"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)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

BREAKING: No More 25 Cent Surcharge on Muni Metro Paper Tickets

If you haven't heard the word, you are going to celebrate, just like Giants fans on sweeping the Arizona Diamondbacks...

There's no more 25 cent fee for Muni's Limited Use Tickets! Fresh from the Examiner, the fee is now waived for you lazy folks who doesn't want to buy a plastic Clipper card.

UPDATE: Clipper confirms this and it will be effective tomorrow (Friday, October 1, 2010)
UPDATE #2: Now official by the SFMTA/Muni.

Just a courtesy reminder: For you Bay Area residents, help save the earth by not getting paper Muni LUTs. Get yourself a plastic Clipper card for free with a minimum $2 added to the card. Here's a comparison...

Muni Limited Use Ticket:
  • Made of paper, not durable.
  • No fee to obtain.
  • Valid for only 90 days.
  • Can store up to two Muni rides.
  • Can purchase ticket to be valid for adults, and youth/senior/disabled.
  • Automatic transfers for Muni included.
  • Not valid on all other participating transit agencies accepting Clipper (Golden Gate, BART, Caltrain, & AC Transit).
  • Once lost, no replacement given.

Clipper Card:

  • Made of plastic, durable (to a certain limit).
  • No fee to obtain until June 2011.
  • Does not expire.
  • Can store up to $300 in e-cash, various e-passes, and e-ticket books.
  • Cards issued at vending machines and in-person retailers encoded for adults. Youth and seniors must apply, and disabled must go through RTC registration.
  • Automatic transfers, including inter-agency transfers honored.
  • Valid on all other participating transit agencies accepting Clipper (Golden Gate, BART, Caltrain, & AC Transit).
  • If card is lost and registered with Clipper, replacement and restoration of funds available.

Akit's Favorites at the Farmer's Markets

I'm steering away from the Muni and Clipper topics today to mention about my favorite foods at the farmer's markets I visit. If you have some of your own favorite farmer's market locations to chow down on some hot food and snacks, just leave me a comment.

Stonestown Farmer's Market
One of my favorite places to visit Sunday morning for a decent breakfast/brunch. They are open every Sunday from 9AM to 1PM and located in between Macy's and the movie theater.
  • One of the best value items I like to spend on is the dumplings booth where fresh dumplings are cooked (pan fried) and stuffed with cabbage & pork, chive & pork, or a vegetarian mix. Can't beat the price either: $2 for three dumplings.
  • Two vendors have been there the whole time since they opened, the Indian curry booth and the kettle corn booth. The curry booth has all kinds of curries and bakes their naans on-site; the kettle corn booth's smell of hot fresh popcorn just being made.
  • Honorable mention: A newer vendor sells gumbo. It's a little expensive at $7 a bowl, but the signature gumbo full of fried chicken and sausage is delicious. Perfect for a cold day!

Associated Students Farmer's Market (SF State)
Much smaller than Stonestown's, but they have something I love, waffles! Thursdays from 10AM to 3PM.
  • The Belgian waffle vendor is there every Thursday in his red trailer and they are delicious. There's only a few waffle vendors in the entire city, but the guy who runs this one at SF State makes the perfect waffle with toppings like whipped cream and Nutella. My co-workers thought I was crazy when I asked them if they wanted to get waffles with me (the price per waffle drops if you buy four or more), but once they took a bite, they loved it.
After typing this post, now I'm hungry!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ideas for Improving New Muni Gates & Ticket Machines

Now that the mass media hype is basically over with the crazed Muni gate controversy over the optical sensors giving free entry into Muni metro, it's time to focus on making improvements on the brand new equipment.

So here's my list of ways to improve the new Muni ticketing machines:
  1. There needs to be more of the self-service ticketing machines at the Powell station's main gates (west entrance).
  2. An easier interface or process would be helpful. I shouldn't have to press multiple buttons just to add $5 of Clipper e-cash to my card. Simplify man!
  3. They should be moved to a more prominent location. For example, the ones at Castro station should be relocated closer to the agent's booth. It may also be helpful to install one next to an agent's booth, and have a helpful sign pointing others to the other ones.
  4. How about express machines that takes credit only?
  5. Muni could also consider buying machines that can quickly sell a pre-loaded Clipper card and avoids the need for using the complex interface on the full service machines. The perfect equipment is those telephone card vending machines that requires exact change in bills.
I should mention, BART ticketing machines will eventually be able to load Clipper cards which will reduce demand on the Muni ticketing machines, but that's many months away.

Here's my ideas to improving the gates:
  1. Put stickers on the gate doors to tell people to walk through to exit.
  2. A helpful sticker or illustration on the gate to show people where to tag card. An arrow, perhaps?
  3. A cheap stand alone sign near the gates with illustrations on how to tag card or swipe paper pass.
  4. Faster opening doors.
  5. During certain hours, dedicate certain gates for entry only, and others for exit only.
  6. Make a different sound on the gates for a "bad" Clipper tag. Example: in Japan, they use a doorbell chime.
  7. Although not really an improvement, money could be made by placing advertising on the doors.
Got some ideas? Leave me a comment.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

BART to Muni Transfers are Clipper Only Starting October 4th

New news from the SFMTA/Muni folks, if you love your paper "BART to Muni" transfers you get when you exit the BART system and immediately transfer to Muni metro or the surface vehicles, you are not going to get them anymore starting October 4th.

On October 4th, instead of a paper transfer, all passengers will be required to use a Clipper card to receive their automatic 25 cent discount when transferring to Muni (within one hour) and their return trip to BART on Muni (within 24 hours).

Some basic rules about the transfer with Clipper: It must be the same plastic Clipper card you exited with BART to receive the discount to transfer to Muni and discount for the ride back. Any Muni pass on your card overrides the transfer.

The main reason for this is since the new fare gates are installed, the station agents can't give passengers the discount and the new ticketing machines have no way to accept the coupons. It's just another step to eliminate paper waste with the Clipper program, just like how Golden Gate Ferry stopped giving paper Muni transfers and converted to a Clipper only basis.

Muni's new policy is only effective on BART stations between Embaracadero and Balboa Park. Daly City passengers will still receive the paper yellow transfers for free rides on the 28 and 54 lines.

If you get a chance, get yourself one final paper souvenir/keepsake on October 3rd by riding BART. I know I will since I'm going to the last regular season Giants game that day.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Finally, Brighter News on Muni Fare Gate Problems

Last night, KTVU's 10PM news reported some good news on the progress to fix the new Muni gate problems.

One of the good parts of the news is the SFMTA will not pay for the fixing, it is the responsibility of the gate manufacturers, Cubic Transportation Systems. Hopefully the software fix the company is working on will help stop or heavily reduce the problem of simply waving their hand over the optical sensor.

If Cubic and Muni wants an easy way to solve the sensor problem, just add a button on each gate exit point. When a person wants to exit, they push the button and the gate opens for them. The distance between the gate doors and the end of the gate is too far to reach the button, so it's impossible to "buzz" yourself in.

For you critics who thinks tagging-out is the answer, that's just absolutely impossible. Muni drivers will still issue paper transfers, so how will those passengers exit the system?

Time for some common sense talk...
A random person was interviewed by the news agency and he is complaining that it takes three days to add value online.

Someone get me a hammer, I want to slam it on the common sense button that's buzzing loudly...

You are in a metro station being interviewed, and you bitch and moan about the 72 hour rule? Just feet away from you is a Muni ticketing machine that can add value to your Clipper card and it's available INSTANTLY. Oh, did I forget? They also accept credit cards, just like online.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Clipper Cards Now Free Until June 2011

In light of the controversy over Muni's new equipment that makes it easy to fare evade (a.k.a. "GateGate") and the controversial 25 cent fee for limited use tickets at metro vending machines, there's a bright spot in all this mess.

Remember when I told you there was an easy way to not pay the 25 cent surcharge?

If you haven't been reading my blog lately, here's a shortened version...

The new Muni ticketing machines at metro stations sell paper limited use tickets and plastic Clipper cards. The paper version costs 25 cents each to issue and has heavy restrictions on usage (Muni only, up to two rides stored, and expires in 90 days). The plastic Clipper cards, which has far few restrictions, are FREE as long as the customer adds a minimum $2 to the card, pass, or some other transit media.

UPDATE: Muni has waived the 25 cent surcharge. --End of Update--

But to make the pot of honey just a little bit sweeter...

Clipper cards are now free until JUNE 2011! I'm not kidding folks.

(Verified by KGO news and SF Gate's "City Insider")

Clipper's plan was to give out the adult cards for a limited time. All youth and senior cards is issued free of charge (permanently). I'd expect the freebie cards to end sometime in the next month or two, but this extension is quite exciting. Once the free adult card program ends, the fee to obtain a card will be $5.

Now that you have been informed, never buy a paper limited use ticket!
The plastic cards will continue to be sold at the machines for no surcharge for eight more months! If you are a citizen of the Bay Area, regardless if you ride transit daily or infrequently, why spend an extra quarter on a paper ticket when one plastic card will make-up its value in the long term?

Go ahead folks, tell your friends and those random tourists. Free cards for all!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Wanted for Misconduct & Fare Evasion: Muni Employee & Union Rep Should be Fired

Misconduct in the workplace is not a good thing, especially when your boss wants to grill your ass. You'd be lining up at the unemployment office while the clerk tells you have been denied for gross incompetence.

In my previous posting, I mentioned about a KRON news report showing how people can evade the new Muni metro gates with the movement of their hand. Yeah yeah yeah, just a way to break the law. I won't get into that morals crap right now, just a little bit later.

When watching the video, the person who really demonstrated in detail about how to break the law was a Muni employee, who is also a station agent union representative by the name of James O'Brien (photographed).

Mr. O'Brien violated the law, by demonstrating how to break the law TWICE:
  1. A violation of city law, article 7, section 7.2.101 (better known as Traffic Code 127) - Fare Evasion. Mr. O'Brien demonstrated twice, on video, how to evade fares. He did not tag his Clipper card, swipe a monthly pass, use a limited use ticket, or show his employee badge to the station agent. Even if he had a legal fare media in possession, he still walked into the metro system illegally.
  2. A violation of city law, Article 7, section 7.31 - Other Fare Evasion and Passenger Conduct Regulations; subsection "B" - Interfering with the turnstile or fare register. Mr. O'Brien also demonstrated, twice, on video, interfering with the proper operations of Muni turnstiles by waving his hand over it to enter the metro system illegally.
Let's count up his fines (as stated in Article 300, section 302 of the traffic code):
  • For fare evasion: He owes $75 for the first offense, and $250 for the second offense within a year.
  • For misconduct (tampering with gates): He owes $75 for the first offense, and $250 for the second offense within a year.
A grand total of: $650.00. Ka-ching!

So if you think getting caught on camera won't get you punishment, think again... Let's all remember, cameras that catch crooks in the act do get a nice ticket in the mail or arrested by cops in the near future. Red light cameras gets a nice fat ticket in the mail, 38-Geary Muni buses have cameras that catches people parked in the bus lanes on Geary and O'Farrell, and even this news report of Alameda County parking cops at a BART station taking photographs of cars parked in a bus stop if they can't issue the ticket in time.


Time for some good old "morals, honor and respect" talk:

Just being a Muni employee does not exclude you from breaking the law. I've called the cops at times when Muni buses blatantly ran the red light at dangerous intersections just so they can get a head start.

As Stanley Roberts of KRON 4 says: Mr. O'Brien demonstrated his law breaking talent and "who just happened to be present when the flaw was discovered." So basically, Mr. O'Brien did not get permission from the SFMTA to demonstrate this to the press (this is why there are PR departments who do this stuff), but he did anyway, and demonstrated to thousands of Bay Area residents on how to break the law.

My moral gut tells me, James O'Brien shouldn't have done that on video. By showing a Muni employee (also a union rep) demonstrating something illegal, in which others may follow is just plain wrong. Remember the saying, "monkey see, monkey do?" Yeah, well the king monkey (James O'Brien) just demonstrated to the chimps (the general public) how to break the law.

Let me get straight to the point: James O'Brien should get that $650 ticket, and have his ass face Nataniel Ford for firing. He ain't no whistle blower as he "happened to be present," there's a formal process to complain and receive legal protection status. As I stated before, there's a reason why Muni has a PR department, they handle talking to the press, not unauthorized people like James O'Brien.

There's some criticism that KRON should have not shown this report, as thousands of viewers will follow along and break the law. At the same time, exposing it to the mass media is a good thing as Muni's well... response time to issues is just outright slow. Kudos to KTVU's 10PM news for not demonstrating it on video, as they have a very high viewership and fare evasion will get even worse.

(Photos are screen captures from Stanley Robert's YouTube video footage)

Now There's a Way to Cheat New Muni Fare Gates - Who Cares?

Courtesy of Stanley Roberts of KRON channel 4 news, now there's a way to cheat the Muni fare gates and I could really not give much of a damn; but since I report on Clipper and the changes that comes forth, you the readers expect to learn about my point of view.

Here we go...

So some smart ass tells a news reporter how to cheat the new fare gates, and a union official that represents station agents also demonstrates to the news reporter just how easy it is to break the law (fare evasion). All you have to do is wave your hand over the sensors near the swing gates, and the doors open like magic for entry into Muni metro.

Am I surprised by this? Hell no.
Even before the new gates were installed, people can easily evade fares at metro stations, they just used the swing gates that was not alarmed or jumped the turnstiles.

Even with the new gates installed, there are still plenty of ways to abuse the system and gain free entry (other than the hand trick), such as tailgating (which happens on BART), or holding the gates open to let a friend in.


I don't know why Muni purchased the automatic door flaps for the system, it was a bad choice. Since Muni metro gates are supposed to be locked when entering the system (until a valid media is paid), and unlocked upon exiting, the hand cheating exploit makes it simple for someone to break the law.

The door flap system can only work if the gates acted exactly like BART's does, a ticket must be used for entry, and the same ticket used for exiting; no hand motion will open the gates.

But, if Muni decided to keep the brand new equipment and exchange the doors for turnstiles, the problem gets solved because the user cannot wave their hand as the gate won't magically unlock to gain entry.

The primary reasons why Muni bought the new gates is because:
  1. The coin slot turnstiles was getting really old. They are from when the metro system first started about 30 years ago.
  2. Maintenance is a serious pain in the ass for the old turnstiles. Look at BART, nearly a decade ago, their aging ticketing machines and gates was running on rubber bands, paper clips, and duct tape because replacement parts was not made anymore.
  3. With the mandatory switch from paper passes to Clipper cards, there's not enough of the old turnstiles with Clipper readers to meet the demand. Clipper could not install the card reader devices on the coin slot turnstiles and can only put them on the exit gates.

Even if Muni had no gates and just a red painted line saying you must have proper proof of payment to enter the system; you just don't blatantly break the law. I have a strong sense of good morals and I don't cheat Muni, even if I don't like the agency.

If you cheat, you will eventually pay with cold hard cash.

Do you know why there's no fare evasion in Japan? It's because they have a good sense of morals, honor and respect. People know that breaking the law and getting caught brings dishonor to themselves and their family, and the family is the most important factor to every person.

SF Traffic Code section 127 mentions the fines for fare evasion:
  • First offense: $75
  • Second offense within one year: $250
  • Third offense within one year: $500
So, for you who wants to try this stupid trick, is it really worth getting caught? As Muni says, please pay your "fare share."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Upper Great Highway Closed - No Reason Why from City Officials

UPDATE: SF Appeal reports it was pranksters who shut-down southbound Upper Great Highway. Thanks Eve! Hopefully, the city will confiscate the cones so nobody can pull this stunt again.

(Original posting)

If you commute on Upper Great Highway, you know the road can be closed for issues such as sand on the road due to high winds or a bad rainstorm flooding the intersections. More often, southbound between Lincoln and Sloat gets frequently shut-down because they are next to the beach, while northbound is closed less frequently because of the protection of the beach plants that keeps the sand off the roads.

The general rules the city follows during a closure in either direction is to lock the metal barricades that prevents vehicles from entering the road, and switch the signals at either Sloat (northbound) or Lincoln (southbound) to 4-way stop so drivers can turn away from the closure safely and use Lower Great Highway.

This morning, southbound Upper Great Highway was closed at Lincoln, but it's a little bit odd. The metal barricades was in the open position, and there was only a bunch of traffic cones blocking the entrance to the stretch. Also, the signal was still running on red-yellow-green cycle when it was supposed to be operating in 4-way stop. The signal problem alone forced four lanes of traffic to turn left into two lanes and raises the risk of a collision.

I called 311 this morning to find out information, and the lady on the phone could not find any information about why the road was shut-down. I soon after called the Taraval SFPD station to find out if they knew anything, and they are usually told by the city if that stretch of road is ever closed. The nice sergeant informed me an officer is going to take a look into what's going on.

After this little fiasco, there is only two reasons why this road closure happened with all the oddities:
  1. A prankster thought it was funny to shut down a major road.
  2. Incompetent city officials failing to lock the metal barriers, switch the signals to 4-way stop, and failure to inform the police.
Thanks for making me arrive late to my destination. Grumble...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Will Muni Paper Pass Vendors Convert to Clipper?

The October Muni "A" adult fast pass will be the last one issued in paper form, and starting in November, all "A" passes must be on Clipper. Starting next week, vendors will receive their last shipment of "A" passes to sell to customers several days before the new month.

This brings me to the question of the day: There are several dozen vendors around the city that sells the paper version of the "A" pass, but will they elect to sell Clipper media or will the SFMTA or Clipper even allow the paper pass vendor to get the specialized equipment?

A majority of the vendors around San Francisco that can conduct Clipper transactions are Walgreens locations. For paper passes, typically your nearby corner liquor store or your favorite grocery store may not be able to sell your favorite fast pass anymore.

If Muni or Clipper does not add more vendors at more convenient locations, will people panic that they can't get their pass? Like I mentioned earlier, online and phone ordering is a hassle with the annoying 72-hour waiting policy, this is why in-person vendors makes adding value and passes such a breeze.

One good example of a Muni pass vendor is my favorite senior services organization, Kimochi. Located in Japantown, they sell a lot of the senior passes at their nutrition [lunch] program, and it will definitely become more difficult coming in January when the paper pass is phased out for the blue card. Some of the big challenges includes helping the seniors apply for the senior version of the Clipper card, educating them on the rules and policies, and training the volunteers that collect the money for pass sales to be trained on the use of the equipment.

Sure, I think most adults are able to get prepared for the major Clipper transition, but I worry about the disabled, seniors and youth if they are ready for this big change. Disabled RTC cardholders are lucky, they already have pre-installed Clipper technology in their card, but seniors and youth needs to register for the card, in which the turnaround time could be a while with the influx of other applicants from AC Transit due to their pass transition for youth.

Time will tell folks. We'll see what happens.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

New Muni Metro Gates in Action (with Videos) & How to Beat the Surcharge

The new Muni metro gates and ticketing machines are now in use at the Powell station's main gates (west entrance) and things are not going as well as they planned. With only three ticketing machines issuing the new paper tickets, the lines were very long. When compared to BART, they have nearly a dozen; Muni needs to add a few more for this busy station.

Since it was too challenging to film while people are impatient after waiting ten minutes to buy a ticket, I went down to Civic Center station to try out the ticketing machines and gates, and make a couple of videos on how to use the new equipment.

As I mentioned before, the purchasing of each new "limited use ticket" or LUT costs 25 cents, valid only on Muni, and expires in 90 days. Since nobody likes to get nailed with fees, here's an easy way to avoid it:
  • The new ticketing machines can also issue plastic Clipper cards with NO SURCHARGE! Since Clipper is still doing the promotion to issue free cards to the general public, the machines will also give you a new card as long as you add a minimum of $2.
  • Instead of paying $2.25 for a paper ticket surcharge (25 cents) and one ride ($2), just follow the on-screen instructions to obtain a Clipper card with $2 balance, add $2 in cash to the machine, and you have a brand new reusable Clipper card that lasts longer than paper, won't expire in 90 days, and can be used on other agencies.

Let's watch a couple of brand new YouTube videos I produced about the new metro equipment.

How to use the new gates with paper Muni passes:

How to Add Clipper E-Cash using New Ticketing Machine:

Thursday, September 9, 2010

How Much is Your Clipper Card Worth? Just $2.11

Ever wondered, how much does it cost the MTC to buy new Clipper cards to distribute to the public? The answer is... $2.11 each.

This was discovered in the MTC's Operations Committee meeting agenda, and will be discussed tomorrow meeting at their hearing. (See Clipper contract PDF document)

In order for Clipper to meet the demand of the public with the plastic cards, the agency will need to order an additional 475,000 cards at a cost of $1,000,000 (one million dollars), including tax "in order to meet projected demand through FY 2010-11" and to keep a small reserve just in case of a spike in demand.

Strange, isn't it? Once Clipper ends their "free" distribution, people must pay $5 to get a card. I guess that extra $2.89 is the labor cost ($5 - $2.11 = $2.89).

Other Clipper related news from the Operations meeting agenda...
  • For the month of August, Clipper transactions per day exceeded 100,000.
  • Also, for the month of August, Muni is #1 when it comes to Clipper usage, followed closely by BART, AC Transit, and Golden Gate Transit/Ferry. Hmmm... where's Caltrain?
  • VTA and Samtrans has passed their "revenue ready" stage and should be ready to accept Clipper payment sometime this Fall.
  • Since Clipper cards have been given away since their debut on June 16th, the documents claim the free giveaways have resulted in distributing "several hundred thousand" of the cards.
  • Clipper intends to modify their free card giveaway policy: "...the program plans to adopt a new policy in September that will require customers to add a nominal amount of value when acquiring a new card; this policy is intended to discourage customers from unnecessarily acquiring multiple cards or otherwise misusing the cards."
  • Golden Gate Ferry is going to receive new fare gates and ticketing machines in the future as a way to automate their process. Exactly similar to what Muni is installing right now (including the paper limited use tickets), the MTC intends to spend $148,000 to procure the machines and wire it up.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Trying the New Muni Fare Gates & Ticketing Machines

During the next few weeks, Muni is installing the new fare gates and activating the ticketing machines. To give you a refresher, I mentioned in previous posts about what the new gates are like, and how the new limited use ticket works.

Just last week, the new gates and ticketing machines was activated at Civic Center station. The east entrance (primary agent booth) has half of their gates are new while the other half are turnstiles. However, the ticketing machines are not yet ready. The west entrance (secondary agent booth) has all brand new gates and ticketing machines active for usage.

Since I had to go see Wicked one last time before it was to leave the Orpheum forever, it was time to try out the brand new equipment. Here's a brief summary of my experience:
  1. When exiting the station, the swing gates are slow to identify you so it can open. You have to break your walking stride by stopping until the gates open.
  2. When entering the system, once you approach the gate you want to enter, the optical sensor notices your presence and asks you to tap your Clipper card.
  3. The ticketing machines work well, but when tagging your card to add value, you have to hold it on the sensor tag for a long period of time. Oddly, other transit agencies don't have that lag time with the exact machine from the same manufacturer.
  4. Strangely, the machines forces you to pick how much e-cash value you want to add (minimum $2). Old Clipper add value machines is just insert as many dollar bills as you want and that's your value. The new machines do have an edge, it can issue change while the Clipper machines won't.
  5. Users of paper passes can enter using the card swipe device. With your right hand, face the pass stripe down and to your left, and swipe the pass in a downward motion.
  6. While Muni transitions their old turnstiles for the new gates, if you use a Limited Use [paper] Ticket, at anytime you enter the station with turnstiles, the card must be tagged to the stationary reader next to the agent's booth. The turnstiles with Clipper readers won't accept them.
  7. For the love of god, please don't use the new emergency swing gates. The alarm sound is really really annoying.

Here's the time schedule for the installation and activation of the new gates (
as per SFMTA):
  • Civic Center: Already active since last week
  • Powell: Week of September 6th (this week)
  • Castro and Church: Week of September 13th
  • Embarcadero, Montgomery, and Forest Hill: Week of September 20th
  • West Portal and Van Ness: Week of September 27th
Basically, Muni expects to complete the transition by early October. In November, the transition of paper "A" passes and disabled stickers will be Clipper only.

Hopefully, Muni and Cubic (manufacturers of the gates and ticketing machines) can shake out the bugs for quicker responsiveness of the system.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The New Limited Use Muni Tickets

I mentioned before about Muni's new installation of fare gates and ticketing machines in their underground metro stations, and there's some new information out about the program.

Since the new fare gates will not accept cash, it will be similar to BART where passengers must buy their tickets at vending machines near the gate entrances.

The new tickets Muni will be providing are known as "Limited Use Muni Tickets." From some earlier news reports, it was supposed to be called the "Limited Use Ticket" or better known as the "LUT," but it's funny to note that someone might just add an "S" before "LUT."

The new paper tickets Muni will issue is Clipper compatible, but it has some awkward features that separates it from it's big brother, the Clipper card:
  1. The paper ticket is only valid for Muni.
  2. The cost of each paper ticket issued from the machine is a 25 cent surcharge.
  3. It can be replenished as many times a passenger wants, but there's a 90 day expiration from date ticket was issued.
  4. It is only sold by the ride, and only up to two rides can be purchased to the card.
  5. Once the ticket is encoded with either the adult price or the discount (youth/senior/disabled) price, it can't be converted to the different category when reloading card.
  6. 90 minute transfers are automatic.
If you want my recommendation, if you live in the Bay Area, just get a Clipper card. If you are just bringing friends or family from out of town, I'd suggest buying a Muni Passport. The paper ticket is more of a joke by charging a 25 cent surcharge; it's the similar feeling of being nickel and dimed for all the surcharges of buying a ballgame ticket.

Why not be a good citizen? Once you use up your paper ticket, just leave it nearby one of the ticket machines so that other person doesn't have to pay that annoying ass surcharge.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Update: Google Maps and Some of 511 Ready for Muni Changes this Saturday

Some good news from my last posting...

Google Maps transit planner now reflects new schedule changes as long as you tell the system a date on or after September 4, 2010.

However, 511's trip planner program still reflects the old schedule when I asked it to show me the time schedule for the 18-46th Avenue for my regular commute.

On the brighter end of 511, the Muni timetables are ready for the schedule changes. To view your bus schedule, type in: http://www.sfmta.com/ and include the bus line. Example: http://www.sfmta.com/18

The above time schedule from 511 shows the 18-46th Avenue weekday midday buses will run every 20 minutes instead of the current 25 minutes.

Whoo-hoo! But bad news for me, my bus will now arrive several minutes earlier. Rats.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

511 and Google Maps Not Ready for Next Week's Muni Service Changes

Starting this Saturday, Muni will be restoring some service prior to the last round of service cuts that happened in early May of this year. The SFMTA has published a paper version of the frequency schedule for the vehicles and there is also one posted online to view as well. Also, the better news is the restoration of metro service for the M-Ocean View and K-Ingleside lines beyond St. Francis Circle. This should be a big relief to those City College and SF State students who have suffered on the temporary bus substitutes.

While Muni can celebrate the restoration of service, there is one big elephant in the room that has not been resolved, a new published time schedule (not frequency schedule). Not all passengers ride trunk lines that comes every several minutes; I depend on a time schedule for the 18-46th Avenue because it currently runs on 20-25 minute frequencies and I want to minimize waiting, especially on cold or wet days.

Currently, Google Maps refuses to give passengers any transit directions help for dates on and after September 4th, and 511's Take Trip Planner is providing the old time schedules.

Here's how I conducted my trip planning search:
  • Starting point: 33rd Avenue and Geary
  • Ending point: Lake Merced and Font (SF State)
  • Bus line used: 18-46th Avenue
  • Date: Tuesday, September 7, 2010
  • Expected frequencies: 20 minutes all day (previously, 20 minutes during rush, and 25 minutes mid-day)

Here's proof:
Google Maps 18 Bus
This screen shot is from Google Maps. It is unable to give me data for my journey.

511 18 Bus2
This screen shot is from 511. It gave me 25 minute frequencies based on the schedule provided when Muni promised 20 minute frequencies for weekday mid-day service (starting 9/7/10).

511 18 Bus
Here's an easier to read frequency schedule based on using 511's trip planner. There was a link on the previous screen shot that opened a window describing the time schedule. The times provided shows a 25 minute frequency while the agency is supposed to provide 20 minute service starting next week.

This is the third time I caught Muni with their pants down. They did this stunt in December with their first round of service reductions and major re-routes, and again in May with their service cuts. Both Google Maps and 511 was not prepared for the time schedule changes until just days before the changes were to take into effect.