"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)
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(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, December 31, 2009

TransLink FAIL on BART: Not Available for Today

UPDATE: It now works.

Today has to be the worst day to have TransLink go down for one of the most important transit services to handle the New Years Eve and post "ball drop" crowds... BART.

There is word that TransLink is not accepted on BART today (verified by 511, TransLink, and BART), and the software fixing cannot begin until BART closes down service for the night.

What does this mean for you? You will have to purchase a regular BART ticket at the station, but remember to buy a round-trip ticket so you don't have to wait in a long line to purchase one for the ride home.

There could be a number of reasons why the failure happened, and these are just a bunch of guesses:
  • The software originally written for the gates was set to automatically expire.
  • A type of Y2K style software problem? This happened to some European trains and they simply moved the year back to 1990.
  • The New Year's "Flash Pass" program is cancelled this year, but it makes it even worse to have a dead TransLink program at the same time.
  • In the pursuit of fame, BART's James Fang wants to kill TransLink so he can keep promoting his cell phone payment program... um... $350,000 of your taxpayer money wasted versus a program already set-up (TransLink) and used on three transit systems.
The TransLink management board will likely talk about this incident, and I'll report back on what happened once the details are released.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Your Muni fare hike is paying: $3,000 bonuses to Operators. Try complaining to the Board, nope!

Everyone knows by now... Muni is a total piece of garbage and is way underfunded. They cut services, raise the cash fare, and raise our pass prices to up to $70 a month? This is a "transit first city" Newsom?

But wait... there's more! KPIX reports that all Muni operators just received a $3,000 bonus from the agency. The report shows that in three years, the agency has paid $18 million in bonuses (or if you were to break it down, it would be $6 million per year).

Really? $3,000 bonus for an agency with 25% absent rate for work on Christmas eve? I work for SF State and my salary doesn't include any bonus; just a nice thank you from my supervisors for a job well done.

OK, so the public is angry about our agency going wild; what can we do about it?

Well... nothing much. It's perfect timing for Muni to hand out $3,000 bonus checks because both the Board of Supervisors AND SFMTA board are on RECESS. The next BOS meeting is on January 5th and the SFMTA board schedule is not even posted for 2010 (hell, they didn't have a meeting since December 7th).

Citizens of San Francisco and the Bay Area who rides Muni, it is time to REVOLT. Demand the resignation of Mayor Newsom, SFMTA Chief Nat Ford, and union leader Irwin Lum.

Monday, December 21, 2009

2009: A Year in Review at Akit's Complaint Department

2009 has been a great year here at Akit's Complaint Department. When comparing last year to this year, I've posted over 100 more blog entries than last year (maybe because my thesis took a lot of time in 2008).

A lot of blog entries targeted Muni for all the troubling antics the public is so ticked-off about while others targeted the TransLink card program on its development to a major program. I'm also proud that some of my blog entries has changed public policy and defends the people from the broken SF public government system.

And of course... to my readership: Thank you for your continued loyalty. I am truly honored to have my blog being read on your own personal and work computers.

As an anonymous reader said to me: "the squeaky wheel gets heard!" I will continue to squeak the wheels as the watchdog will keep an eye on our city.

Let's sum-up 2009!

  • TransLink releases their first survey to people who signed-up for the SFMTA/Muni trials.
  • After making some demands to TransLink and Muni to confirm people who signed-up for the testing program, the agencies release an official letter from SFMTA Chief Nat Ford to confirm our participation.
  • Concert organizers releases the schedule for the 2009 OutsideLands festival. I wasn't happy.
  • An unofficial TransLink card party is organized. The party was a success and demonstrated the program as easy to use and reliable (a great marketing tool too!).
  • Rumors were flying around about a Muni fare hike to $2.
  • The President's Cup brings another world of hell to our city and the folks of SF State. My information is better and more reliable than our city agencies. Info guide, updates (day 1, 2, and 3-6).
  • Halloween in the Castro killed-off again.
  • Muni hitting rock bottom? Actually... I think they can sink further.
  • Advice for rookies riding BART during the Bay Bridge closure.

Happy holidays everyone! Let's sing songs!

Dashing through the bags,
on the most crowded bus in town.

Hearing the driver yell,
"get off the stairs or this bus is going to hell!"

Live chicken in the bag,
Ladies clipping their fingers.

Oh what fun it is to ride and smell the stinky bus tonight...
Oh 30-Stockton, 30-Stockton!

P.S. Sorry for not posting in over a week, I've been out of commission with a cold and I'm almost back to 100% health.

Friday, December 11, 2009

TransLink to be Renamed "Clipper"

Today is the TransLink management group meeting at the MTC (Metropolitan Transportation Commission) headquarters at 1PM and a piece of new information was released a few days ago as part of today's agenda.

The Executive Director, Steve Heminger wrote a memorandum to the TransLink management group of changing the name of TransLink to something more unique. Mr. Heminger asked his MTC staff of what name should be used, and they recommended to the TransLink managers to call the program "Clipper" and suggests to transition to this new name in mid-2010.

The reason why the MTC suggested "Clipper" is because the name TransLink is used by transit agencies around the world, including Australia, Northern Ireland, British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada), and England. For our electronic pass system to be unique, it requires a unique name that doesn't confuse people that our program is different than others around the world.

Another reason why "Clipper" was chosen is due to San Francisco's maritime history with clipper ships, and is currently a popular attraction to view historical ships around the Wharf.

The TransLink management group will view the new logos and the MTC "will recommend approval to the MTC's Operations Committee of both the new name and a change order..."

To view the memorandum of the brand name change, click here (PDF document).


Here's some updated information on what TransLink staff will present to the management today. This contains the useful information that I've taken a look at:
  1. TransLink has successfully automated the web based add value process to have all requests processed within 24-hours, and also automated the history report process.
  2. Samtrans installation of Translink is nearly completed.
  3. TransLink has put out a proposal to upgrade the memory on existing equipment on vehicles, however I've already noticed upgrades on Muni's vehicles (there's a white sticker on the right side of the readers).
  4. Muni and TransLink is considering placing the new pilot program for seniors and disabled customers who are allowed to access BART for the price of a fast pass, as well as the lifeline program on the TransLink card.
  5. Approximately 90 Muni vehicles will need some re-work. While no details are provided, it looks like it could be equipment or wiring causing problems.
The most interesting news is that Golden Gate Ferry is considering to purchase automated gate equipment with TransLink technology to automate the process to board ferries. Basically, their plan is to remove staff from taking tickets and possibly selling tickets, and take advantage of automated gates to only accept TransLink and "limited use" cards for entry to the waiting area. Other ferry agencies around the nation does similar programs where the gate accurately counts how many people are to board the ferry and locks the gates when it reaches maximum capacity.

For more information about the meeting today and all the documents, click here for the agenda.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Muni Metro - Nobody Likes You

This has gone beyond belief to hear about another problem with Muni Metro. Let's get our shotgun and put this out of its misery.

As the news reports have mentioned (SFGate, SF Appeal, and SFist): Last night, the overhead wire somewhere near Van Ness station fell down and caused a huge shutdown of Muni Metro service within the subway portions. This caused a major hardship to passengers now being forced to rely on inadequate shuttle buses packed to the gills and existing bus lines crammed with people for alternatives to get back home.

But what makes this entire problem even worse, the first word of this came from the Twitter users, but there was no official notice of a big problem until HOURS LATER by 511's website and 311's twitter.

Doesn't this agency understand that failing to tell the public will result in angry customers? Who in their right mind would ever ride the metro ever again after this bullshit? It's every single damn day there's something going wrong, and sure as hell, people are riding the buses more often because at least if one breaks down, another one can come by. But wait... Muni cut some bus lines or reduced service.

"Transit first city" my ass.


It is starting to become a new trend, when Muni doesn't feel like telling the general public that there's a problem or some type of change coming soon.

Remember the fast pass hike? I exposed Muni for not giving the public with ample time and they fessed-up by posting up the new pass changes the next day.

How about the time I exposed Muni for not putting-up the schedules and the interactive maps when the route changes were just a week away? Yeah, caught them again.

Get with the program Muni. The public distrusts you.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Catching the Muni Bus Illegally Should Not be Rewarded

I believe that if you attempt to catch a public transit bus or train and risk your own life doing so (an act considered against the law), you should not be rewarded with the driver opening the doors and letting you in; instead, the driver should just refuse to let the passenger board.

I noticed this twice in a five minute window during today's commute. One was "rewarded" while the other one was refused service:
  • At 36th and Geary, two people ran and crossed against the red light while the driver had her doors closed and was one second from moving the bus (since she had the green light). The driver let the passengers board.
  • At 33rd and Geary, a lady jaywalked across the street to catch a fast approaching bus less than 100 feet away and stood in the lane waiving her hands like a madman, and the bus passed her because that corner was not a bus stop; the driver also had to weave around her because she was standing in the lane. I even yelled at the lady, "ARE YOU CRAZY? Doing that is like committing suicide!"
In other instances, I've witnessed passengers transfer from bus to train by crossing the street diagonally, simply because the train was there to pick-up passengers.

There should be an official policy with public transit agencies, if you risk your own life or commit an illegal act in an attempt to catch a bus or train, you should never be rewarded with a ride on that vehicle and be refused service.

What's more important? Risking your own life to catch a bus or getting to your destination safely?

Plus, get out of your house EARLIER!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Akit's San Francisco Holiday Songs

With the holidays just around the bend, it's time to sing some holiday carols!

Here's one with our Mayor, Gavin Newsom.
Newsom the media walk away-er, didn't like Hank Plante's news.

Then he got all pissy on camera,
yelling out that "this interview blows."

All of the other media, laughed and called him names,
they never let poor Newsom run away from his pains.

Then one foggy San Francisco day,
Hank Plante came to say...

Newsom with your hair so greasy, why not get an interview tonight?

Then all the media loved him,
and he answered his questions with glee.

Newsom the media walk away-er, went down in history (and didn't become Governor!).

Ahh, the 10 days of Muni:
  • 10 broken down buses.
  • 9 overpaid inspectors.
  • 8 fare evasion citations.
  • 7 buses smell like asses.
  • 6 windows with graffiti.
  • 5 clipping nails!
  • 4 Sutter is gone.
  • 3 accidents.
  • 2 stabbings.
  • and an agency that is over $100 million in the red.

Always a classic... Jingle Bells!
Jingle bells, Muni smells, Nat Ford cuts our service.
Higher meter rates,
and no parking ticket breaks,
This city is going to hell, hey!

Another Jingle Bells classic!
Dashing through the bags,
on the most crowded bus in town.

Hearing the driver yell,
"get off the stairs or this bus is going to hell!"

Live chicken in the bag,
Ladies clipping their fingers.

Oh what fun it is to ride and smell the stinky bus tonight...
Oh 30-Stockton, 30-Stockton!

Friday, December 4, 2009

On the "Last Ride" for the 18-46th Avenue

It's tough to say goodbye to the 18-46th Avenue's route that serves Geary, Point Lobos, the Cliff House, and a small portion of La Playa.

Today is the last day of service for this segment before it is re-routed to take over the 38-Geary Ocean Beach branch segment from 33rd/Geary to the Ocean Beach terminal. This will make it more challenging for me to catch this bus line that goes directly to my workplace at SF State as I have to walk the notorious steep hills between Balboa and Geary.

Today's "last ride" did not have my usual driver (actually, I haven't seen her in a week), and one of those orange vested SFMTA "ambassadors" was on the bus as well to remind people of the deleted segment starting tomorrow.

Even more interesting is the buses had their automated announcements fixed. The bus announced every single stop, but only the street names. The modified announcements did not mention any major attractions/locations like this one: "Lake Merced and Font; San Francisco State University" or mentioning the SF Zoo.

Even more amusing is listening to the announcements that mentioned that the bus line will be modified and service hours reduced in three different languages, but also noticing that it kept getting cut-off every time because the stop announcements had priority over these reminders.

Read my obit-lette for the 18-46th Avenue and 38-Geary Ocean Beach branch on Muni Diaries.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Muni Meltdown II Coming this Monday

Yes, everyone knows by now that Muni will be do some major changes to their routes starting this Saturday, and everyone knows that the online trip planners are ready for these changes.

But let's get right to the point folks, Monday will be a world of hell, welcome to...
(or is it meltdown XXVIII?)

Since not everyone rides Muni on Saturdays and Sundays, Monday's commute will be the big stress test for the agency if it will go down in history for being worthy or a huge failure.

But... there's already big failures for the SFMTA with these upcoming changes:
  1. Not every bus stop has their yellow colored notice posted about their bus line or segment being cut. In particular, I noticed the 88-BART Shuttle stops on Lake Merced and John Muir Drive without any signage.
  2. There's word from SF Streetsblog that Muni will have a huge mid-year deficit in the millions.
  3. Muni didn't print enough of those pamphlets about all the route changes. Damn that is a thick pamphlet to carry around.
  4. Muni and 511 did not publish a new time schedule for all their buses starting 12/5/09. Instead, we are required to depend on the "trip planner" programs available.
  5. Don't forget, Muni is going to force you to cram another $5 to $15 on an adult fast pass in less than a month.

Remember folks, we are paying more for even worse service.
  • Don't believe the city government saying these service changes are to improve their efficiency. That's a load of bullshit. Cutting a bus line simply means cramming all those passengers to another bus line that's already full of people.
  • Gavin Newsom's dream is to have a "transit first" city; if you re-route or cut service to many lines and just increase frequency on just a few of them, PLUS increase fares and passes, AND massive deferred maintenance, how in the hell are we turning into a "transit first" city after December 5th?
We need to start organizing and fighting back. This is OUR public transit agency that is being destroyed by a bunch of idiots fresh from the insane asylum. Just see how angry I got when I published my 20 demands to fix Muni.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

UPDATE: 511 Trip Planner Ready for Muni Service Changes, but no Published Schedules

San Francisco Bay Area's 511 announcements section now reports that Muni's service schedule changes effective December 5, 2009 can now be used on the 511 "trip planner."

This is a step forward for 511, although Google Maps was able to implement the service changes a few days earlier.

One serious flaw with 511 and Muni is there are no published time schedules of the revised schedule and route changes on the 511 website (only the pre 12/5/09 schedules are posted). Muni's website refers all website visitors who wishes to review the time schedules to go directly to the 511 website for information.

Cool tip: to get a route schedule, enter the web address: http://www.sfmta.com/ and type in the line number. For example: http://www.sfmta.com/38L

If you ride on a bus line that does not run frequent service, a published time schedule is necessary to assure you do not wait at a bus stop for a long time.

While I take the bus to work at the same time, my return ride home depends on what time I leave work, and a printed published schedule in my coat pocket helps me plan if I should stay in my warm office or start walking to the stop.

Why did Muni Plan to Change the 9X to the 8X?

Today's question: Muni's plans to change the 9X-Bayshore Express, 9AX-Bayshore "A" Express, and 9BX-Bayshore "B" Express into the 8X, 8AX, and 8BX with some minor route changes. Why did Muni change the numbers?

Here's some background information: The "9" express bus services is basically a crosstown route that goes north and south and passes through numerous neighborhoods and attractions. Many of its customers are Chinese Americans because the southbound route picks-up passengers in Chinatown and also enters Visitacion Valley, a neighborhood popular with many first generation Chinese Americans.

The number four is considered to be death in many Asian cultures. It makes me wonder why Muni didn't change the route number of the 44-O'Shaughnessy that passes through the Clement Street business district, and the route is popular with elderly Chinese Americans going to and from the Richmond district.

I don't understand why Muni decided to change the "9" series of express buses to the number "8."
  • In one point of view, I feel that since the line is heavily used by Chinese Americans and passes through Chinatown, that by switching the number to "8," you make the bus become "lucky." But wouldn't this just show that the public agency favors certain ethnic groups versus others?
  • In an other point of view, it may just be convenient for Muni to move the express buses away from the San Bruno bus lines that occupies the number "9" and the future "9L."
Let's be aware that Muni has no plans to increase service on the 9X on December 5th, and it is possible that changing it to a "lucky number" may actually increase the number of passengers packed into that bus, even if it is for a short hop to Market street. Interestingly, maybe the 30-Stockton and 45-Union/Stockton buses won't be as crowded (yeah right).

Lastly, why not reserve the number 8 for the former 8-Market bus line? That was there before the F-Market ran permanently on our city streets to provide service when the Muni metro was a big piece of poo (and still is today). I would love to see the resurrection of the 8-Market going to/from the Castro and Ferry Building because the F-Market has a reputation for being slow and delayed due to the heavy tourist usage along the Embarcadero.

Send me your thoughts by making a comment.