"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)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

TransLink to Clipper Card Transition Updates

It looks like the transition from TransLink to Clipper is on-track. Here's a few things I've noticed.

As seen in the photo above, Muni metro gates have the new blue color clipper branding. At this point, Muni has not installed the new fare gates that will replace the over two decade old ones that are still being used today.

On Muni vehicles, such as the metro, the vehicle card readers have been re-branded. The new logo has a sticker covering the old "T" logo used by TransLink, and the word Clipper has been placed over the TransLink name. The contractor doing the work has also removed the old yellow stickers telling people how to use the card and the old sticker residue.

BART is transitioning to Clipper, but you may still notice the fare gates still have the TransLink branding. I have noticed the quicker response of the TL cards on the gates on my most recent trip last night on BART to and from the Giants game.

If you use Commuter Check paper vouchers, you can claim them at Walgreens locations who agreed to do TransLink/Clipper transactions. The add value terminals they use have been upgraded so they don't have to feed the card into the slot, they place it on a sensor pad about the size of a brick. In many cases, you can do the TL/Clipper add value transaction at their photo center.

While the re-branding is supposed to be finished by June 16th, the official day Clipper replaces TransLink, not everything has been completed. I've noticed some of the downtown SF automated add value machines have not been upgraded with the new logo and the slot feeding reader being upgraded for non-gold chipped cards. Lastly, there's no official word on the opening of their in-person customer service center at Embarcadero Muni/BART, but funding has been designated by the MTC to open such a center.

(Photo of Clipper card from SFMTA)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Comparing SF Giants Dynamic Pricing and StubHub - Many can Save a Lot of Money

If you buy San Francisco Giants baseball tickets directly from the Giants, you may be paying more than what you bargained for. I've previously argued the new dynamic pricing system is flawed, and while the Giants has made an effort to keep their prices up-t0-date, it's highly likely you could get better prices and better seats by doing some research.

There are three types of Giants ticket buyers:
  1. Season ticket fans always get the best prices because they agree to buy a ticket to every home game and usually comes with the right to buy postseason tickets. Depending on where you want to sit, the per ticket price is typically lower or the same as the price for single tickets. See ticket pricing and map.
  2. Pre-season and early ticket buyers: Since the SF Giants now uses the dynamic pricing system to sell their tickets, once the ticket prices are released, it's generally the best time to buy single game tickets. In many cases, its likely the ticket prices will be raised as time progresses to game day. Review dynamic pricing list.
  3. "Fair weather fans:" If you are the type that decides to buy last minute or decide it's a beautiful day to attend a game, you are going to pay the highest ticket prices for a baseball game when buying direct from the SF Giants. If you were to purchase a ticket for this Saturday's game against the Diamondbacks, you will currently pay $34.00 for a view reserved infield seat. The starting price was $13.50, and the dynamic pricing system slowly raised it to $17 just a few weeks ago.

This blog entry is to help all you "fair weather fans" get a better deal in buying Giants tickets without screwing around with the rip-off dynamic pricing system.

So... what's my answer? Ticket scalping.

No, I'm not going to tell you to see one of those ticket scalpers across the street from the ballpark because people could sell their tickets to the scalper, but the ticket could be a fraud or voided thanks to the new barcode system on every ticket that allows a ticket holder to sell their tickets or transfer them to a friend electronically.

As some of you may know, Major League Baseball has allowed StubHub to be the official online marketplace for baseball ticket holders to sell their tickets, and for fans to buy seats at a steep discount. It's a popular choice for season ticket holders because if they can't make it to certain games, they can attempt to sell their ticket and make money off of it.

How can a "fair weather fan" score a great deal?
  • One big advantage of StubHub over buying tickets directly from the Giants is you can choose what specific section you want to sit in. It will also tell you the row and seat numbers too. Some ticket sellers also gives a description of the location, such as "behind home plate" or "near Kville."
  • Using your web browser's tab features, open a new tab for StubHub for the SF Giants, and a new tab for the Giants dynamic pricing page. (PC users: hold control and click; Mac users, hold the Apple key and click). Pick a game you are interested in with StubHub and start comparing tickets.
  • When comparing tickets, I recommend selecting a seating zone you may be interested in sitting in (e.g. left field bleachers, lower box, etc.). Based on what you select, compare the prices between the dynamic pricing list and what the ticket sellers are offering. In many cases, you will find tickets that costs LESS than what the SF Giants will sell to you, especially in the case if you are buying with less than week before the ballgame.
  • Lastly, when comparing tickets, don't forget to take into account the surcharges. StubHub will always charge a surcharge of about $4.95. If you buy direct from the Giants, either online or an official retail outlet such as a Dugout Store, you will pay about a 17% surcharge; you can get a ticket surcharge free by going to a ticket window at AT&T Park, the advance ticket window inside the park, or the Giants Dugout Store at AT&T Park. Remember, the dynamic pricing list changes frequently.

Let's try one, shall we? Here's the criteria:
  1. I want to buy a view reserved infield ticket to this Friday's game against the Diamondbacks (May 28th).
  2. The SF Giants dynamic pricing page tells me a ticket will cost me $22 each (not including surcharges). If I were to purchase online, one ticket with surcharges will cost me $25.75 (with free will call option).
  3. StubHub sellers are selling their view infield reserved tickets starting at $10 each. The e-ticket surcharge is $4.95 for a total of $14.95 a ticket. If I purchased two or more tickets, the e-ticket surcharge is a would not multiply by how many tickets I ordered, it's just one flat price. Two tickets would be a total of $24.95.
In the end, StubHub's ticket sellers can sell me two tickets for less than the price of one! If I went surcharge-free by visiting AT&T Park today and only bought one ticket, just an extra $2.20 would get me an extra ticket for the same ticketing zone.

A little bit of digging around can help you save lots of money. Now go spend the money you saved on some garlic fries and I'll see you at the game!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Congratulations to SF State's Class of 2010 - One Amazing Weekend

I wish to send my congratulations to the Class of 2010 at SF State. It has been one amazing weekend on the campus.

(A photo of me with The Chair of the Academic Senate, Shawn Whalen)

I volunteered at Commencement and it's great to see a sea of purple caps and gowns on the field with smiling students receiving their diploma covers from their college dean. Some of the more amusing moments at the event includes a student wearing a graduation type superhero costume, and someone wearing a neon green Teletubbies costume with the robe over it. It was also special to see the first graduating cohort of Doctoral students in Educational Leadership, and President Corrigan issuing honorary Bachelor degrees to representatives of family members who had to cut their educational career cut short due to the mass evacuation of Japanese Americans during World War II.

On Sunday was FilGrad, a graduation for Pilipino American graduating students who worked like crazy to raise all the money to rent the gym, the colorful programs, and the gifts. It was an honor for my Professor, Dan Begonia to invite all his former students to be on his drum corps to celebrate his retirement and to honor all the graduates.

Congratulations on your retirement and Emeritus status, my mentor. You earned it.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Are you SF Taxi Smart? How to Identify Real Ones vs. Fakes

San Francisco taxicabs are very regulated by the SFMTA's Taxicab Commission. I remember riding one of the many cabs in Las Vegas and the guy said, "you think we have it tough, San Francisco is just nuts!"

But I do respect our cab drivers for their speedy service at a premium price. I've depended on them to get me home from my senior prom nearly ten years ago, and those days when I had to get to SF State in a big hurry to turn in a term paper.

On Wednesday at my job at SF State, I noticed some unfamiliar taxicabs roaming around the SF State area called "City Yellow Cab." I noticed them a few times before while driving to SF State for the past few mornings, and I knew these cabs were not authorized to pick-up passengers within city limits. I gave a call to University Police, and five minutes later, pulled one of them over.

But there's so many cabs out there. You want to make sure that you get to your destination safely and the driver/cab company is insured in case of an accident. Also, by using legitimate cab companies, it covers the costs of the drivers paying to lease the vehicles and their livelihoods.

How can you identify an authorized SF Taxicab? The SFMTA gives three basic ways to ID, but I'll show you more ways to identify:
  1. On the rear sides and on the trunk of the vehicle, it must say "San Francisco Taxicab."
  2. There is a mini metal license plate near the front windshield, and the number must match the vehicle number located on multiple areas of the car.
  3. On the rear doors, there's a circular sticker issued by the city.
  4. All cab drivers must display their ID inside the cab.
  5. Inside the cab, there's a display mentioning the cost of the rides, and information if you need to file a complaint, and the policy about disputing a charge by ordering the cab to report to the nearest SF police station.
  6. There should be a security camera installed in all the cabs. Many cab companies put a "warning" sticker on their car doors.
How to identify illegal taxis:
  1. There's one easy way to identify: It does not say "San Francisco Taxicab." Some say "Taxicab" only, while others don't have that designation on their sides and rear.
  2. There's no circular sticker near the rear doors.
But don't forget folks, limos and other livery cars are not permitted to pick-up people on-demand. They are only allowed to take passengers when there is a pre-arranged appointment. You will frequently find these types of cars at major hotels around the city when the bellman will ask if you want a cab or a limo. Always ask for a taxi to be prevented from being ripped-off. The SFO airport also reminds visitors at baggage claim to never accept a ride from anyone soliciting; only go to the taxicab line or the airport shuttle areas.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Muni Driver Serves Justice to Pamphlet Thief

A pet peeve when I ride Muni is when passengers take more than one of the information pamphlets that are in the "take one" boxes on the buses.

A passenger on the 18-46th Avenue this morning took all of them from the front of the bus, and the ones in the middle of the bus. I was finally fed-up since this guy would snatch every single pamphlet, regardless of what information is on it, and it happened every single day.

I finally spoke up when he got near my seat and he was snatching the next batch. I told him not to take all of them, and the driver was paying attention to what I was saying to the guy. The passenger did what he usually did and moved to the back row of the bus. The driver yelled at the passenger to give them back saying "did you pay for those?" (as in, did your tax money pay for you to take them all?).

He drove a couple of blocks further looking in his mirror, pulled over and activated his emergency brake. He got out of his seat, went to the back of the bus and confiscated most of the pamphlets from him and put it back to the front of the bus.

JUSTICE SERVED! When I left the bus at my usual stop, I thanked him and told him that we needed more ass kicking Muni operators like him. He's not the usual driver I've known, but this is the first time I've been on the 18-46th Avenue since the May 8th cuts (I had jury duty, and drove to work the past few days).


My apologies to my RSS and e-mail subscribers for the empty blog posting called "Muni Driver Kicks." The keyboard is really sensitive and I hit the wrong keys to authorize a posting.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Should Schools on Field Trips be Riding Muni?

Good question for debate today: Should school field trips utilize Muni to get to their destinations?

To be honest, there are some occasions when it is acceptable for a group of school kids to ride Muni, but there are other occasions when it is totally unacceptable.
  • A proper occasion for school groups to ride the bus is during non-peak hours, on a non-trunk line (e.g. 3-Jackson, 2 Clement, 36-Teresita), and if possible, on a line that is not notorious for being crowded.
  • An improper occasion is the total opposite of what I just mentioned, especially during rush hour service when people need to arrive to work on-time.

The reason why I am asking this question is because I was a victim of a horrific Muni ride involving a school field trip.

During morning rush service on the 47-Van Ness starting at O'Farrell, I was waiting for the next arriving bus to take me to the Hall of Justice for jury service. I noticed behind the stop shelter about 60 to 80 school children and a dozen parent escorts from Rosa Parks Elementary sitting around waiting for the bus.

When the bus arrived, I was waiting at the curb so I can be one of the first to board. But instead, one of the parent escorts brought about 30 school children and basically pushed me out of the way so they can board first. Since I could not board the front door, even trying to board through the back door was impossible because the bus was totally full. I then waited for the next 47 bus to arrive several minutes later, and was able to board and sit, but was crammed in the back with all the remaining children and their parents. It took several minutes to board everyone and I was so frustrated that I yelled out to the entire bus: "Can we please go now, I have jury service at the Hall of Justice today, and they don't like people being late." One of the adults yelled back: "We're getting off at Caltrain." I nearly yelled out "shit!" but gotta remember there's kids on the bus.

The bus finally left, but it made it a real headache with the kids screaming every time the bus driver hit the gas and brake, and the regular passengers trying to swim through the little kids so they can get off the bus and get to work. By the time the bus arrived at the HOJ, I arrived 20 minutes later than expected if the kids didn't ride the line. I couldn't even get my cup of coffee because it was so close to the time I needed to show-up and avoid the long wait through the security screening.


With all due respects, I think the SF Unified School District should get involved with this when there are large groups of kids going on a field trip. Maybe they can contract with Muni to offer charter bus service and give so many bus "credits" per school, and the families of the students can pay extra if they don't have enough "credits" to get a bus. Another option would be just renting a district school bus; those vehicles only runs during morning rush and in the late afternoon.

I remember back in the day when I was kid in the district and the parents would do all the driving. Those were the days!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

SF State Commencement Getting Special Muni Service

If you have not been aware of this by now, starting May 17th will be the St. Francis Circle track project will start, and they will do some serious work to one of the most craziest intersections in all of San Francisco.

What's the best way to describe St. Francis Circle? It's a massive track switch point for the M-Ocean View and the K-Ingleside lines while there's cars zooming around in various directions; it is also infamous for the long signal waiting times, the longest in the city.

But more importantly, the project will be going on the entire summer and is expected to be finished sometime in the fall. This means Muni metro service on the M and K lines will be running bus service instead of rail. To review the project, click here.


Commencement at SF State will be on Saturday, May 22, and you might be assuming the M line will be running bus shuttles... well, you are half correct.

Here's the big news from the campus: The M-Ocean View line will run BOTH bus shuttles and rail service due to Commencement. There will also be additional service on the 28-19th Avenue bus line, which is also the main connector to service at Daly City BART. Tens of thousands of people will converge on SF State for one of the biggest days ever.

Here's the official notice from University Communications (via CampusMemo):

Public transportation information regarding special M-Line rail service for Commencement

Though the M-Line light rail service between West Portal Station and Balboa Park Station, both outbound and inbound, will be suspended and regular bus bridges added beginning May 17 as part of a construction project, the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agency (SFMTA) has made special arrangements to accommodate Commencement goers. In addition to providing regular weekend service, SFMTA will also provide the following on May 22:

M-Line Service: M-Line rail service will operate from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. between West Portal Station and Balboa Park Station. In addition, the M-Line bus substitution that is already scheduled to operate during the St. Francis Circle rail replacement project will remain in service. Thus, those wishing to reach the University via the M-Line can take either the light rail or dedicated M-Line buses.

28-Line Service: From 8:30 am to 5:30 p.m., MTA will provide supplemental service on the 28-Line bus, which provides service between the Daly City BART Station and SF State.


Helpful references & resources:
St. Francis Circle project information
SF State Commencement 2010 Information
SF State CampusMemo Information about special Muni service for Commencement
SF State's Golden Gate [X]Press article about transit service for Commencement
Akit's Complaint Department's personal tips to a great commencement (2009)

Congratulations to the Class of 2010!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Happy 400th Blog Post!

It's a happy moment for Akit's Complaint Department as this is my 400th blog entry.

A big thank you to all you loyal readers and the occasional visitors who have supported me with this blog as you have also contributed to efforts to change public policy.

I write a lot about San Francisco and make people aware of the news that no major news agency would cover. I highly support the efforts of citizen journalists and photographers, including those with no formal training (including me) to provide the news that people should read about.

A lot of my work focuses on policy changes and accountability. SF Appeal's Eve Batey stated that I am "everyone's favorite volunteer public policy consultant" and I believe that's the best way to describe me. I like expressing my opinions and provide ideas so that we can all live in a happier city and society. I enjoy making our government officials accountable for their work and doing the dirty work to find if there are some who are trying to pass things under the radar of the general public. One great example is when I found out the TransLink to Clipper conversion will cost $1.4 million, and it received major public exposure through KTVU (with no credit to my hard work) and SF Appeal (with credit).

There's a lot of times where my blog entries make policy changes, but I don't get any credit for the work; it's frustrating, yet I can still smile at the fact that I contributed in some form. I do appreciate those who have referenced my work and/or have gone more in-depth with their press credentials to ask the tough questions and get the answers.

Always remember, the citizens of San Francisco are the true owners of the city (thanks Greg Dewar). We may elect people to make changes to policies, but the all the people of the city pay their taxes, and through our right to vote, we can kick out politicians and make policy changes.

If you are ever interested in making policy changes, here's a chance to do it: VOTE.

If you haven't registered to vote, go do so. If it sounds too inconvenient to vote on election day in June, why not vote by mail? I'm a permanent absentee voter and simply dropping off my completed ballot on the way to work is much easier than waiting in lines or trying to find the nearest polling place.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Update: Akit's Efforts Pays Off with Upgraded SF Giants Dynamic Pricing List

If you recall a week ago, I mentioned on my blog that the SF Giants sells tickets on a dynamic pricing structure that sets ticket prices depending on many variables including giveaways, who is pitching, and how the team is doing. My primary argument is the pricing list they provided on their official website did not reflect actual ticket costs listed on their official ticket broker, Tickets.com.

I have been monitoring the dynamic pricing page ever since I posted my blog entry and there have been some changes to their website. The new dynamic pricing page is now current (prices on list reflect actual prices sold by Tickets.com), but also enhanced to remove the long list (every game posted) and now can be shown in smaller batches by month and by team opponent. Also, by moving your mouse cursor over the game, it will change color and make it easier to identify what section you may be interested in sitting in.

This is a good improvement, SF Giants management. Akit's Complaint Department is proud to help make policy changes.


Just a run down memory lane... remember when the SF Giants management banned fans to walk on the bleacher/arcade section's promenade unless if the ticket holder was seated in the bleachers or arcade areas? After my blog entry, they removed their incredibly stupid policy; now, I can get my "Crazy Crab" sandwich! Yum!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Muni Hates Commuter Benefits Users with Debit Cards

If you use a commuter benefits debit card like the Commuter Check Card, this may come to you as a surprise or maybe just a shrug, but I think you should be aware of it...

Just five days ago, the SFMTA decided to place a $2.50 surcharge for every time a customer purchases a Muni pass online.

That sucks, but I'm going to make it a lot worse...

Brittney Gilbert of Eye on Blogs reported in early March that SFMTA/Muni closed down their pass purchasing booth at Montgomery station, which was only one of two places in the city where people could buy a Muni monthly pass with a commuter benefits debit card. The other place to use a debit card was on SFMTA's online purchasing site.


This doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Muni closes down the ever popular sales booth at Montgomery while the only alternative is to purchase it online through the SFMTA web portal; plus, charge $2.50 for every purchase? Why is Muni screwing their customers who have a commuter benefits debit card?

What makes it worse is some people have no choice but to accept a commuter benefits debit card as their employer does not give them the option to take alternatives, such as a voucher, or a pass snail mailed to them.

I know what you are thinking... the alternative is to get a TransLink/Clipper card and use a debit card to purchase the pass either their automated machines or website (surcharge free). The bad part about this is there are some people who are not confident enough in the program, especially since I've been blogging about the reliability of the program.

Someone call the orderly, Muni has gone insane and needs to get some shock therapy!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Brief Update #2: Trip Planning for Muni Revised for Google Maps

Brief update for everyone:

This morning, Google Maps was not ready for Muni's May 8th (and beyond) service changes. However, I just checked, and the trip planner is now ready with the new bus/train schedules as long as you input a date on or after Saturday, May 8th.

This is good, I prefer Google Maps over 511's transit planner.

All we need now are the published time schedules. 511.org is not yet ready.

Update: Muni Service Changes Updated on 511 Trip Planner Only

With only three days until the service cuts to Muni, I've been putting on the pressure for Muni to post their time schedules and having the trip planning programs be updated in a timely manner. (Blog post #1 on April 22, and post #2 on May 2).

This morning, I found out the May 8th and beyond time schedules have been updated on 511.org's trip planner, a customizable transit planner that tells passengers the fastest route to the one with the least transfers.

Here's a sample:
511 - 18-46th Avenue Muni (Post 5/8 service changes)

The information I input into the trip planner:
  • Starting point: 33rd Avenue and Geary
  • Ending point: Lake Merced and Font
  • Date of travel: Monday, May 10, 2010
  • Start time of travel: 7:45 AM
The results as shown in the white box on the right shows the revised time schedule of 20 minute frequencies during weekday morning rush service:
  1. 7:58 AM
  2. 8:18 AM
  3. 8:38 AM
  4. 8:58 AM
Prior to May 8th's service changes, the 18-46th Avenue operated every 15 minutes during weekday morning rush service:
  1. 7:57 AM
  2. 8:12 AM
  3. 8:27 AM
  4. 8:42 AM
To compare the frequencies of the 18-46th Avenue and other lines prior to the May 8th changes and after, click here.

Although this is a start, 511 still has a responsibility to post the entire full bus/train schedules for Muni. The trip planner helps, but sometimes you may have to stay later at work or leave earlier than planned and the full time schedule helps a lot. Google Maps will not help plan transit service for users who choose a departure date of May 8th and beyond.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Update: Muni's May 8th Service Cuts - Schedules Still Not Posted

As I reported on April 22nd, Muni announced their "10%" service cuts to many of its bus and rail lines, but argued that new time schedules and trip planning programs (Google Maps and 511) was not updated with the new information.

With less than one week left before major service changes are put into effect, the new time schedules and trip planning programming updates are not done.
  • Time schedules: Muni refers everyone to 511.org where the time schedules are posted. At this current time, the time schedules have not been revised. To view a time schedule, use your address bar and type in: http://www.sfmta.com/ and after the slash, type in the bus line. For example: http://www.sfmta.com/18 and it will go automatically to 511's website for the 18-46th Avenue's bus schedule.
  • Trip planning: For customized trip planning on Muni, people depend on 511.org's trip planning program and Google Map's public transit option. Both work equally well, but they have their issues with the service changes on Muni. 511 will provide you the pre-May 8th schedule even if you designate a future travel date of May 8th or after. For Google Maps, asking the system for a date on or after May 8th will result in an error.
This is not good for Muni. People need to prepare with ample time for upcoming service cuts. People do not like waiting or standing at a bus stop longer than necessary, and many depend on a time schedule or accurate information provided by trip planning programs for the fastest way to get from point A to B.