"Akit is the man. He knows Clipper." (spenta)
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"Your blog is always on point, and well researched!" (Nina Decker)
"Everyone's favorite volunteer public policy consultant..." (Eve Batey, SF Appeal)
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(Empowered Follower)
"If anyone at City Hall wants to make public transit better for all San Franciscans, it would be wise to follow Akit religiously...
or, better yet, give him a job."
(Brock Keeling, SFist)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Local's Survival Guide to PGA Charles Schwab Golf Tournament at SF's Harding Park

The PGA Champions Tour is returning to San Francisco at Lake Merced's Harding Park golf course. I've read over the material and found out this event won't be as bad as other times where streets have been closed-off, certain areas turned into defacto parking lots for the rich and wealthy, and Muni lines were seriously re-routed. With much less traffic and transit restrictions, it looks like this might be a much lower profile event than the other two that snarled the area and made a lot of SF State students, faculty, and staff upset; one huge reason, a one day ticket is only $25, while the last two events charged at least double or triple.

Here's an easy guide to a smooth experience during this golf tourney (whether you are a local trying to get around or just wanting to see golfers wash their balls):

Event dates:
  • Held from Monday, November 1st, to Sunday, November 7th.
  • Monday and Tuesday is not for the general public.
  • Wednesday through Sunday is for the general public to access. Practice round is Wednesday, and tournament play is the remaining days.
Traffic Closures:
  • The SFMTA's ISCOTT meeting agenda states in item "R," Herbst road that services the Janet Pomeroy center, National Guard, and the delivery entrance for the SF Zoo will be closed from 6:30AM to 5:30PM each day.
  • This is the only noted road closure from the ISCOTT notes, thereby any other closures could be deemed illegal because only ISCOTT can approve city road closures (that is, unless there's an emergency).
Transit Changes:
  • Sanctioned parking lots are located at the Stonestown Mall from Wednesday to Sunday, and SF State from Saturday to Sunday (see map).
  • Parking in the street might get tricky, especially with the heavy restrictions and time limits in the SF State area.
  • Don't park in the SF State garage until the weekend. Campus cops are watching, and you don't want to mess with thousands of students, staff, and faculty who uses the lot on a daily basis.
  • Do not park in Daly City BART to take advantage of the free shuttle. The BART lot is for passengers only and registering the car in the paid area of the station is REQUIRED. Abusing the system will result in a large fine and/or towing.
Transit options to event:
  • BART: Daly City station will have shuttles.
  • Muni: 29 Sunset provides service to the main gates near "Sunset Circle" (a.k.a. where Lake Merced Blvd. and Sunset Blvd. meets). L-Taraval is a walk to the main gates from the terminus stop at the Zoo. 18-46th Avenue passengers should exit at Sloat and Skyline and walk to main gates. 23-Monterey passengers should exit at Sunset Blvd and walk.
  • Bike: Free bike racks at "Sunset Circle" main gates.
  • Taxi: Drop-off on Lake Merced between Sunset and Skyline.
  • See complete map.

Here's some local resident tips if you are just trying to avoid this train wreck:
  • Great Highway between Sloat and Skyline is now fully opened in both directions. This will ease the traffic that will happen due to the golf tourney along Skyline.
  • If you are commuting along the 18-46th Avenue and 29-Sunset, expect some delays due to traffic.
  • If you work for the SF Zoo or need access to the Janet Pomeroy center, hopefully they informed you about the road closure.
  • You might want to avoid the Sunset Circle area and the adjacent roads.
  • If you work or go to SF State, arrive a little earlier. If you depend on street parking, you should definitely get to campus much earlier if those golf spectator cheapskates steal all the parking.
Let's hope for a smooth golf tournament and minimal road or transit hassles.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

SamTrans to Officially Accept Clipper on February 14, 2011

SamTrans and VTA are the next two transit agencies preparing to accept Clipper and join the consortium of other major transit agencies in the Bay Area to have a one card system.

On November 3rd, the Citizens Advisory Committee for SamTrans will be approving their minutes of their previous meeting on October 6, 2010.

The minutes for the October meeting mentions a MTC/Clipper representative was present to provide a statement about the upcoming addition of Clipper to SamTrans and answer questions from the committee.

Here's the key dates for the inclusion of Clipper for public use:
  • Soft launch will start December 15th.
  • Hard launch will start February 14th.
The representative also mentioned, nearly all fare media will be available through Clipper; this includes e-cash, passes (adult, youth, and other eligible), and inter agency passes and transfers (e.g. Caltrain 2-zone or greater passes). Tokens and Redi-Wheels will not change.

Isn't that great? Clipper accepted on Valentines day. Bring your partner for a heartwarming ride around San Mateo County on the blue card that makes it easy. Don't forget roses!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Best Comment of the Day: Muni Paper Pass to Clipper Transition

The media is once again pouncing on the news about the upcoming big switch from Muni paper passes to Clipper only passes. The media will do their usual crap, say it's some kind of panic, then a few days later, no news. Soon after, they'll say thousands don't have the Clipper card, while the truth is, people have been forewarned for many months the big day will come.

Some bright news, all Muni pass retailers will sell Clipper cards with the adult "A" pass pre-loaded on the card. However... they won't sell the cards again, which reminds people, find another vendor or automated machine to handle purchasing December's pass.

Since the media is having fun, so is the commentators. Here's the best comment of the day regarding the mandatory switch from paper passes to Clipper:

From the SF Examiner, by Fred Thompson:
"The complaints about language outreach are hilarious. Every other major metropolitan area uses a transit card similar to this, from London to NYC and there are never "language issues". The only reason people are complaining is now they wont be able to use ( and not pay for ) fake passes and get away with freebies under the guise of "cultural insensitivity" PC baloney."
Hmmm, makes me wonder how many people have fake fast passes and now realize that there's no way to fake an electronic fare card? Stop stealing from Muni and PAY UP.

Monday, October 25, 2010

BART Passengers to & from SFO Have Bad Manners

This photo just shows the poor manners of BART passengers by leaving their luggage on the train seats and not letting anyone else be allowed to sit on those seats.

I took this picture yesterday (Sunday) on the train heading towards San Francisco International Airport. The trains are a popular option for passengers going and leaving the airport on weekends as most of the seats are usually taken.

In other cases, I have found luggage hogging all the seats in the "quad" area, and on this same train where I took this photo, found a huge piece of luggage blocking the doorway.

Proper manners with luggage is to park your stuff in the open space where wheelchair passengers use or put them in your lap. Here's a photo of people doing it appropriately.

Want to see more photos of bad passengers hogging up space on the train with their luggage? Here's one, another one, oooh another one, and this one is the worst of the worst!

Isn't it Nice There's No Political Ads on SF's Lampposts?

In one week will be election day for California, and specifically in San Francisco. There's a lot of items for people to vote for, including a new Governor, school boards, BART board, judges, and of course, those crazy propositions ranging from pension plans to the state budget.

Other than the political junk mail (that goes straight into my recycle bin without reading it) and the bothersome phone calls from idiots saying "vote for me!" and "my rival is a scumbag," there's one bright spot in this upcoming elections.

That bright spot, there's no political ads posted on San Francisco's lampposts. Yeah, you know those ones that are bright in colors, full of stupid slogans, and makes it a total eyesore when driving.

Not long ago, those political ads polluted our thoroughfares of our streets, and every single lamppost on Geary Boulevard was crammed with things saying vote for this, and don't vote for that. There were people who had to park their fancy cherry picker trucks and block our streets to post this crud, and there were some random people deciding to cut down ads off the poles of candidates or propositions they didn't support.

Maybe those folks are getting the message, stop wasting your money on printing and wasting all that paper, and get a bunch of volunteer slaves to hound your ass on the phone and mail you garbage.

I am a permanent absentee voter; I vote immediately when I get the ballot, so you jackasses can leave me the fuck alone.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Caltrain Passengers with Clipper Can Now Buy Monthly Parking & Muni Passes

If you ride Caltrain and have a monthly or 8-ride loaded on your Clipper card, a new announcement from the folks at Clipper says it is possible to purchase a monthly parking permit through one of the self service ticketing machines. For those who have monthly Caltrain e-passes, it is now possible to purchase the Muni "sticker" from the Clipper program.


For parking, the process is as followed: A passenger must have a loaded monthly or 8-ride on their Clipper card & account, use the self service ticketing machine and follow the steps to purchase the monthly permit. The passenger must input their Clipper card's serial number during the transaction and will be verified by Clipper so the permit can be purchased. Payment methods accepted: Cash, credit, debit, and commuter benefit debit cards.

The old policy, shown on the brochure stated anyone that uses the parking permit program must still buy the old fashioned way with a paper monthly pass and getting their permit in the same transaction.


If you ride Caltrain and Muni on a regular basis, the inter agency benefit is Caltrain paper monthly pass users can purchase a Muni monthly pass sticker for just $55. Clipper has joined the bandwagon by allowing those with monthly Caltrain passes to purchase the combo package, but instead of a sticker, it will be electronically added to the user's card. The purchasing of the combo package should be done through the usual means: in-person vendor, online, phone, and Clipper automated vending machines.


Lastly, some other updates on Clipper and Caltrain:
  1. Eventually, the add value machines Clipper yanked out of the Muni metro stations will need to be installed at stations since the Caltrain ticketing machines are not likely to be upgraded to handle Clipper add value transactions.
  2. Inter agency transferring for Caltrain passengers with Clipper cards and at least a two zone or more pass still cannot get free rides on VTA and Samtrans . Until VTA and Samtrans are accepting Clipper, stick with the paper passes for now.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ending 25 Cent Fee for Muni Tickets Costs $2.13 Million Yearly

Inside A Temporary Clipper Pass

Since Friday, October 1st, the SFMTA stopped asking Muni metro patrons to pay a 25 cent surcharge per limited use ticket (LUT) issued by the new metro ticketing machines. This was a bright spot to many people as they complained the 25 cent fee was not fair, but I also argued the plastic Clipper cards issued by the same machines are given out with NO surcharge. To make it even sweeter, I reported the plastic Clipper cards will now be free until June 2011.

But have you ever thought, by Muni waiving the 25 cent fee to offset the re-loadable and reusable paper LUTs, the agency is falling into a deeper financial pit of financial doom?

In item #12 of yesterday's SFMTA Board of Directors meeting, the item is a request to continue the practice to waive the surcharges charged to the customers for the paper LUTs. There's some interesting facts which was discovered in the paperwork:
  1. It was originally conceived that the surcharge would be 25 cents and be raised to 50 cents starting with the 2012 fiscal year.
  2. Each card the SFMTA purchased was originally 35 cents each, however the cost to the agency for each card has dropped to 33 cents.
  3. The revenue generated by forcing passengers to pay the surcharge would be about $1.4 million for charging 25 cents, and $2.8 million by charging 50 cents.
The worst part: If the SFMTA continues the policy to not charge a fee for each LUT issued and if their request to get reimbursed is denied by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the agency will have to spend approximately $2.13 million a year on the paper RFID cards.

I'd hate to be devil's advocate, but while the locals are celebrating the waiver of the fee and Muni will go into financial turmoil, why in the hell would people pay a 25 cent surcharge every 90 days for a brand new LUT when Clipper cards are totally free and have much less restrictive policies than the LUTs? Muni could save tons of money if people refused to buy LUTs and just obtained a Clipper card because each card costs $2.11 and comes out of the MTC's budget, not SFMTA/Muni's. Also, by owning a Clipper card for at least 2 years and 3 months, you made up the $2.11 value of the card versus paying a 25 cent surcharge to Muni every 90 days/3 months.

Lastly, here's some fun math to demonstrate how much wasted paper is needed for the vending machines to sell LUTs:
  • Question: If it costs $2.13 million to supply the cards on a yearly basis, and they cost $0.33 each, how many cards does Muni buy per year?
  • Answer: 6,454,545 (or just 6.5 million) cards are issued per year. What a waste of paper!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

24 Questions and Thoughts While Riding BART

Have you ever thought of these questions or said these statements while waiting around or riding BART?
  1. It's the only seat left in the car and it has a stain. Should I take the seat?
  2. Why won't people move to the next car? It's crowded on this one, but the other one is empty.
  3. Can you please not board the train while people are exiting?
  4. Move to the right side of the escalator if you are going to stand, jackass.
  5. I don't want a foot on my ass, so get your feet off the seat.
  6. Your luggage is not a human body, get it off the seat.
  7. Please don't pick your nose and grab the pole after that.
  8. Eeew, clip your nails at home.
  9. If the sticker says on the doors are broken, don't stand there waiting for the door to open.
  10. Just because BART's tunnels now have cell phone service doesn't mean you can talk as loud as you can to compensate for the loud tunnel noise.
  11. What's in the news today? Let me look at the newspaper the person in front of me is reading.
  12. Thanks for breaking the train doors, dummy. Now I can't get to work on-time.
  13. You must be stupid to park your car in a bus only lane at Daly City BART so you can pick-up your wife. I'm hoping a Samtrans bus smashes your rear end.
  14. Did you bring a bike on BART? Good for you, healthy exercise. Just keep it off the escalators.
  15. Where's my hand sanitizer?
  16. Let's play... guess the mystery stain on the BART train's blue carpet!
  17. The first ever passenger on BART was Richard Nixon. Oh hell, he left a big fat curse on the agency because fares keep rising every few years.
  18. How soon will the passenger next to me go deaf? I can hear the music leaking out of the earphones while the train car is making loud noises in the tunnel.
  19. I just heard the word "ahhh," time to move to the next car because I think the person just farted.
  20. Good, there's no floor to ceiling poles on BART. All I need is crazy people doing terrible pole dancing.
  21. I know you enjoy drinking that soy nonfat latte with a shot of vanilla syrup and extra foam, but all I need is to get my dress pants stained.
  22. There's nothing worse than the vomit inducing smell of fast food french fries on the train.
  23. When BART fails, there's always AC Transit. Ha!!! Another round of AC service cuts coming soon.
  24. I don't need help with the ticketing machine Mr. Crazy Dude.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

One Thousand Supports Ike's Place to Open at SF State

Just after 5:30PM on Tuesday, Ike Shehadeh, owner of the famed Ike's Place, put out a major message to the world, he wants to open a location at San Francisco State University. It was a big surprise to me and my fellow colleagues on the campus.

It's not just the shock that Ike wants to open up on the campus, but the huge support of people wanting Ike and his famous dirty sauce to be there.

Someone created a Facebook page titled: "Bring Ike's Place to SFSU" and I thought it was cool to sign up since there was about 20 of my friends who "liked" the idea. Less than 12 hours later, over 250 also clicked on the "like" button in support. Nearly two days later, the fan page has over 1,000 supporters (at time of this posting, it's now 1,037).

Isn't it amazing? A guy whose luck was running out on his 16th Street location has been expanding his sandwich empire around the Peninsula, opening a location at Lime on Market, and now wants to be at my alma mater? I'm getting hungry!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What's Causing the Clipper Card Reader Meltdowns?

Beep beep beep beep beep (multiplied by several dozen times), but nobody is tagging their card... That's the sound of Clipper card readers on vehicles on a meltdown.

This was brought to my attention through a cell phone recording and was also featured on Muni Diaries around two weeks ago. Before you hit play on that video, you might want to turn down your speakers.

Even some people on Twitter are complaining of the readers going on meltdown. Here's one, and another. I've even noticed it myself when I was just leaving Embarcadero station from the ballgame and noticed some Muni employees staring at the N-Judah's card reader making those excessive beeping noises. It almost felt like the employee wanted to grab a baseball bat and take a swing at it.

It brings out an interesting question, why in the heck are the vehicle readers acting up on Muni? This is a totally new phenomenon that has only been happening for the past month.

If there are SFMTA/Muni and/or Clipper/MTC officials out there reading this, please comment back or e-mail me about why this is happening. I think the public has a right to know why these card readers are going nuts.

If you have your own story about the card readers melting down, leave me a comment. I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Update 12/9/10 - Problems still persist, even after a promised fix in November. Read story here. -- End of Update --

Monday, October 11, 2010

PSA: Are you Registered to Vote in California's November 2nd Elections?

Are you ready to vote in the November 2nd elections? It's one of the finest privileges a citizen of the United States is entitled to. We use the power of voting to elect people to office and pick if we approve or disapprove of propositions for items such as funding, capital projects, and our environment.

For this blog post, I won't take any sides and remain neutral.

I advise you to read the ballot measures carefully before saying "yes," "no," or not voting (abstaining). It is best to review each ballot item on the card/screen, then vote after reading all of them.
  • If you are not registered to vote, visit the California Secretary of State's website to register to vote. The last day to register is October 18th, and if mailed, must be postmarked by this date.
  • If you are registered to vote, but need to check your status, click here for a list of county government websites or the proper phone number to call.
  • If you are unable to vote in-person, consider voting early. An absentee ballot (vote by mail) is the easiest way. If you live in San Francisco and registered for an absentee ballot, you should have received yours; but if you did not choose an absentee ballot, use the local elections book's back page and mail it in to request for one. The best part, the city pays for the return postage!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Should the Clipper Card Get a Makeover?

With the end of the Muni "A" paper adult fast pass coming very quickly, many now have to get a blue colored Clipper card as their new buddy to carry with them for their rides.

Muni Diaries asked their readers for their thoughts of losing their colorful paper passes for the Clipper card, and I thought, wouldn't it be great if we could customize our Clipper cards?

It's an interesting concept to have your own customized Clipper card. Some credit card companies lets you upload a photo of your liking and it will be imprinted on your card. The Subway sandwich card can be ordered with whatever image you want to add with a nominal fee for the service.

People commenting on my suggestion on Muni Diaries said it would be a great fundraising idea if an organization bought a bulk of them, such as the SPCA. Clipper could also issue out limited edition cards for major occasions, just like how the Washington Metro system gave out limited edition Obama SmarTrip cards on inauguration day.

How about a kids art contest? The one picked as the best will be one of the new limited edition cards people can obtain and maybe as a fundraising tool to support local schools in the Bay Area.

Of course, the ultimate offer would allow people to put their own favorite images on their card for a fee. I could put my picture on it so people who steal my card will feel sorry for me.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Big Clipper Updates - Lots Happening in the Months Ahead

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission's Operations Committee is meeting this Friday at 9AM and much of their agenda is covering upcoming changes in the Clipper program.

It's my understanding the Clipper management board, manned by directors of the major transit agencies, has been not had any meetings after the conversion from TransLink to Clipper. Basically, the Operations Committee and a couple of other committees are de facto Clipper boards.

Here's some of the new info about the Clipper program:
  • For those of you who wants the BART high value discount tickets, but don't want to use the autoload program, you are in luck, BART is asking the MTC for it. There is no set deadline, but once implemented, you can purchase it as easily as buying your monthly passes and adding e-cash at vendors, machines, online, and by phone.
  • Cubic's customer service for Clipper "did not meet four of the 10 cardholder support performance requirements." They are trying to remedy the issues by increasing staffing and "other initiatives." The agenda document did not provide any helpful info into how the customer service portion is not meeting their goals.
  • We've been waiting for some in-person customer service centers and I'm happy to announce some great updates: There will be two in-person centers in San Francisco and one in Oakland. They claim to they "are about to commence work..."
  • By the end of the year, AC Transit 31-day passes and BART EZ Rider cards will be phased out.
  • Samtrans is expected to be ready to accept Clipper cards on December 15th.
  • VTA is expected to be ready to accept Clipper cards in February 2011.
  • Conversion of BART paper media (green and red discount tickets, and high value discount) should be completed by May 1, 2011.
  • Caltrain is planning to convert their 8-ride and monthly passes by January 31, 2011.
  • Muni is planning to convert their passports on June 30, 2011, and transfers by September 30, 2011. I don't really know how Muni is going to sort-out the conversion of all paper transfers to Clipper.

Cool fact: Did you know SFMTA/Muni sells 40,000 "A" passes every month? With less than 30 days until the mandatory switch from paper passes to Clipper cards, it's going to be a massive undertaking for a smooth transition. It's a big benefit for Muni because they will save thousands of dollars by not printing all those passes. I'll miss all those colorful passes throughout my life, but it's time to move into the future.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Newer Way to Evade the Muni Metro Gates

If you thought the Muni metro gate fiasco is over, think again. Muni is still working with Cubic to fix the existing problem of people using their hand to open a gate, but now there's another way to enter the system with much less effort.

Since many Muni metro stations have two booths, a primary booth manned all the time and a secondary booth normally during weekday rush hours and some weekends, the agency has instated a new policy:
  • Passengers with valid proof of payment, other than Clipper cards and paper magnetic stripe passes, can now enter the metro system by using the gate closest to the unmanned booth (sign shown in the photo). The gate is unlocked when a passenger walks towards it.
It's not a big shock to me, because it's just another way to evade the system, just like the swing gates were used during the 30+ year era of the turnstiles.

On one hand, it's another way to evade the system if you don't have valid proof of payment, but the other benefit is that if you have a pass or paper transfer not compatible with the gates, there's an easy way to enter the system than hauling your butt to the other set of gates.

Even if the booth is unmanned and there's fare inspectors nearby, they might not even notice those who are evading because they are not doing the hand trick over the sensor. Someone could act like they are tagging their Clipper card (using some non-RFID card) and enter the system, and it doesn't look suspect at all. The flipside of this is if a passenger with no intention of evading tags their card improperly and they walk through the gate doors that opens automatically (without the need to tag); the Clipper card is invalid (not tagged) and may get cited by an inspector for evasion during their journey or when exiting.

Here's the sign in full:
New Muni Metro Sign