"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)

Friday, May 29, 2009

SF Japantown Crisis Update #2: Meeting Dates Changed

After attending yesterday's (Thursday's) meeting which took nearly three hours longer than I expected, there was a good public comment turnout by the community with mixed reactions if the Japantown Better Neighborhood Plan should be endorsed or not. While it was an informational meeting and a vote could not be made, the reaction from the Commissioners shows serious doubt about the plan, especially the part about the future of the Japan Center (the malls).

Unfortunately, the next meeting with the SF Planning Commission has changed. Instead of holding it on June 4th, the next "informational" meeting will be held on June 18th at City Hall, Room 400, with a vote to see if it will be endorsed or not on June 25th (this one is the regularly scheduled date).

It looks like the staff who was hired to work on the J-Town plan didn't work out the official date to have the second "informational" meeting with the commission, and literally got caught with their pants down when the commission stonewalled them because it was not in the planned agenda. (And what a waste of money since the postcards they mailed out states the meeting next week).

Dang... getting to our agenda item yesterday took FOREVER. At least I brought my iPod and was able to get a tasty lunch in the cafeteria.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Serious Thoughts of Why SF Muni has Gone Down the Drain

I was born and raised in San Francisco. I remember riding Muni as a little kid with my late grandmother when the bus fare was just 85 cents for adults, 15 cents for seniors, and just a quarter for the kids. Back then, riding Muni was civilized, people respected each other, the buses were kept clean, and was usually on-time.

But being that I have lived in this city for over twenty years, I have seen a big shift with this public transit agency.

I feel this started about ten years back, Muni was starting on a landslide that they could never truly recover from. I felt this started with the infamous "Muni Meltdown" when the metro system's new automated train system failed miserably, the buses started doing no-shows and illegally skipping stops, and public opinion for the system was going down the drain faster than the P.R. people could fix.

But after all these years, have they recovered? Absolutely not. Things have been much worse. We have graffiti that is impossible to fully erase from inside the buses, the new metro trains break down frequently, passengers hate the fare inspectors, they are dirtier than before, and back door boarding is frequent on the major bus lines.

What happened to the decency when riding public transit? I still remember as a kid that nobody ever entered the back door, especially in areas like Chinatown, now notorious for passengers trying to get in and evade paying their fare. Why do people feel they have an obligation or right to enter the back doors of a transit vehicle when it is clearly not allowed?

I feel that back door boarding was too difficult on Muni with their older generation of buses. The back doors of the past were narrow enough to only let one person exit, or for the two passenger width exits, only one door on your side would open if you stood on the sensor pad; making it pointless to attempt to illegally enter the bus. Today's Muni buses now open both doors upon activating the back door, and it gives an opportunity for passengers to exit one lane while others illegally enter through the other. If Muni wants to buy new buses, they need to use the one door exit measure or be like the current hybrid fleet that has a door that's only wide enough for one passenger to exit at a time.

Interestingly, the most respectable people I find who ride Muni are the peak-hour express bus passengers. At Davis/Pine, they all make neat lines at the stops, everyone enters through the front door, doesn't graffiti or eat food, and keeps cell phone usage to a bare minimum.

Lastly, it never seems fair that the people who obey the rules and policies of Muni gets stiffed with higher fares and cuts to bus lines.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

We are Officially Screwed - Thanks SF Muni and SFMTA

Start the countdown you pissed off citizens...

The $2 bus fare is now official!

The Board of Supervisors did not have enough votes to reject the SFMTA budget (we were that close to giving the finger to Muni) and the first changes will happen at the start of the 2009-2010 fiscal year (July 1, 2009).

We know the fare hike will happen, but it's a little mysterious what and when bus line cuts and modifications will happen. July 1st? That might be a quick shocker to the public.

Strangely, while KPIX doesn't have any info about the official cuts/modifications to the bus and metro lines, SFAppeal reports that Muni "Kingpin" Nat Ford has found a way to increase service to the 14, 38, 44, 47, and 49 lines.

Based on what Nat Ford said... my blog has been targeting the elimination of the 38-Geary Ocean Beach branch; so what does this "increased service" do?
--Will it be a termination of the 38-Geary Ocean Beach branch and an increase in the 38-Geary Fort Miley branch?
--Or will it be the preservation of the 38-Geary Ocean Beach branch with no changes to the 18-46th Avenue?

I'm hoping for the second option.

Now the fare and pass hike is official, it's time for some action planning:
  • If you have Muni token tickets, don't buy anymore and start using whatever you have left.
  • If you use a commuter benefits program, talk to your HR representative or whoever handles that program and increase it so your voucher has enough to cover it. If you get a pass automatically in the mail, increase the deduction.
  • Lastly, if you are finally fed-up with dumping coins and dollar bills in the farebox, get your butt on Translink. They also accept commuter benefits programs!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

SF Japantown Crisis UPDATE: Planning Commission Meeting

I received another message from Paul Osaki, Executive Director of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California (JCCCNC):



You must act NOW! This Thursday, May 28, the San Francisco Planning Commission will hear the Better Neighborhood Plan for Japantown. If they move to endorse the plan, the plan will become final and done; we will NOT have another opportunity to revisit or re-do the plan for possibly another 20 years!

The plan was suppose to be an opportunity to preserve Japantown but rather contains increase height and land use recommendations that COULD negatively impact the future of our historic and cultural community. What was supposed to be a plan to preserve our community has turned out to be a road map for developers. OVER THE NEXT 20 YEARS WE WILL SEE JAPANTOWN REDEVELOPED AGAIN, BUT WITH LESS OPPORTUNITY FOR SMALL BUSINESSES TO COME BACK, LESS OPPORTUNITY FOR FAMILIES TO LIVE HERE AND MUCH LESS OF WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT JAPANTOWN.

All the historic and cultural preservation components of the plan were put off to be implemented later by a new (unspecified) organization, with no realistic plans or commitment for funding to implement the recommendations. There are no recommendations to preserve or improve the Japan Center, only increase height limits of up to 250 feet, which means if the Planning Commission endorses the plan, that the community and the City also endorses a teardown of the Japan Center. (A 40 YEAR OLD BUILDING IS NOT OLD, BY ANY BUILDING STANDARDS, BUILDINGS TWICE AS OLD ARE RENOVATED AND IMPROVED ALL OVER THE CITY)

By the City’s own costs analysis RENT for small businesses in the Japan Center will increase by over 100%. The Japan Center garage will close for 2 to 3 years, which would impact all of Japantown. The impact of this recommendation has never really been fully reviewed and debated by the community, small business owners and property owners.


JAPANTOWN deserves better, we deserve more, We deserve a chance to put a REAL plan together that can meet the original goals of preserving our community.


Please tell the Planning Commission TO ONLY RECEIVE THE PLAN AS A WORK IN PROGRESS, in this way the community can continue to work on the plan, improve the plan, understand the impact of the recommendations and have a plan that will better serve our community and its FUTURE!



The Planning Commission meets this Thursday, May 28, at CITY HALL Room 400, please be there by 2:30pm. (We are second on the agenda)

If you cannot attend the commission meeting PLEASE E-MAIL, FAX OR CALL THE PLANNING COMMISSIONERS.

Be sure to indicate your name, any affiliations that you might have, also if you are a youth, a parent, a property or business owner, a senior, community worker, a shopper etc ON THE E-MAIL, FAX OR PHONE CALL. If you have a story of why Japantown is important to you, even better, BUT MOST IMPORTANT IS THAT YOU DO NOT SUPPORT AN ENDORSEMENT AT THIS TIME.

ASK YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY TO ALSO E-MAIL THE PLANNING COMMISSIONERS. Post the information on your face book, MySpace or other blogs.

Ron Miguel, Commission President rm@well.com (415) 601-0708

Christina Olague, Vice-President c_olague@yahoo.com (415) 558-6615 x 6

Michael J. Antonini wordweaver21@aol.com (415) 558-6615 x 2

Gwyneth Borden plangsf@gmail.com (415) 367-3801

William L. Lee bill.lee@flysfo.com (415) 558-6615 x 4

Kathrin Moore mooreurban @speakeasy.net (415) 558-6615 x 5

Hisashi Sugaya hs.commish@yahoo.com (415) 558-6615 x 7

John Rahaim, Director of Planning John.Rahaim@sfgov.org (415) 558-6411, (415) 558-6409 fax

Friends of Japantown


SF JAPANTOWN PLAN: http://www.sfgov.org/site/planning_index.asp?id=57149

JAPANTOWN CHRONICLE ARTICLE: (See what over 250 people have to say about Japantown


“The Japantown Better Neighborhood Plan (BNP) sets forth a 20-year vision for the community and neighborhood. As the City continues to change and development pressures and the cost of living increases, the City’s leaders realize that it is critical that the cultural character and resources that make Japantown special be identified, maintained and enhanced. Japantown has been the cultural heart of the Japanese American community in San Francisco for over a century, serving a role that is unique to the city, region and country. (Excerpt from the Executive Summary of the, Vision for Japantown, BNP

“Our prize if we do our job well today, is a thriving Japantown for future generations to enjoy, learn from and participate in, our greatest gift that we can leave them is this plan that helps direct the foundation for that to happen”


Akit says: Get on your e-mail, phone, or whatever you can. Attend the meeting. SAVE JAPANTOWN.

Friday, May 22, 2009

SF State Commencement 2009 Helpful Tips

Are you planning to attend Commencement tomorrow at SF State University? It's time for some helpful tips from this two time graduate (M.A. and B.A.).

In General:
  • 2009 is a special year, especially for you locals who want to see a baseball legend; WILLIE MAYS!
  • 8,515 degrees will be awarded, another record for the university.
  • Come to campus really early. All campus food venues are open for breakfast.
  • If you park, do come early. The campus garage will fill-up.
  • Take public transportation if it is possible. The 18-46th Avenue, 17-ParkMerced, 28-19th Avenue, 29-Sunset, and M-Ocean View serves the campus. Samtrans passengers should take the 122 bus.
  • Tickets are required to attend. No ticket? Go online and watch the program.
  • Traffic will be a mess for a couple of hours after the event. If you drive, be prepared for delays and have alternate routes planned.

Graduating Students:
You have your purple cap and gown... so what happens?
  • Assuming the fog comes in tomorrow morning: Ladies, it is not recommended to wear high heels due to the grass on the field.
  • Tennis shoes works perfectly fine for everyone, and the official photographers don't shoot below your knees.
  • There's a decent amount of walking involved and that includes the field grass.
  • You'll sit for a good few hours, so bring along a bottle of water. In 2006, the TV media filmed a graduate playing with his PSP.
  • Some have left in the middle of the program and brought back a pizza or two.
  • Bring your camera! It may be the last time you'll see your friends.
  • When lining up, if you want to sit next to your friends or colleagues, remember to line up next to each other.
  • Leis and other flowers are sold around various parts of campus. Check Costco for flowers too.
Parents and visitors:
  • Bring a seat cushion with you. Stadium seating is on wooden benches or plastic folding chairs. Extra cushions are typically sold at the campus bookstore.
  • If you don't have a ticket, try the campus bookstore's wait list.
  • Be prepared for cold and warm weather. If the sun breaks out over Cox Stadium, the temperature will rise sharply.
  • Wear sunscreen.
  • Vendors around the stadium will sell beverages. Food and drink are available at nearby established locations, including the Student Center.
  • It will be a huge sea of purple out there, so trying to locate your graduate will be tough. Set-up a meeting spot before you split-up for the day.
It's a big day! Are you ready? Just smile and enjoy this moment forever.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

SF Japantown Crisis: City Proposes Teardown of Malls while Building Owner Suggests Refurbishing

I want to share this letter I just received from Paul Osaki, Executive Director of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California:


Hi Everyone,

I’m not sure how up to date you are on the Better Neighborhoods Plan for Japantown, but in my opinion it’s a complete disaster with regards to preserving our community. You can take a look at it for yourself at www.japantown.sfplanning.org

The plan is being fast tracked by the Planning Dept. First hearing is May 28, Second hearing is June 4 and the final is June 25. We just got the plan in the mail this weekend and are expected to respond to a very complex and difficult planning document next week.

For example it endorses the demolition of the Japan Center with new building heights of up to 250 feet. By the City’s own financial analysis all the businesses would be displaced for 2 to 3 years. If they wanted to come back their rents would increase by 100%. The new condos would cost upwards to a $1 million dollars. I fail to see how displacing all the small businesses is good for Japantown. Most of them would either have to close their doors or could never afford to return to Japantown. Ninety percent of those businesses would be gone.

What I don’t get is that 3D pulled out of any development of the malls, because it’s too costly, rather they have offered to help with renovations of the mall, so why are we trying to get the City to endorse a tear down of the Japan Center . Makes no sense.

The plan also calls for increasing the building height of the properties on the Buchanan Mall and the North side of Post Street to 55 feet. This more than doubles the current height of the existing buildings. What this means is that once the Nisei/Sansei property owners pass on or leave the property to their kids, once they sell it, a new developer will tear down the property so that they can build up to 55 feet. We would entirely lose the character and feeling of Japantown, because any building over 3 stories would have to be steel and concrete similar to the new J-POP building and the condos where the bowling alley once stood. How does this maintain the cultural character of the community?

The original intent of this plan was to preserve Japantown. If this plan passes, we all will be responsible for the lost of not just one building this time but an entire community.

Unfortunately, the usual folks in the community are in favor of plan. (I have attached their comments) I noticed the comments on the SFGATE website regarding the article on Japantown.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/05/12/MNMI17CUHQ.DTL&hw=japantown&sn=001&sc=1000 read the comments below the article.

It’s interesting that more people outside the community value what we have then we do at times. I hope that you will help those of us who still believe that our Japantown is a cultural treasure and is worth saving.

We got it once by the Federal government 67 years ago, by the State Redevelopment Plan 40 years ago, NOW by the City? It’s amazing how we started out, with the good intention of developing a plan to preserve our community and instead came up with a plan and I quote, “that is a road map for developers”.

Some San Francisco neighborhoods have had 7 or more years to develop their plans; Japantown is only being given 2 years. I believe that our community deserves more time to develop a better plan and will be asking the Planning Commission too not go forward with endorsing the plan, but rather to let the community fine tune the plan. There is no downside to waiting a year or two, there is no pressing development being planned given the economy, why the rush? I hope that you will come out speak up and support our efforts to preserve our community.

Let me know your thoughts.

Hope all is well.


  • Thursday, May 28 (Information Only)
  • Thursday, June 4 (Information Only)
  • Thursday, June 25 (Anticipated Endorsement of Plan)

The hearings begin at 1:30 p.m. in the Commission Chambers - Room 400, San Francisco City Hall , 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place . Check the Planning Commission calendar at sfplanning.org (under “Calendars”) as the dates get closer; calendars are subject to change.

The Japantown Historic Resource Survey Findings and the Context Statement to the Historic Preservation Commission on June 3, 2009 at 12:30am City Hall Room 400


Paul makes a good point here, why is the city fast tracking this proposal to tear-down Japantown's two major malls (Kintetsu and Miyako), and 3D Investments (the current property owner) admits that it would be too costly to rebuild, and instead can afford to refurbish?

Didn't the city learn a lesson from redevelopment 40 years ago? They learned that tearing down homes and rebuilding structures costs MUCH MORE than simply refurbishing the many Victorian homes. For more information about this, watch the PBS/KQED program "The Fillmore."

Paul also makes a good point about our local businesses. The mall tear-down will cause the businesses to relocate, or possibly decide to retire their business. There is no guarantee if they will even plan to return, and this means that our community may experience the next Chevy's or 7-11 evolution.

There are a bunch of people who think Japantown is dead, but when you come into the neighborhood for an evening dinner, you may not see a huge wad of people lingering around the main pathways in the mall; instead, nearly every seat is OCCUPIED in the restaurants.

In March 2006, I handed 16,235 signatures to Gavin Newsom's office concerning the sale of the key properties in our community. It's time to STAND-UP AGAIN AND FIGHT.

Monday, May 18, 2009

BART V.P. Fang Calls Translink "Obsolete" and spends $350,000 on Cell Phone Program

Thanks to Phil Matier and Andrew Ross in today's SF Chronicle, we now know how much BART has wasted on their cell phone RFID program...


Based on today's article, I thought Matier and Ross used some of my ideas (especially this posting), but Andy replied back and didn't even know about my blog. I wrote back saying "all great minds think alike."

Actually, thanks to those two, they have dug up even more information that I would never have the privilege to obtain. I don't have press credentials, so I always have to get information from either past experience or from my connections.

We now know that BART's Vice President James Fang was the one responsible for this cell phone program. He thought of the idea and got BART to play along, and he even dislikes the Translink program by calling it an obsolete program in the near future.

Oh really? Cell phone RFID has so many restrictions, from people being forced to be under contract with a cell phone company, buying specific programmed cell phones, and maybe a future 10% surcharge for just using this service. Translink is literally FREE (if you get automatic reloading; that waives the $5 card fee).

Octopus in Hong Kong started in 1997 and is now one of the most successful universal transit fare card programs in the WORLD. They are now 12 years old and the technology is not OBSOLETE. Not by a long shot. Plus, they use the original technology from ERG; same as Translink's.

Here is a list of what Octopus has done to stay away from being obsolete:
  • Subway companies upgrades their fare gates with the Octopus card reader pre-installed (old fare gates had an accessory kit installed).
  • Making mini sized cards for keychains, special watches, wristbands, and even cell phone covers with the chip installed.
  • Takes attendance at schools.
  • Decreases crowds waiting to enter at the gates, and quicker boarding on buses.
  • Buy food at many fast-food joints, bakeries, and convenience stores.
  • Expand their services into neighboring cities.
  • Vending machines.
  • Customized cards.
  • Pay taxi fares (under trial).
  • Transit fare discounts for using the card vs. a ticket.
  • Rewards/rebates/discounts at food vendors.
  • Sells a tourist card with preloaded funds and includes rides on the train to the airport.
Translink will follow in the footsteps of Octopus. It is the future of public transporation in San Francisco and the dream is coming a reality sooner than expected. Failure is not an option.

But failure is a definite option for BART VP Fang. How about you cancel your agreements with cell phone providers and refund the $350,000? BART has a huge budget deficit, and this money could be used to benefit BART in many ways, like getting rid of that blue carpet.

My comment is the "most recommended" at SFgate!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Weird E-mail Response from the SF Giants and AT&T Park

I want to share with you an e-mail I sent to the SF Giants/AT&T Park management about one of their new policies to inspect ticketholders to gain access to the main concourse that covers the bleacher and arcade sections (includes behind the main scoreboard). Here is my letter:

Dear AT&T Park Representative,

I attended last night's game (Friday, May 15, 2009) and I noticed at the pathway where the lower box and bleachers section is located, there were AT&T Park employees inspecting people's tickets to see if they were sitting in the bleacher and arcade sections. I am wondering, why did the ballpark enforce this policy? As I remember the original ballpark policy, any ticketholder, regardless of which section, is free to roam around the main pathways of the bleacher and arcade sections, including the "Build a Bear/Seal" workshop, Coca Cola Bottle, and the specialty vendors behind the scoreboard.

Here is their reply I just received today:

Thank you for writing.

Unfortunately the demographics and behaviors of the audience we have been entertaining at certain Giants games at AT&T Park are changing for the worse. In an attempt to regain control of our ballpark for all Giants games, and have a more family friendly environment, we have adopted several measures that taken singly have little effect, but taken together have had a significant mitigating influence in under age drinking of alcoholic beverages, and aggressive fan behavior. One segment of our program involves a more stringent gate search of packages and containers brought in by our guests.

The general policy is as follows:
Factory-sealed plastic bottles and soft-sided juice containers containing non-alcoholic beverages are allowed in AT&T Park . Unsealed plastic bottles and soft-sided containers will be subject to inspection and may be confiscated. Glass and metal cans are not permitted for any game. Alcoholic beverages are not permitted from outside the ballpark for any game.

For high profile games this policy is enforced as strictly as is reasonable from the point of view of the San Francisco Police, the California Alcohol Control Board, Major League Baseball, and the San Francisco Giants to prevent outside alcoholic beverages coming through our gates. The high profile game policy is in force for all Friday and Saturday night games, and a few other night games that because of the Giants opponent, and related fan behavior challenges we have historically encountered at these games we have labeled as “high profile night games” (i.e. the Dodger, Mets, Cubs, A’s).

I am happy to report AT&T Park remains one of a shrinking minority of Major League ballparks that continues welcome guests to carry in their own food and non-alcoholic beverages to baseball games.

Another segment of this effort is controlling the numbers of guests permitted onto the concourse above the bleachers and the Arcade by limiting it to folks who have tickets in those locations and parents with children who want to go to the Build-a-bear Store, and Coca Cola Fan Lot. This procedure is currently in place only for Friday and Saturday night games

Best regards,

Rick Mears
Vice President, Guest Services
San Francisco
Giants Baseball Club


This is an odd response from the management. It looks like Rick Mears copied and pasted a template letter and just added the last paragraph about access to the bleacher/arcade section (NOT PROFESSIONAL AT ALL). My e-mailed question didn't ask about the alcohol policy or "high profile" games, I just wanted to know about the main concourse walkway in the outfield areas. The reply should have just briefly stated the Friday/Saturday access policy, and I would have been satisfied with the answer.

For the alcohol policy: I questioned the Giants about it last year at this link.

And just to add a little gas to the fire, what's the policy for SRO (Standing Room Only) ticketholders on Friday and Saturday games? Nothing personal, but with a SRO ticket, the views suck in the lower box behind the last row of lower box seats. Plus, the ticket inspection policy doesn't really work when people enter the gate at McCovey Cove (like the ferry passengers) or claims to have their "family members" at Build a Bear.

Lastly: I don't support underage drinking, and this ballpark will continue to kill-off longstanding policies and privileges to their loving fans. You wonder why the ballpark is losing money, they only limit you to one BEER per visit; they used to allow you to buy two at a time. What's next? No more outside food? Amici's pizza and Starbucks is much better than some of the expensive stuff in the park.

Friday, May 15, 2009

$550 Million for a BART Oakland Airport People Mover?

$550 million, that's the approximate price tag from BART officials who just yesterday approved to start the bidding process for this massive project. This planned project is to link the Coliseum BART station with the Oakland airport with a people mover.

That sounds really expensive, and is it the right idea for this transit agency to invest this much money for this kind of service?

Let's take a look at the BART extension that connected the system to the San Francisco International Airport, that is right now a big failure. BART has built extra tracks to support the newest terminal stops at SFO and Millbrae, but they are so underutilized at this time that the tracks are being used as a defacto storage yard for trains. BART also trimmed train service to the area where many still end their route at Daly City, while only one dedicated line serves the airport (full-time) while two other lines switch around to serve Millbrae.

I still see passengers take the train to SFO, but not in the greater numbers the public would expect.

BART expects a huge boom in service by building a people mover to serve Oakland Airport, but is this a good investment? In my opinion, the answer is absolutely not. The current AirBART bus program works great and is really affordable.

One of the best "airport to train" people mover systems is the AirTrain program at JFK airport. They have trains that serves the terminals, but also have branch lines that reaches the New York Subway system (known as the best subway in the world), and the Long Island Railroad (the most heavily used commuter rail service in the USA). Their investment is totally worthwhile because the trains have to go longer distances to reach the heavily used network of subway and commuter rail, and the price cannot be beat. It only costs $5 to take the AirTrain and $2 to $5 for the subway or commuter rail to get into Manhattan. A taxicab costs at least $50 and even takes longer than just riding the train. The Port Authority may consider extending the AirTrain to Penn Station due to its huge success.

When comparing JFK to Oakland, it's a big difference. BART is quite expensive to ride on, and the BART Board wants you to also pay a $6 fee each-way to ride the people mover. For the price you pay, you might take advantage of the good rates on those shared ride vans like Super Shuttle or split a taxicab fare.

Here are my alternative options to save hundreds and millions of dollars:
  • Build a bus rapid transit line using existing streets. Signal priority lights can make the journey even faster. Look at AC Transit, their "rapid" lines are very successful.
  • If BART still wants a rail system linking the airport to the station, how about a monorail? Conventional rail and people movers make huge shadows and makes it look ugly. Monorails make smaller shadows and makes a smaller footprint. Plus, the rails and support beams can be fabricated at an off-site location and they simply dig a hole and plop it right in. Lastly, Monorails are extremely quiet because they use rubber tires instead of steel wheels. We all know what can happen to BART trains when they don't grind the rails (SCREEEECH!!!), so why not invest in a quiet monorail to not piss-off the neighbors? This is way cheaper.
Will someone please knock some common sense into the BART Board? And have them call Disneyland, they'll give you all the info you need.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

After the Muni Budget Deal - Fare Inspectors are Still a Major Waste of Taxpayer Money

In some developments last night, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved the revised budget for SF Muni. That means $2 cash fares, and the end or modification of many lines on the system.

This looks like the bad old days when Mayor Frank Jordan got hated upon for hiking fares and wiping out transfers. In just a matter of months, the fares were back to normal and transfers flowed freely once again.


But what caught my eye this morning while eating my breakfast at home: The Muni Fare Inspectors we all dislike.

In this CBS5/KPIX video, Phil Matier reports that Muni currently has a 46 member fare inspector force and wanted to hire an additional 47 more. After Muni did some deal making with the Board of Supervisors, Muni is now permitted to only hire 14 people.

So let me get this right, you are keeping the 46 people already hired and only cut back on hiring more people? Where does the keyword BUDGET come into mind for Muni? Muni should be doing a HIRING FREEZE on fare inspectors, not hiring more (regardless if it is a reduced number).

Even with 46 full-time fare inspectors right now, what a joke! They don't ride the buses, and all they do is monitor the metro system. 90% of their force are watching over the 9 subway stations and some of the outdoor platform stations. The remaining are typically at AT&T Park after the baseball games.

If Muni is deciding to cut bus lines that will impact the poor and the disabled, why the hell would you keep hiring more fare inspectors and retain your current staff?

Here's a short list of wasteful things our tax dollars spend on fare inspectors:
I've mentioned it many times, Muni does not need fare inspectors to work in pairs; or, If they really want to make a useful force in pairs, they need to lay-off at least half of their force and replenish the loss with people without ticket issuing authority and willing to work for a simple wage without benefits (college students are perfect). An inspection of a metro train does not require two ticket issuing people, just one person who writes the tickets and the other non-ticket issuing authority person who simply checks on people.

Let's do some simple math:
  • In one of my earlier postings, I calculated that an average each fare inspector writes in tickets is $9,844.64 in one year. Their annual salary is at least $30,000+ and does not include benefits. Actually, I was incorrect about their salary, they actually make between $52,000 and $64,000.
  • If Muni cut half of its force and hired low wage college students to be non-ticket writing inspectors, the average for ticket writing fare inspectors would likely double, making each dollar Muni spends on fare enforcement worthwhile.
We the citizens always joke about Muni on a daily basis, but we would not be joking around if Muni took themselves much more seriously than the crap we the passengers face every single day. If we hired a general manager or CEO with some real street smarts for less than what Nat Ford makes ($300,000+), we'd have a much better transit system with a much smaller deficit.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

$2 for Muni is Done, and Not Laying-Off Fare Inspectors?

Mornings on Two and SFgate reports that Muni has found a way to magically save $10.5 million from their original proposed cuts to the public transit service. The Board of Supervisors had the cards in their favor to possibly reject the SFMTA Board's proposal, but with some dealmaking behind closed doors, there is some glimmer of hope for Muni.

What sounds definite now after all this haggling at City Hall is we the passengers will still be paying the $2 adult cash fare effective July 1, 2009. For you people still carrying Muni token tickets, it's time to start frying them as fast as you can.

The adult fast pass will be raised to $55 on July 1st, and to $60 on January 1st (as originally proposed). Muni will terminate BART usage on January 1st, unless if passengers purchase the "premium" pass starting January 1st for an extra surcharge of $10.

On the really negative end...
SFMTA has agreed to increase parking enforcement hours that would normally end at 6PM and will now terminate at 8PM everyday. This is not a good thing for the local restaurants trying to stay afloat in this bad economy. Plus, will the meter maid's union agree to work this late? And just food for thought (sounds yummy!)... how much of a difference would 2 hours extra on the meter really make? Do the math: The number of meter maids on the street from 6PM to 8PM, multiply by two hours of their hourly wage, and subtract the revenue and extra maintenance costs on the meters (i.e. the change removal folks, battery replacement, etc.).

Route changes and cuts will still happen. SAVE THE 38-GEARY OCEAN BEACH BRANCH and DON'T CHANGE the 18-46th AVENUE.

Reducing the number of fare inspectors they were planning to hire. What kind of CRAP is this? How about don't hire any, and start laying-off half of that force? For the salary they make, they sure can't write enough tickets to make it a benefit to our city.

SFgate user ender_of_sf makes a good point about the fare inspectors:
"From what I've seen the fare inspectors are a joke. They roam in packs of two and three, and are more likely to be seen chatting together on Metro platforms (especially on rainy days) than issuing citations. It's not a bad concepts, but as usual with MUNI, poorly implemented."

SFgate user selwynator also makes a good argument:
"Wait a minute here.....how can NOT hiring more fare inspectors after this save MUNI money?"

This is a deal? Bull**** Board of Supervisors. I expected better.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Would you pay $1 for Water at a SF Restaurant?

It's the big $50,000, I meant $1 question... would you pay a restaurant $1 for a glass of water?

Maybe if you ate at the Millennium restaurant in San Francisco.

Michael Bauer of the SF Chronicle reports this particular restaurant charges a $1 fee for their water which is always free at any other San Francisco institution.

The restaurant claims they use a filtration system from the city's tap water line as a cost cutting measure due to the high priced of bottled water. They also mention that they do this surcharge because of the new San Francisco health plan law that requires employers to provide basic health coverage.

But really... FILTERED WATER? Is the restaurant owner just a total idiot? It is pointless to purchase a water filter for water in San Francisco. The Hetch Hetchy provides the best drinking water in the entire nation, and a local news station did a blind taste test with chilled water and people felt the municipal water tasted better than bottled.

Plus... tap water costs literally pennies a glass and the restaurant is literally taking a 700 to 1,000% markup on their "filtered water." What if I wanted non-filtered water? Would they still tack on the $1 surcharge? The answer from management: Either pay $1 for the filtered stuff or get NOTHING.

What a bunch of assholes!

You go to any restaurant and ask for water with your meal. No $1 surcharge there! Will people even eat at Millennium's? It's like going on an airplane and getting all the surcharges tacked on.

What is this? Some kind of frickin protest thought-up by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association against the San Francisco health plan law? You don't charge MONEY for TAP WATER! Filter my ass.

If a restaurant is financially hurting from the health plan policy, then there are two options:
  1. Raise the menu prices by 50 cents (assuming that a patron orders two menu items).

SF Muni Token Tickets - A Waste of Taxpayer Money

Muni tokens... when Muni notified the public of jumping the fare from $1.25 to $1.50, people realized they could take advantage of the Muni tokens because they were sold in ten coin packs that cost only $1.00 each. Since tokens were literally gone due to hoarding, Muni created "token tickets." These tickets were the equivalent price of an actual token, but made for passengers to carry a book of tickets and tear them as needed. To prevent hoarding with the tickets, an expiration date was established.

Today, Muni tokens (coins) are not in circulation, and token tickets are a permanent fixture. The token tickets are valued at exactly the regular cash price of riding Muni: $1.50 a ride, therefore there is no discount anymore. The only people who would purchase these are for convenience purposes (not worrying about having enough quarters), the city's social service agency, and transit benefits users to cash their check.

With the possibility of Muni raising the fare to $2.00 a ride (that's if the Board of Supervisors will kick Muni's ass to the ground or let the proposal pass), will Muni produce token tickets for the new fare structure?

With all due respect to Muni trying to save some money, what is the purpose of producing token tickets that have the equivalent value of the current adult cash fare? Muni could simply stop producing it and use Translink cards that have a stored cash value to ride transit.

It still meets the three target users:
  • Convenience: Instead of hassling with buying token books, one simple phone call, automatic loading, and automated Translink add-value machines makes it easy to add as much cash as needed (since today's token prices are the same as a regular cash fare). If you still love going in-person to get your fix, there are vendors all over the Bay Area.
  • Social services: The city's social services agency can obtain a Translink add value machine (similar to stores and restaurants who use a separate credit card machine) and add the appropriate value. This prevents people from trying to sell their tickets for money.
  • Pre-taxed transit checks: Can be claimed electronically or a physical check cashed at specific retailers with Translink uploading capabilities.
Plus, Muni saves a bundle by not printing them and mailing or assigning a person to deliver them to vendors around the city. Muni can also save money if their plan to sell "premium" fast passes with BART access goes through. Same concept with token tickets, don't print the "premium" pass and force people to use Translink. With BART onboard Translink in several weeks, it's just a no-brainer.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Translink on BART: One Step Even Closer

Thanks to tipster PDXtoSF in a recent posting, Translink is one step closer to being ready for BART usage!

A very recent press release from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) reports that Translink on BART is "revenue ready" for the major transit agency. I don't exactly know what this means, but it is a major milestone and a step forward to having our green colored transit cards access one of the biggest transit agencies in the entire Bay Area.

As for the timeline, the press release states it will be "several weeks" until Translink will be officially available for use, and that includes training all the station agents in the program. Once BART gives the A-OK and flips the switch to accept the Translink cards, BART will have 1,000 people be their official "soft launch" testers, but they will not deny access to anyone carrying the Translink card (just like Muni). However, be prepared for some failures and have a BART ticket with a little cash on hand to use.

The press release has failed to mention if they will create a separate "purse" if people want to buy high value tickets (with the bonus cash) that will be dedicated to BART rides only. We also don't know if BART will issue e-discount coupons if people transfer to AC Transit or Muni, and if the Muni pass on the Translink card will be honored for local rides within SF.

That will have to be debated later, but it's time to pop that cork of champagne, because Translink users will be riding in no-time!

Get your card NOW

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Paying BART with a Cell Phone? Translink DOES THE JOB

Fresh from the stupid files...

After reading an "Eye on Blogs" posting, I learned that BART is planning to allow certain cell phones to be allowed to open faregates on the the system. Also during a segment on today's "Mornings on Two" program, Ross McGowan was speaking to the head public relations man of BART about future train cars, and McGowan mentioned about cell phones acting as fare cards.

And I had to think to myself... RFID technology... don't we already have a planned solution coming soon for BART that will eliminate the use of the magnetic stripe tickets?


Oh my gosh, you wonder why BART is planning to raise fares and their deficit is so large. They can't realize that Translink on BART is coming within the next month, and in this PR statement from BART (yes, I said, FROM BART), they clearly admit the universal farecard will be coming very soon. Getting cell phone companies to play along with this costs plenty of money.

So why are they deciding to get cell phones to access BART faregates only? What is the purpose of that when a plastic RFID farecard will be able to not just access BART, but also Muni, AC Transit, Golden Gate Transit, and coming soon... Caltrain. And think about it, only select cell phones and select wireless phone companies will agree to participate in this program, but Translink is just a plastic card that anyone could carry in their wallet or purse.

I even questioned BART on one of my old postings about why this transit agency keeps pushing their EZ Rider card when Translink is just right over the horizon. I keep saying this over and over... BART needs to think smarter when it comes to spending money. Having cell phones and their own RFID card is a waste of their own time because Translink can do the same job of passengers accessing the system and many other transit agencies.

Look at Hong Kong, their Octopus Card is extremely successful. They use the same exact operating equipment and technology from Motorola ERG on Translink. The Octopus Card allows access to literally all public transit, pays for food and restaurants and convenience stores, and is even used to keep attendance at public schools. In Japan, RFID transit fare cards can even access vending machines. Some unique products RFID cards have made for the public includes a mini sized card that is perfect for keychains, a watch with the RFID chip, and special wallets and purses with a special sleeve to make easy contact with cardreaders.

Maybe in the future, Translink will make a special sticker chip that people can put underneath their cell phone battery cover so that your phone can now access all public transit. Take that BART, with your cell phones that can only access your own agency's gates.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

SF's Cherry Blossom to be Shortened to One Weekend?

This is nothing to cheer about...

Word from one of my inside sources in Japantown is that the Northern California Cherry Blossom may consider eliminating their first weekend of the festival in favor to keep their second weekend. They note that the higher rates from the SFMTA Board of Directors for street closures, increase in price to re-route Muni vehicles during parade day, and a higher price for Police Officers may be the demise of the festival.

Historically, the Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco's Japantown has operated on two weekends in April. Things started looking grim when the most recent festival this year was going to eliminate the Senior Appreciation Brunch program, a tradition with Cherry Blossom on the second weekend on parade day (Sunday). The committee claimed it was due to a lack of funding, but was eventually able to scrape enough money together to fund the brunch and the motorized Cable Car rental for the parade.

Some of you may be thinking that eliminating the first weekend is a good idea in order to save the festival. Also, I'm betting that jackass condo association president at 1600 Webster is dancing like a miner who found gold.

Unfortunately, in a community perspective, it's a TERRIBLE IDEA. The Cherry Blossom festival was created by the local merchant's association to boost business to the neighborhood, and for sure, this festival has helped the neighborhood's economy a lot.

For the community organizations, losing the first weekend is terrible! Many Japantown organizations rent space for the food fair on Webster Street and sell their yummy food. But it's not just the food, they make a ton in profits with their sales, and that is plenty to money to cover the space rental, permits (fire department and health inspector), and other associated costs of the festival. For example, one booth alone sold an average of 2,500 of their product in just one weekend with one weekend's sales totaling approximately $12,000 to $13,000. That's a lot of money for a community organization. This is the reason why the food booths during Cherry Blossom are for non-profit community organizations, they use the profits to help serve the Japantown community.

The Nihonmachi Street Fair in Japantown during August is a one weekend event, but is much smaller in scale and has a much smaller budget than Cherry Blossom. They fund raise in a very unique way by selling their food and/or beverages at Cherry Blossom, but they also have a special fundraising concert every year that stars one of Hawaii's top performers.

I'm not sure how Cherry Blossom can fund raise as uniquely as Nihonmachi Street Fair can, but the Cherry Blossom committee needs to be very careful in how much they charge for booth rental space on the streets. If they charge too much, vendors and organizations will steer away from paying the rent, even though they can likely recoup their losses through sales.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Updates to SFMTA/Muni Changes including cancellation of 38-Geary Ocean Beach branch

It turned out the Chronicle article did not mention a few things about the proposed changes from the SFMTA Board. So I'm going to revise the pricing changes:

Cash Fare
Adult goes from $1.50 to $2.00 on July 1st.
Discount goes from $0.50 to $0.75

Adult Fast Pass
From $45 (w/BART) to $50 on July 1 (w/BART), and to $60 on January 1 (w/out BART).
Fast passes will not include BART service for the new year.

Youth/Senior/Disabled Fast Pass
From $10 to $15 on July 1, and to $20 on January 1.

"Premium" Fast Pass with BART privileges:
Effective January 1, 2010: Adult is $70, and Discount is $30.
This is a new concept to allow all youth and elderly passengers to take advantage of a higher priced Muni pass to ride BART within San Francisco.
Good deal for youth because the age cut-off for the red colored BART ticket is much younger than the 18 year old age limit on Muni passes.

There are other fare changes including Muni passports, Paratransit, and Candlestick/Special Event service listed on the SFMTA's website (PDF document), but I won't list it here because us locals don't always use these services as heavily as the ones listed above.

The cancellation of the 38-Geary Ocean Beach branch:
The proposed elimination of the Ocean Beach branch of the 38-Geary line is going to cause serious problems and hardships to everyone who rides this branch, but also passengers who ride the 38 or 38L east of 33rd Avenue.
  1. Muni's website mentioned that they will replace the terminated Ocean Beach service with buses going from downtown to 33rd Avenue. Unfortunately, Muni is really stupid because that location has no 60 foot parking areas there to let the drivers take their break. They can't park where the 1-California is parked because the curbs are only as big to fit one bus (40 ft.), and people's garages are there. They can't increase service to Ft. Miley or 48th Avenue/Pt. Lobos because they are already at capacity. This could just mean Muni will just delete the Ocean Beach service and there will be less buses on the road, therefore meaning an even worse ride home.
  2. The 18-46th Avenue, a crosstown route (Legion of Honor to Stonestown/SFSU) will take the brunt of the 38-Geary's Ocean Beach branch route, but it leaves a very serious lack of service to the Cliff House, which as we all know has extremely steep hills, and we as a city have a responsibility to accommodate disabled passengers to access that area. The 18-46th Avenue bus line accomplishes this. Plus, 38-Geary passengers will get pissed that they will have to exit at 33rd avenue and wait 20 minutes for the 18-46th Avenue to transport them home on the Ocean Beach branch route. Plus, the elimination of the Cliff House route for the 18-46th Avenue will strain the already popular route with students, elderly, and the rest of the public because Muni will less than likely increase buses because of the much longer amount of time needed to drive the (soon to be) former Ocean Beach branch route that was operated by the 38.
I don't really get it these days. It costs MORE to get LESS service? Hell, I might as well drive to work more often than handle this bullshit. I think it's time for Muni Chief Nat Ford to take at least a 50K salary cut.

Friday, May 1, 2009

SF Muni to Cost Much More - Makes me Vomit

Muni doing some serious changes? I think I'm going to vomit. Let's take a look at the briefing from the Chronicle and I'll give you my up-chuck opinions about their idiotic ideas:

Cash fares:
Adult fare to be raised to $2 starting July 1st.
Senior/Youth fare to be raised to: 75 cents starting July 1st.
I don't like this very much, but as we all know, tons of transit agencies are jacking up fares. At least they won't sell 50 cent transfers.

Fast Pass:
Adult: $55 on July 1st and $60 on January 1st, 2010.
Youth, Senior, and Disabled: $20 on July 1st.
No word yet if Muni will sell a premium pass to cover expresses and BART.

Up 50 cents an hour with operation on holidays except the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's.
$2 an hour for parking? Holy crap! At least they won't enforce Sunday parking. Damn to the assholes who park on Irving Street for hours on Sundays. I have to drive around the block five times before even something opens up.

Muni bus cuts:
4, 7, 16X, 20, 26, 53, 74X, and 89.
Good riddance to the 74X CultureBus. The public knew that was a total waste. Boo to the end of the 89 Laguna Honda because that bus serves the very steep hills of the Laguna Honda Hospital. Who will foot the transit bill for people who can't take a car to the hospital? ADA reasons you Muni idiots. Cancelling the 16X is not a great idea, so where's the nearest express alternative? Nowhere near, unless if you want to get to Balboa for the 31AX or BX.

Can't Muni use their brain a little bit more? Translink works right now! I want to advocate for Translink by telling Muni that they should be getting on full public roll-out right now. Faster boarding, less cost on Muni to print transfers, less staff needed to count money from the fareboxes, lower maintenance costs on fareboxes, metro turnstiles, and metro ticket machines at outside platforms, and plenty more. So what's the damn delay Muni?

TWO HUGE Cruise Ships Docking in San Francisco TODAY

Good morning everyone!

KTVU's Mornings on 2 reports that two cruise ships will arrive in San Francisco today (May 1, 2009):
  • Royal Caribbean's "Mariner of the Seas" has already docked at Pier 35. KTVU reports they will depart at 8PM tonight.
  • Carnival Cruise Line's "Carnival Splendor" will dock today at approximately 1PM. KTVU reports they will depart at midnight tonight.
Be aware that Mariner of the Seas will return to San Francisco next Monday at around 8AM for their weekly planned trips. Some insiders say that Mariner of the Seas will travel weekly to San Francisco until June, but the company's website says they will do the weekly West Coast U.S. trips until the end of August. But some better news, if you want a seven day cruise on the West Coast, it starts at only $399 per passenger (double occupancy) for an inside cabin. Plus, Mariner of the Seas has a Royal Promenade, a well known feature on that cruise line's ships that is like walking in a big shopping mall (very high ceiling) with tons of shops.

So while all the major news agencies start catching on about the boom in tourism due to the H1N1 virus, Akit's Complaint Department beat them all, 12 HOURS EARLIER! I posted on Tuesday evening, the news caught on Wednesday morning.