries about the situation here.


On a lighter note, I also noticed Muni updated their service changes website to include a letter from SFMTA Chief Nat Ford, and Tom Nolan who is Chairman of the SFMTA Board of Directors. This letter was posted hours later after I mentioned about why the public is not angry about the service changes.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Why are Citizens Not Angry at Muni's Upcoming Service Changes?

Less than a week ago, SFMTA/Muni released information to the public about the service changes scheduled to happen on December 5, 2009.

Where's the public's reaction about these changes? Having major service changes on the busiest transit service in the Bay Area is something that should be headline news the day after the changes were posted by Muni; but it's unusual to find most of the major news media shying away from reporting the changes. I'm also keeping an eye on chatter box (Twitter) about Muni and it seems there's very few people who are angry, nor delighted of the upcoming changes in just one month.

So people... are we simply just accepting these major changes or are we all just pent-up full of anger or sadness? It's time to speak-out and tell everyone if you like one of Muni's service changes ideas or you hate them.


I'll tell you my opinions, these changes suck for my neighborhood, the Outer Richmond. Muni is eliminating the 38-Geary Ocean Beach branch and the 18-46th Avenue will be re-routed and cover that route from 33rd/Geary to LaPlaya/Cabrillo.

I think it's a bad idea because you now force 38-Geary passengers to transfer to the 18 to get to their homes on Balboa and Cabrillo, and that means a wait of an average of up to 20 minutes; but if an 18 is a no-show, your wait can be up to 40 minutes (totally unacceptable). It also removes direct service to the Cliff House, which is essential for ADA passengers due to the very steep hills.

Here's my idea:
  • I see very few people taking the 38 Geary to V.A. Hospital/Fort Miley; so why doesn't Muni just remove that branch and have the agency run a shuttle bus, just like the folks at Laguna Honda Hospital (89-Laguna Honda)? The 38L can get passengers to 42nd Avenue, and the shuttle can just fetch and drop people off at the hospital (it's only two blocks away). This keeps service on the 38 to Ocean Beach, and the 18 continues to serve on Geary, Pt. Lobos, and the Cliff House.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What Muni Fast Pass Hike? SFMTA Hasn't Told Anyone

One of my popular postings at Akit's Complaint Department is titled: "Muni Fast Pass goes up January: How to still save money" and explains about the planned raising of Muni's adult Fast Pass from $55 (w/BART), to $60 (w/out BART) and $70 (w/BART). My source to the price hike is a link to a SF Appeal article posted on September 1, 2009.

January 2010 is not far away; there has been no word from the SFMTA/Muni of a Fast Pass price hike anywhere on their website. It's not on their front page, and not on their "Passes, Tickets, and Single-Ride Ticket Booklets" page (as of Wednesday). That's really odd.

While the SFMTA has failed to provide proper notice to the public about a pass hike; it has been widely known for the past several months that a price hike on the adult pass is planned to happen in January. Here are a list of articles you can read that supports this claim:
I also received an e-mail from one of my readers who works in the City and County of San Francisco and it mentioned that they know a pass hike is going to happen (courtesy of e-mails from the city's commuter benefits contractor). The person also provided his/her opinion: "Muni seems to be silent on the topic."


My question to SFMTA/Muni: Where is the official notice to the public about the adult Fast Pass price increase?

The media can claim there will be a hike, but no official notice from the agency makes it difficult for the public to know if it is true or not.

Do they know the consequences of NOT providing ample notice of a pass cost increase?
  • Commuter benefits companies must know ahead of time so they can inform their users and update their websites where people place their orders.
  • Employees who uses commuter benefits must notify their HR or payroll supervisor with ample time (at least one month before a hike) to raise their pre-tax deduction from their payroll. At SF State, employees have until November 30th to make any deduction changes to be effective for January.
  • For Commuter Check Direct users, the last day to make any changes for your January passes/tickets/checks is December 5th (as long as you give notice to your payroll/HR department).
  • People who receive paper commuter benefits vouchers will be shocked that they are $5 to $15 short and must pay the remainder in cash. Remember, pre-taxed from your paycheck saves about 20%, but paying extra in cash is considered post-tax.
  • TransLink card management must make proper adjustments to their computer software to reflect a major change. That takes time to reprogram versus printing new passes with a different cost and giving them to vendors.
Our public transit agency cannot give us late notice of changes. Here's a couple of not so timely changes:
You can't give less than two months notice to people of a pass hike due to the major affect it will have on the public who uses commuter benefits.

Here's a lesson for Muni:
  • "Early" is on-time.
  • "On-Time" is late.
  • "Late" is a pissed-off public.
How do I evaluate Muni's performance with providing timely notice about changes to their routes and fare structure? They FAILED. Public/government relations my ass.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

For once, an election without political phone calls

Yesterday's elections must have been one of the most quietest around here in San Francisco, mostly because the local news press didn't cover it as extensively as other elections in the past...

One of the best things about yesterday's elections: NO POLITICAL PHONE CALLS.

Isn't it so nice when you don't get harassed at 7PM at night after eating a tasty dinner and getting some phone call from an annoying jackass on a recording telling you to vote for Proposition "F-U?" At the last election, I got calls from the SEIU from a live person, and I told them to buzz-off, I was watching Jeopardy!

It's a little sad that our federal government banned those "robocalls," but allowed political messages to be excluded. That sucks. Why doesn't the FTC give us citizens the right to opt-out of political phone calls on the do-not-call list?

Lastly, I did get a few of those annoying mailers telling me to vote for Proposition "D," but I decided to throw those straight into my shredder without reading it. What a waste of trees.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Major Muni Changes in One Month... I'm Not Pleased

It's adding salt to the wound... SFMTA/Muni just gave a one month (and a couple days) notice about major service changes to the agency, these include, but not limited to line terminations, permanent re-routes, line number changes, and service hour changes.

Muni has posted all their descriptive information online with color maps and a PDF brochure that is extremely long.

Some items of change are quite simple and would be generally agreed upon by the public, such as more 38L-Geary Limited vehicles during peak hours, and simple route changes that makes better sense to the general public.

Others are much more dramatic changes to Muni, including my favorite bus line to SF State, the 18-46th Avenue's elimination of the route along the Cliff House, and on Pt. Lobos/Geary stretching from 33rd Avenue to 48th Avenue. Others will be amused by the terminal changes, such as the 6-Parnassus returning to the ferry building (once again), and the 71-Haight Noriega terminating at the Transbay Terminal (and the future temporary terminal).

Yet, with all these major changes, something doesn't look right...
  • Muni has not published a time schedule, which is essential for the mapping services of 511 and Google Maps (for transit), and for those whose bus line runs on frequencies of at least 15 minutes or more. They better publish it soon so that Google and 511 programmers can update their information in a timely manner by December 5th.
  • Muni has also not published a new complete map of the city and its modified bus/train services.
  • Is one month enough time to get the public informed about these major changes?
  • Can the agency put-up the notices in a timely manner on buses, trains, and bus stops notifying passengers of new stops, eliminated stops, and replace all the Muni maps at bus shelters the day of the route changes?
I'm worried, but at the same time, let's see what kind of reaction the public will give now, on Sunday, December 5th, and Monday, December 6th (first day of the weekday commute).

We are also learning that these changes will not fix the deficit to zero, and therefore the City Insider reports that Muni is proposing to cut 250 jobs, change driver's schedules, cut overtime, and relocate federal stimulus money from projects to their operations sector. The big questions I have about this is: 250 jobs from where? Will this cut affect our transit? How about that stimulus money? We could really use some new Muni fare gates at the metro stations.

Lastly, here's the reaction from one of the ladies involved in the infamous Muni fight on the 30-Stockton. Enjoy!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Akit's 20 Demands to Fix Muni

One of my former co-workers left me a comment about my recent posting about tips for rookies on BART and stated: "You should write a list of demands of MUNI and get them published in the newspaper. Or, write them out and nail them to the director of MUNI's door (like Martin Luther)."

Not a bad idea! But I don't think I'll ever get that close to Nat Ford's door without getting arrested by San Francisco's finest (which should be riding our buses), and I don't think the Chronicle gives a damn about my blog. (Side note: That Chronicle comment was a little too rough; sorry SF Chronicle!)

Here's my list of demands to Muni:
  1. Regaining the trust of the public with a reliable and efficient transportation service.
  2. The immediate resignation of SFMTA Chief Nathaniel Ford, and union leader Irwin Lum.
  3. The citizens of San Francisco reserves the right to vote for the Executive Director of the SFMTA versus the appointment by the Mayor.
  4. Faster buses than the average eight miles per hour.
  5. Investment in new Muni metro vehicles with extensive testing to assure no breakdowns, but must also be cost effective.
  6. Investment in high capacity, double articulated buses to serve major transit corridors.
  7. Increase in speed on the Twin Peaks Tunnel segment between Castro and Forest Hill.
  8. Addition of more historic trolleys or purchasing of low floor trains on the F-Market.
  9. Creation of express bus lines for mid-day and Saturday service for areas west of 19th Avenue (Sunset) and Park Presidio (Richmond).
  10. Increased police presence on all Municipal Railway vehicles. If that doesn't work, a dedicated transit police should be used.
  11. The swift termination of employees who have been found responsible for major vehicular and pedestrian accidents, and ones with too many complaints.
  12. Immediate clean-up of vehicles with graffiti and investment into ways graffiti can be easily erased without "ghost" graffiti still present on surfaces.
  13. The end of the bureaucratic red tape that has stalled major projects to improve transit.
  14. Improved maintenance of transit vehicles including more preventative maintenance.
  15. Having backup vehicles prepared at key locations around the city when a vehicle breaks-down.
  16. A knowledgeable 311 staff specifically dedicated to Muni; must have full understanding of system and policies, and when complaints must be addressed immediately versus the next business day.
  17. Assure operators of no retribution or punishment for confronting passengers; such as passengers playing music too loud.
  18. Installation of pre-paid fare machines at major transit stops to create quicker boarding.
  19. Eliminating bus stops that stop every block; should be changed to once every two blocks (minimum).
  20. Weekend service hours at the SFMTA Customer Service Center at Van Ness/Market.

Want to add to this list? Just post a comment.