"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)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Muni Board Rejects Idea to Make Express Buses and Cable Cars a Premium Service

I just got back from my vacation in Las Vegas and I was looking at my Twitter messages while waiting for the plane at the airport and found something quite interesting...

It's really great to hear the SFMTA board has decided to reject their plan to only allow the more expensive $70 adult fast pass to access express buses and Cable Cars; thereby letting the $60 "M" pass holders to still have the right to ride the expresses to work, and the Cable Cars for fun. (Read my reaction to the first time Muni proposed even more restrictions on the "M" pass)

While the adult citizens rejoice about preserving their right to ride all Muni lines on a less expensive pass, one issue is not clear: During an SFMTA meeting, board members mentioned that there would also be a premium version of the senior, youth, and disabled passes that would also separate the right to ride certain lines. It is likely based on the news article, the SFMTA won't make a premium version for this group of citizens. On the sad part of this news, these three categories are still getting a pass hike soon and was OK'd by the Board of Supervisors months ago.

I've always thought it was a stupid idea to force peak hour express bus and Cable Car passengers to pay more for services. The cheap folks would decide to take the limited or regular bus lines (instead of the express) to save $120 a year in exchange for a longer commute; on the flip side is there would be massive overcrowding on the regular and limited lines. It was even more insulting the SFMTA management proposed for "M" pass passengers to pay the FULL FARE for express and Cable Cars instead of a small fee (say 25 cents for express and $2 for Cable Cars).

It's good to be back home! Just to mention: The Las Vegas transit system SUCKS. I waited 45 minutes for a bus on the strip and only one came by and I couldn't board because it was full. While waiting, I counted over a dozen going the other way. I finally gave up and took the damn monorail which is much faster but more expensive.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

SFMTA Customer Service Center Service Fees - I Refuse to Pay

I was taking a look at the Muni updates section of the SFMTA website and it states the following:

"Effective April 1, 2010, there is a $3 fee charged at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Customer Service Center for the following services:

-- paying parking and transit citations.
-- purchasing fare media (except Senior/Disabled Pilot Pass and Lifeline Pass).
-- purchasing Parking Cards.
-- enrolling in Project 20."

Great... another way to steal money from the public. In my opinion, this idea totally sucks.

There are very few places that actually has all the Muni media available in one place, and now they want to nail you with a $3 surcharge? The SFMTA customer service center is one of only a few places in the city that accepts COMMUTER CHECK VOUCHERS.

Let's also remember that if you purchase Muni token tickets with commuter vouchers (for those folks who don't need to use Muni every single day), you are definitely screwed. The SFMTA customer service center is the only place in the city that you can buy it, plus, you now get F***ED in the ass paying a $3 fee too.

It makes me curious... say I'm the manager of a summer camp of 50 kids, so now I'd have to pay an extra $150 in service fees just so I can buy the passes? No grocery store in the city would even be able to sell 50 passes of the same type; only the SFMTA customer service center has the stockpile.

This is your way to make more money? What a joke.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

BREAKING: TransLink Now Accepted on Muni Cable Cars (Passes Only)

A big step for TransLink to finally get away from being called a 'pilot' or a 'test!' TransLink cards are now accepted on San Francisco's cable cars!

Well... sort of...

All adult fast pass ("A"), Muni only ("M"), and discount passes (youth, senior, and disabled) are the only forms of TransLink media accepted on the cable cars. Passengers paying with electronic cash cannot ride at this time.

Whoo hoo! Who is going to be the first person?

FYI TransLink officials: Please fix your website to mention cable cars are OK with passes.

A little background:
Due to historic monument laws, Muni was unable to install TransLink devices on the cable car equipment, however conductors are permitted to carry card readers that is like a slightly bulky PDA. The readers are only set for "read only" and are unable to deduct out of the e-cash fund at this time. Muni has not made it official of when the "M" pass will be banned from cable cars, but for you cheapskates (like me), enjoy this moment while you still can.

Muni cannot technically be fully ready with TransLink until they do the following:
(1) Cable car conductors are able to deduct TransLink e-cash.
(2) Install card readers or have conductors use portable handheld TransLink readers on the "rare" fleet of F-Market streetcars (e.g. Boat Car, "Desire," and Melbourne).

Free Muni Rides for Golden Gate Ferry Passengers Ends Next Week

Sorry to tell you the the bad news Golden Gate Ferry passengers, your free rides on Muni is ending in a week.

For over a decade, Golden Gate Ferry passengers would get a two part transfer for a free ride on Muni to go away from the terminal (expired in 90 minutes) and one to return to the terminal (expired in 24 hours). It was an exceptional deal to get a free lift on Muni after paying about $4 (TransLink) or $8 in cash for a one-way ferry trip.

During the TransLink era, passengers who paid with their TL cards could decide to get the paper transfer or just use their TL card for their free ride away and back to the ferry terminal (e-transfer).

Starting April 1st, there will be two major things happening:
  1. The Muni transfer will not offer free rides. Instead, passengers will get a 50 cent discount away from the terminal, and 50 cents off for the return trip. (Seniors, youth, and disabled will get a 25 cent discount)
  2. No paper transfers will be issued from the terminal. A TransLink card is required to make the initial transaction with Golden Gate Ferry to be eligible for the discount transfer. A valid TransLink e-Muni pass will override the discount transfer.
Golden Gate Ferry passengers know they get a huge discount when using their TransLink card instead of paying cash, so do you have a card? Get a card at a retailer for a $5 fee (credited back if you register for autoload) or keep your eyes peeled for card giveaways at key locations within San Francisco. Next distribution will be at SF State this Thursday from 10:30AM to 2PM (I'm not sure exactly where, it's likely on 19th/Holloway or in the Student Center).

Monday, March 22, 2010

Remake of KTVU's "Bay Area People" Commercial?

If you lived here in the Bay Area since the 1980's, you should remember this video below...

That's right folks, it's the "Bay Area People" commercial that KTVU produced and something I consider to be a classic showing the brighter and happier days of our city and the Bay. Even if you have never seen this video, it should give you that warm and fuzzy feeling about our region.

The two decade old video shows a lady handling multiple dogs with many leashes, retired KTVU 10PM news reporters, Oakland Police, a couple at the Mel's Drive In at Lombard, a guy in a suit going to work in roller skates (yes, the classic kind), a lady with a flat tire with the 39-Coit bus passing by, a small dance crew at the port of Oakland, and an Asian lady with huge ass KTVU glasses. You can surely notice classic 80's stuff like the old Muni buses and the hairstyles.

I was thinking to myself, isn't it about time for KTVU to revive this old classic by keeping the classic "Bay Area People" song, but re-film all the video portions? For example, instead of the guy in classic roller skates, it's roller blades, and the lady with the "brick" cell phone is using an iPhone.

If you want to contact KTVU and ask them to remake the classic commercial, click here and you can decide to send it by snail mail, e-mail, or give them a call.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Is it Time to End SF's Recycling Centers?

I was thinking to myself, it is worthwhile for the City and County of San Francisco to have recycling centers at major grocery stores around the city? In my perspective, I believe it's time to end those centers for many reasons.

Regardless of any state or local laws that require recycling centers, just the sight of these centers makes me sick to my stomach because of the unsavory acts that happen.
  • Ever ride Muni and notice some stinky guy with two garbage bags full of aluminum cans and plastic bottles while the damn bag is leaking? It makes me question if the guy is a druggie trying to get some more cash to get high.
  • There are trucks that roam the city at night looking through your blue bins on the street (a.k.a. trash pickup day) to find valuable aluminum cans so they can haul it to their nearest recycling site and receive a wad of cash. But has the city really enforced it? No. But now with Newsom's new law about mandatory recycling and composting, we the garbage company customers can be financially penalized when it wasn't our damn fault since those "professional" thieves just rummage through the blue can and throw the newspapers into the black trash bin.
  • Let's also remember that people stealing out of our blue trash bins are also making our garbage rates go higher. Sunset Scavenger (a.k.a. "Recology") makes money on the items in the blue bins and passes on the savings into your service bill. My home recycles so much, we asked for a bigger blue bin than the standard size most city residents get.
  • I've always wondered just how these recyclers can really make that much money off of cans, bottles, and other stuff. I don't think spending an hour would make the city's minimum wage of about $10 (don't forget the new sick time laws and health care), so why not just find a real job?

I think the city should rethink about their options on recycling:
  1. Outright close all recycling centers and setup only ONE center down at the city dump. It makes people choose, throw it in their blue bin, or haul it all the way across town where Muni doesn't go nearby to visit the city dump?
  2. Instead of those shipping crate recycling centers, how about automated recycling vending machines? Here's a great example: Andronico's on Irving used to do recycling, but it wasn't some place to drop off a garbage bag and get it weighed. It was a place where there were three machines about the size of soda vending machines, and each machine was for each type of item (glass, plastic, and cans). The machine was made so that a user opens a door, inserts one bottle or can, and shuts the door to recycle the item, then repeat. For the person who just likes to get a few nickels and dimes for their soda drinking, sure, it was a fun thing to do. But... for those hardcore recyclers, it was a total pain in the ass because recycling more than 20 cans took FOREVER! Plus, you never got dollar bills or a check, it was just purely nickels, dimes, and quarters.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Akit's Injury Prone Weekend

It's Tuesday and I'm nursing a brand new foot injury. Crutches and plenty of Advil, I'm going to be limping for the next couple of weeks.

I thought I'd share with you my weekend adventures, which led to my foot injury.

It was an afternoon with the Asian American YouTube celebrities. They were part of a special panel discussing about the future of YouTube and hundreds of people were lined up in the rush line to see if they can score a ticket, but the event was sold out and seating in the theater was small. But still, it was really fun. The swarm was totally nuts after the event, with people outside the theater getting their photographs with all the celebs.

For more about the event, visit Wong Fu Production's blog.

2010 Asian American Film Festival: YouTube Legends
From left to right: Kevin Wu, Wong Fu Productions, Ryan Higa, and Timothy De La Ghetto.

It was a day at the Cow Palace (no, not the gun show) for some professional wrestling. WWE was in town for a non-televised show and getting into the facility sucked. There was only one entrance to get inside and the line was literally the length of two football fields while everyone is being screened by less than a dozen security guards.. The program wasn't even sold out with plenty of seats available, but many paid the minimum $40 charge to get seats like the ones I got below, which was so close to the action.

Oh yeah, tons of people drinking and throwing crap onto the ring.

In the end, I had to go to the hospital on Monday. My foot still hurts today...

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Bay Area Gas Tax or Fee to Benefit Public Transit?

We all know the facts about buying gasoline, we are practically the most expensive in the country. But we also know that Governator Arnold has been taking away tax money earned through the taxing of gasoline that was supposed to fund public transit, but instead been used to offset the state budget deficit. Because of the siphoning, transit agencies took a big hit on their funding source from the state.

An interesting article came from the Chronicle this morning about the local transit officials getting back their transit funding from the state, but what really struck me was a regional tax or fee dedicated to transit.

That sounds like an interesting concept. Add a few more cents per gallon to allow more funds to be dedicated solely to public transportation for our region only. Regardless if you buy gas in San Jose or Marin, you know that just a few pennies per gallon is helping to provide much needed public transit for everyone.

But... the MTC did say that there is a difference between a "tax" and "fee." In order for a tax to pass by voters, it needs at least a two-third majority, but if it's just a fee, it only needs a simple majority (50% plus one).

I think there should be some big restrictions to the money being raised: They should propose that this tax/fee can never be used for other purposes than public transportation. There will be no siphoning it to fix highways or bridges, just for the transit agencies. Maybe also make a rule that the money cannot be used to pay for salaries. Just because you get an extra several million dollars doesn't mean employees and unions can abuse that money to their advantage by demanding higher salaries, bonuses, or expensive overtime.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bad San Francisco DPW... Go to Time Out!

Since yesterday afternoon, the city closed down Upper Great Highway in both directions from Lincoln to Sloat. While I haven't heard any reasons why, it's likely due to the heavy winds from Sunday and Monday that caused the beach sand to pile up on the roadway. At this time, both directions are still shut down and most are taking Lower Great Highway.

As usual procedure, if DPW must shut down either direction (or both) of the Upper Great Highway portion, the city must always put Lincoln and Sloat on 4-way stop. They do this so drivers become aware of the steel barricades closing-off the road.

When the city fails to do their job and keeps the intersection signals on a three color cycle, it puts drivers at higher risk for collisions and cars making the left turn going west on Lincoln to go south on Upper Great Highway won't notice the barricade until it is too late (a huge blind spot).

I've warned the city multiple times of the dangers of not switching to 4-way stop when that road is closed, and it happened again. When it was closed yesterday afternoon, I called the DPT hotline and the call was forwarded to "public safety" where I informed the lady why I was calling and expected someone to fix it as soon as they can.

When I arrived at Great Highway & Lincoln at 8AM today, the signals were still running on three colors and many cars were running the red light to make the turn. I called DPT again and got someone from the signal shop to explain the issue. Even then, the guy didn't even believe me that both directions of Upper Great Highway was shut down and he said that DPW is responsible for fixing the signals in the event the road must be closed.

For the love of god, I've had to tell the city over a dozen times in just a year about this exact problem. This city government is an insult and there are no excuses for continuously screwing up.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Japanese Americans Interned during WWII to be Honored at SF State's Commencement 2010

This blog entry is dear to my heart and my cultural heritage. Japanese Americans who were forcefully sent to the internment camps during World War II and had their higher education disrupted, are eligible for an honorary degree from the University of California, California State University, or the Community College systems. If the person has passed away, a family representative is able to accept the honorary diploma on their behalf.

My alma mater and employer, SF State will be one of the select CSU campus honoring those students who had their lives disrupted by one of the most disturbing civil rights violations in modern United States history. Other CSU campuses holding ceremonies: Dominguez Hills, Fresno, San Diego, San Jose, and Cal Poly SLO.

Each campus honors those who currently live within their region or the closest to their current home; for SF State, they will honor those currently living in the Bay Area, even if the person attended a different CSU campus.

SFSU Commencement 2008 - Liberal Studies and Special Majors

For more information, please visit: SF State's Commencement page dedicated to the Nisei project - http://www.sfsu.edu/commencement/nisei.htm

If the student attended any CSU campus, please contact (562) 951-4723 or e-mail: nisei@calstate.edu

If the student attended a California Community College, or University of California campus, please review this info sheet (PDF) and contact the representative of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California.

My wish came true, SF State President Robert Corrigan and other CSU campuses will give the honorary degrees at their commencement ceremonies. SF State will host their 109th Commencement on May 22, 2010.

TransLink Cards are 3 Times Slower than EZ Rider on BART

TransLink cardholders, ever wondered why the BART gates are slow in responding to TL cards while others who use the EZ Rider card are getting speedy access?

I originally thought BART hated TransLink and just wanted to piss passengers off by slowing them down, but after doing some sleuthing around the web, I found this PDF document from the January 28, 2010 meeting of the BART board of directors. (Refer to pages 34-37)

TransLink admits
: "TransLink processing time meets the contractual fare gate throughput requirement of 30 customers per minute. However, the TransLink processing time is 3 times longer than the EZ Rider card, due to differences in the software architecture between the two card types..."

TransLink's suggested solution is to increase the power of the proximity sensor and it requires modifying the card readers. You may notice the new white card readers (photo sample from Twitter user) at places like Daly City and Embarcadero. The conversion and power increase is so the card readers are "more forgiving when a customer makes a less than ideal tag." They plan to complete this conversion within several months.

TransLink is also modifying the software in the BART gates so the processing time is reduced. This means a quicker tag of the card to gain entry to the system. Modifications started in February, another update in July, and final updates by September.

Things are looking brighter for TransLink. I hope these improvements will help.

Monday, March 8, 2010

TransLink (Clipper) Gate Installation for Muni and Cable Car Access

Thanks to a tip from Streetsblog San Francisco, new fare gates are being installed at the Civic Center Muni station. I took a couple of photos the changes being made on a Sunday (when they are not working) to show the future placement of the gates and their vending machines.

The new gates and RFID vending machines are being made by Cubic Transportation Systems. Cubic is the company who also made the Muni fare box for their vehicles, and the latest generation of BART fare gates and ticketing machines. Here's a sample of what the new Muni fare gates will look like (PDF document) and the vending machines (PDF document).

TransLink Construction at Civic Center Muni

What is known about the new fare gates and vending machines is it will be solely dependent on TransLink. The gates will surely accept TransLink media, but it is not clear if they will still accept the magnetic striped media of the paper passes. The vending machines should be able to do add value just like the current fleet of add value machines installed around all the Muni metro stations, and they will also be issuing "limited use" RFID cards made from paper from the vending machines so passengers can use the ticket to enter the metro and transfer to any Muni vehicle by tagging the ticket.

TransLink on Muni: The Future Gates

From my knowledge, there's no exact timeline of completion for this project, but I have e-mailed the SFMTA for more information and will update this blog posting as necessary.


Cable Cars are also getting prepared with TransLink technology as well. Since historic monument status means the city can't install the TL equipment on the Cable Cars, the conductors who collect the cash fares have been issued the handheld readers.

Just yesterday, I noticed a conductor having a PDA like device in a holster on his right side. I should have asked the guy to try it out on my card that has a monthly pass. Since Cable Cars are part of the "premium" services that an adult "A" fast pass will give unlimited access to (sorry "M" users), the card readers must be in operation no later than August 1, 2010 since the paper "A" passes will be eliminated in favor for TL/Clipper cards.

Cable Car #1

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Comments to Author of: "Burn Your TransLink Card"

I noticed on TweetDeck a blog entry titled "Burn your TransLink card" written by David Pollak, and it has been re-tweeted several times this evening. Since he did not allow any comments to be posted on his blog entry (but he has allowed on other entries on his blog), I'm going to post my comments on my blog as I am known to write very thorough opinions and commentary about the TransLink program.


First accusation: He states, without any links supporting it, "there are certain bus lines that will only accept the TransLink card during rush hour... you won't be able to ride the bus except with one..."

Akit's reaction: Since I monitor the meeting agenda and documents presented to the TransLink management group, there is no such policy where the TransLink card is mandatory to ride a bus or train line during rush hour, and would never be enforced today or ever in the future. People still have the right to pay for their transit rides in cash. Tourists and visitors will ride public buses and trains during rush hour, and they have the right to pay for their rides in cash.

You should revise that statement. The only agency requiring TransLink is AC Transit for Transbay bus service. Passengers who want to use a 31-day pass to go across the bay must use a TransLink card with a pass loaded onto it, but passengers who still wish to pay the $4 fare can do so in cash by utilizing the farebox. Muni also plans to transition their adult monthly fast pass to TL, but passengers still have the right to pay their fares in cash if they refuse a monthly pass.

Second accusation: David alleges that it is not appropriate to ask for a birth certificate to get issued youth TransLink cards. He states his children are kindergarten age (five years old). He continues to rant about privacy rights and the absurdity of the program requiring such information.

Akit's reaction
: I understand your frustration that your children, who are very young, need to have proof of identification before being issued a card. I'll also admit that the policies on issuing youth and senior cards are very lacking and not the most up-to-date on the TL website. With the transition from TL to Clipper, the website will definitely get a major update in the coming months.

As I understand the policy, in order for TransLink to issue a specially encoded youth card, the applicant must show proof that they are of the appropriate age, regardless if they are five or seventeen. Unlike adult cards that can be issued immediately at a vendor, a youth card must go through an additional process where TL will mail the card to the applicant.

The transit agency responsible for preparing the application for the card must also take a photo of the youth applicant. The reason why they must do this is because the card will be a personalized one with their photograph attached to it (as per AC Transit). In a situation where the person may be required to show proof of age, the TL card with the photo will be sufficient proof. This also can stop illegal activities with the card, such as passing on the discount to an adult, as a fare inspector or bus driver can look at the card and notice that it is not issued to that appropriate person.

Also, people with disabilities are issued an RTC discount card which informs the transit agency operator or ticketing agent that they are eligible for a discount fare without being questioned about their disability every single time. Their photograph is taken onto a card, and enables a passengers to either pay the discounted cash fare, get issued a disabled pass, or can use the encoded TransLink feature on the card to ride (PDF document). Disabled people who wants to get the discounted fare and TransLink rights have to go through this process and show documentation to get the card, so what's the difference of having people under 17 show proof of age when getting a specialized TL card and getting their photo taken?

Let me modify your complaints in this fashion: If your children are 16 years old and look like adults, would you still get upset that you would need to produce a birth certificate to get a youth encoded TL card?

Transit agencies who issue discount passes and allow discounted cash fares have the right to deny passengers to pay the discounted rate if they don't show proof of age. Sure, agencies rarely ever enforce this policy, but it's absolutely true. Muni fare inspectors have the right to check for proof of age if they believe a passenger is wrongfully using a senior fast pass; so the same goes for youth. TransLink is getting into the middle of the mess by issuing a transit card with their photograph to give them the proper rights to ride with a discounted fare or pass and the transit agency would not need to demand identification anymore.

The Peralta colleges also utilize the photographs to the card as well. Their EasyPass program allows full-time students to ride all AC Transit lines for a small per-semester fee, and the agreement between the Peralta colleges, AC Transit, and TransLink is to take the student's photograph and attach it to the TL card. The photo policy is similar to the youth card policy where only the card issuer who is receiving the discount, is the only person with the right to use the card (no sharing).

Next time, call TransLink to find out where you can register for a youth card. Some places do tabling at a major train station (schedule varies), while others requires passengers to visit their main headquarters.

I don't know what to say about privacy rights as I am not such a blogger to cover that field. The best I can suggest is to tell your kids to keep paying cash fares; it's the only way to be truly anonymous and not be "tracked."

Disclaimer: I don't work for TransLink or any other public transit agency.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Questions and Thoughts While Riding Muni

When riding Muni or just waiting for it, have you ever thought of these questions or said these statements?
  1. Why do passengers pull the "stop requested" cord while the metro train is in the subway?
  2. Also, why do passengers 'kick' the door handles on the metro train while it is in the subway and just arrived at a station?
  3. Do the emergency exit red handles on the windows actually work?
  4. When will Muni revise the mispronounced street names?
  5. Why do some people think the back doors automatically open when they don't read the sign that says "STEP DOWN TO OPEN DOORS?"
  6. Whose idea was it to make a shrill noise when someone touches the closing doors of a metro train?
  7. Can I actually fit into that metro seat that's next to the window and in front of the middle doors?
  8. If the fare box is not working and fare inspectors board the vehicle, what's next?
  9. Why did you pick your nose and eventually put your fingers on the pole?
  10. Is there a reason why someone has to clip their fingernails now, on the bus, when it can be done at home?
  11. I wonder what the lady next to me is talking about on the phone.
  12. Ding ding, "please exit through the rear doors." I GET IT! STOP TELLING ME THAT!
  13. I'm going to sneak a peek at that newspaper the guy is reading. Sale on shoes? I'm there!
  14. I don't need to be told every few minutes in three languages that the front seats are reserved for seniors and the disabled. Hell, I can lip sync every single Chinese word spoken.
  15. I wonder if I can get away with taking two transfers from the rubber band on the fare box when paying my fare.
  16. Hold the card steady dumbass while using that TransLink card.
  17. It's dark, I'm wearing a black jacket and dark pants. Should I wave my hand at the approaching bus I need?
  18. Shit, fare inspectors!
  19. If I lay a fart on the metro train and the air conditioner sucks that air in, will it spread to the rest of the train?
  20. If the station agent's booth says pay cash at other booth, why are the fare gates still allowing me to dump money into the box?
  21. Muni bio diesel... the bus passing by doesn't smell like french fries.
  22. Another delay? Where's my tax money going?
  23. 311 is telling me to call 511 to get bus arrival times and use the "stop ID #," so where the hell is the sticker telling me that?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Muni Transfer Debate... A Big Mess Every Time

Muni transfers have always been a center of debate when there's a budget crisis for the agency.

Transfers have been an important part of our city's transit system for many decades (even before I was born).

The last time Muni really took action on transfers is during the Frank Jordan era when transfers were completely eliminated (the POP system never existed back then) and riding from one part of town to the other and transferring would cost double or triple the regular fare. But... the city repealed the policy after the citizens got really ticked-off.

Just yesterday, the SFMTA was considering to charge a 50 cent fee for transfers. People were in panic on the comment boards on SFGate, but just hours later, an updated piece of news came out that the SFMTA decided to not charge for transfers.

But let's remember that the transfers debate could return at anytime. Muni could decide to put the issue back on the table by proposing a fee for transfers or completely eliminating them, but there are major consequences for charging or wiping-out those slips of paper.

Here's what would happen if Muni charged or eliminated transfers:
  • The "proof of payment" system is dead. Passengers now have the choice to pay the fare and not get a transfer; since that piece of paper is supposed to be a fare receipt, the fare inspectors cannot enforce the rules.
  • Illegal back door boarding (fare evasion) will get even worse since fare inspectors can't really do their primary job.
  • Passengers would sell their non-expired transfers to others (an illegal act) or give them away to someone else.
  • On the brighter end... those fare inspectors can actually enforce a major problem, rear door boarding should be stopped or they should check fares to allow back door boarding so the vehicle can leave faster.
But one thing definitely will happen in September 2011, say goodbye to paper transfers and hello to TransLink/Clipper.

Monday, March 1, 2010

An In-Depth Look Into Muni's 18-46th Avenue

The 18-46th Avenue is the line I take to get from my home in the Outer Richmond district to my job at SF State. I also took this line as a graduate and undergrad at State, and frequently took this line when going to City College (via the 29-Sunset). It was known as one of the best bus lines in the city, and was extremely desirable for the most senior Muni operators for the easy to drive route, happy passengers, and great views. For the passengers, this bus line was always on-time, reliable, and able to connect with many major lines heading towards downtown.

But after the major re-route on December 5, 2009, the line's reputation has gone down the gutter. I never see the same bus driver every single time, the on-time reliability has dropped drastically, and the morale of the passengers is really low.

Problem 1: It's not a community service route.
As you see on this weekday grid provided by Muni, the 18-46th Avenue is receiving the worst service reduction out of the rest of the lines. Service is being reduced from 20 minute frequencies to 30 minutes (mid-day weekday, weekday evenings, and all-day on Saturdays and Sundays).

Why is it the worst? Look at the mid-day weekday time changes: the 18 is going to be cut back 10 minutes while many other lines are only getting a cutback of an average of 3 minutes (5 minutes for the 33 and 37). Also, no other lines (other than the 18) are being reduced to 30 minute frequencies.

As you look at the grid, you will notice the lines currently operating mid-day with 30 minute frequencies are the lines considered "community service" and typically runs the 30-foot hybrid buses and specifically drive within a certain neighborhood or smaller zone versus buses that drive miles covering multiple neighborhoods/areas.

By doing a reduction in the 18's service to 30-minute frequencies, it's like turning the line into a "community service" line instead of it's true nature, a crosstown route like its brother, the 29-Sunset. How can Muni punish the 18? This line is the only lifeline serving the far west end of the city, and is the sole bus route route to access the Janet Pomeroy Center, Legion of Honor, and the apartments along John Muir Drive (southern end of Lake Merced).

It serves more than any community service route can ever do. This line stops at major stops like:
  • Stonestown, SF State, Lowell High, Janet Pomeroy center [for the disabled], SF Zoo, Ocean Beach, Beach Chalet, Safeway "at the Beach," Balboa business district, and Legion of Honor.
The crosstown bus line also has transfer connections to all these lines:
  • 1, 1AX, 5, 16X, 17, 23, 28, 28L, 29, 31, 31AX, 38, 38L, 38AX, 71, 71L, L, M, and N.
  • SF State Shuttle
Problem 2: Post December 5, 2009 reroute not helpful.
The 18 used to run along Geary and Point Lobos, and passed by the Cliff House. But after December 5th, Muni decided to run the 18 along Balboa and Cabrillo and remove the 38-Geary Ocean Beach. I've argued that it is a bad decision to eliminate the 38-Geary Ocean Beach branch and Muni should have eliminated the Fort Miley branch since the 38L (weekdays and Saturdays) and 38 (weekday evenings and Sundays) drops passengers just ONE BLOCK away from the hospital. If Muni just eliminated the Fort Miley route, there would be no reroutes for the 18 or the elimination of the 38-Geary Ocean Beach branch.

The 18 currently runs at 20 minute frequencies which is less than what the 38-Geary Ocean Beach branch ever operated, and when changing the 18's frequency to 30 minutes, the passengers will suffer greatly. Many have to ride the 18 so they can connect with the 5-Fulton, 38L-Geary Limited (faster ride to downtown vs. the 31-Balboa), and access to Chinatown via the 1-California.


Can someone tell me why Muni is targeting the 18-46th Avenue? I thought the re-routes were bad enough, but 30-minute frequencies just makes it worse.

When a Muni representative presented to the SFMTA Board the service cuts, the lady specifically targeted the 18-46th Avenue. I thought to myself, why target the 18? Why get on the microphone and do a P.R. stunt for shock value by saying the line will be getting cut to 30-minute frequencies (10 minute increase) while not comparing all the other routes that will only get a 3 to 5 minute increase to no more than 20 minute frequencies?

The 18-46th Avenue will receive a 33% cut in service. How can they claim a "10%" reduction?

Just today, I was reading NextBus and it showed the 18-46th Avenue was to arrive in 14 minutes and 44 minutes. There's supposed to be another one in 29 minutes (15 minute frequencies during rush hour). Reliable? Not anymore.

If this agency has a grudge against me, don't take it against the public who ride this line.

Do you like someone who can find huge mistake, expose it on the internet, get it re-tweeted to thousands of people in a matter of minutes, and change public policy? I've done it multiple times: Not posting new route schedules and failing to update trip planning programs just a week before changes, barely informing the public about a pass hike, ineffective fare inspectors, and Muni promised to accept "Muni to BART" transfers for the ride back from AT&T Park and I exposed them on video of them failing on their promise.

You will not let the 18-46th Avenue die. I won't let you do that without a fight.