"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, December 29, 2011

Even More Improvements on Powell Street Parklets

Powell Street Parklet Jaywalking Improvements 2

It's been a couple of weeks since my last blog entry. How's everyone doing? I hope you enjoyed your Christmas holiday with friends and family, and New Year's Eve is just around the corner; too bad I can't get a Beach Blanket Babylon ticket for Saturday's 10PM show (totally sold out), that would have been fun to watch and celebrate the new year.

Let's get on with a new blog entry today... how's the Powell Street parklets doing?

Things are turning out for the better after several months. The barriers separating the parklet from the road are not getting bent out of shape from people sitting on it, and it's being well maintained.

Has anyone tried the free wifi access that's being powered from the solar panels? I haven't.

Powell Street Parklet Jaywalking Improvements 1

The newest improvement they've done is place steel cables between the gaps in the parklets to prevent jaywalking. The trash can looking objects that holds plants wasn't doing a great job in preventing someone from jaywalking and getting hit by a Cable Car or car, so the new cables are doing the role. It's good they are using steel cables because the stuff that's keeping people from jaywalking from the Ocean Beach parking lot to the Beach Chalet keeps breaking and people risk their lives crossing a four lane road with vehicles going at 35 MPH.

Even then, jaywalking is still rampant on Powell Street because the parklets doesn't cover the entire blocks as they still need unloading/drop-off zones for deliveries and taxicabs for the hotels.

I'm proud my blog has forced the city to make essential upgrades to the Powell Street parklets in the name of safety, but I'm still disappointed it took them so long to do it.

To read the entire Powell Parklet saga: First blog entry, repair update, and second repair update.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Clipper Not Mandatory for BART Discounts - Paper Tickets Continue to be Sold After 12/31

BART Gate & Clipper Card

BART listened and they've done something pretty remarkable.

MTC and Clipper threatened BART that if they don't end all sales of blue, green, and red discount tickets by the end of this year, they will cut their funding. I argued the transition for adults was poorly thought out and hurts those with commuter benefits. And some people have told me the transit benefit maximum monthly limit is going back down from $230 to $120 a month, and for those who are required to link their commuter debit card to their Clipper card, it means more blocked Clipper cards for insufficient funds or a denied reload.

Since BART decided Clipper autoload was the only way to continue getting adult high value discounts (extra $2 in fare money for every $30), that made a lot of people grumpy, especially when there are no other options to load HVD value, such as paying in cash.

Good news, BART will continue selling all discount tickets after December 31st!

In a news release on December 8th, it says the following:
  • Red and green tickets will still be sold after December 31st at these "My Transit Plus" locations at: Embarcadero, Montgomery, Powell, Civic Center, Bayfair, Walnut Creek, Richmond, and Oakland Coliseum/Airport BART stations.
  • Red and green tickets will also continue be sold at SFO Airport and the main ticket window at Lake Merritt station.
  • Blue high value tickets will continue to be sold at the above listed "My Transit Plus," SFO Airport, and Lake Merritt ticket window.

To support BART's statement, Clipper's website also states the following:
"After December 31, High Value, Red and Green discount tickets won't be available at most retailers."

If you read that correctly, the keyword from Clipper is: "most," which means there will still be places in the Bay Area to buy all three types of discount tickets in paper/mag stripe form.

Akit's Opinion
The main reason why the high value blue, green, and red paper tickets will still be sold is because of tourists. Since getting a youth or senior card takes time, having the discount tickets will allow those who are eligible to access BART fairly with the proper discount.

By having the blue HVD tickets continue to be sold, this allows those who pays with cash or commuter paper vouchers to continue to buy their tickets without being forced accept Clipper as vendors don't accept paper vouchers in exchange for Clipper HVD, and the only method of paying is through autoload. It's exceptionally difficult for those who cannot obtain a commuter debit card to get the 6.26% discount they've been getting for years with paper vouchers.

It's time to celebrate! Akit's Complaint Department and people around the Bay Area cried out to BART, and they've done something positive.

Why are we Ignoring the Alleged SF Mayor Elections Fraud?

San Francisco Proposition B Fail

It's been a little over a month since the November elections day and we have a new mayor, but there's still a big dark cloud hovering over City Hall. Many of you may not have thought about it or just decided to ignore it after election day and all the ballots was counted up...

I'm going to stand up and ask the question RIGHT NOW:
What ever happened to the alleged voter fraud?

You've seen the video, you've read it on news sources like SFGate/Chronicle, Huffington Post, and SFist; and a lot of you were angry.


Here's the whole story: On Friday, October 21st, an "independent expenditure committee" that is supporting Ed Lee for Mayor, decided to set-up a makeshift area in the heart of Chinatown on Stockton Street. Video footage from SFGate and a detailed report from the Bay Citizen claims these volunteers shows the volunteers assisting the citizens fill out their ballots.

The committee claims they did not do anything illegal, while outside observers claims when the local press was watching what they were doing, the volunteers hid the ballots (hinting that a possible crime may be in progress), and a person claimed the volunteers was filling out the ballots for the citizens.

Another accusation was the completed and sealed absentee ballots was "then collected the marked ballots in plastic bags" (SF Appeal, October 24th).

A Lot of Questions to Ask
I'm deeply concerned and I think the people of this fine city should know, what, if anything has our local, state, or federal government has done to investigate this alleged voter fraud?

And why wasn't this fully investigated PRIOR to election day?

If you are familiar with elections laws and you look at the allegations of the independent committee doing these alleged law violations, here's what laws they may have broken:
  1. Having someone else (other than the registered voter), fill out the ballot without the voter explicitly saying what they want to vote for. Assisting someone to fill out a ballot when the voter says what they want to vote for and the voter verifies the ballot is totally legal; having someone vote for you (e.g. voting twice in one election) is illegal.
  2. Collecting absentee ballots in an improper manner. The envelope clearly states that only the voter or a member of the household can collect the ballot, and can mail it (prior to election day) or hand deliver it to a polling place. If the allegations are true, the independent committee should have never collected completed and sealed absentee ballots as they are not members of the voter's household.

Akit's Opinions
Even though I dislike Ed Lee as he was a replacement for Newsom (whom I also dislike), I need to make myself clear: Since this "independent expenditure committee" is not related to the [real] Ed Lee for Mayor campaign, I'm not painting a target on Ed Lee; only the fools stupid enough to pull such a stunt in public and in the middle of Chinatown.

Based on the number of votes for Ed Lee after the instant run-off process, voiding the ballots of the alleged ballot violations would unlikely change anything, but that still doesn't ignore the fact that a possible crime may have been committed.

If the government ignores election fraud allegations, it violates the integrity of the elections process because you let people slide away and possibly let it happen again in the future. Enforcement should be tough because voting is the only way any citizen, rich or poor, can change the way our city, state, and nation operates with a simple stroke of a pen.

The integrity is what gains the trust of the people. The California Lottery does random stings to see if their retailers are trustworthy because if you didn't know you had a winning $1,000 ticket and the retailer says you didn't in the name of greed, would you trust the state lottery when you found out the retailer was eventually arrested for grand theft? The same goes with elections fraud: if people are breaking the rules, people won't trust voting; that's one of our most sacred rights in our Constitution today.

When I read the news stories from various news sources, I felt the allegations was extremely troubling. My comments on SFGate and SFist was very clear: regardless if it is declared legal or illegal of what the committee did, it was purely immoral and unethical. If someone is out on the streets to help people fill in their ballots in a legal manner, it shouldn't be a volunteer that is supporting a specific candidate or pro/negative proposition, it should be someone NEUTRAL.

I've made my point. People of San Francisco, it's time to speak up and demand your government for answers on the alleged voter fraud.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Riding a Bike at Night: Use Some Common Sense

Bicyclist on Twin Peaks

I know I'm going to get some more hate mail. My previous post about bikes on escalators got me a heck of a lot of comments, so if you are interesting in debating this particular issue, please do leave a comment.


Since the time change and the sun is setting around 5PM, my commute from SF State to my home in the Outer Richmond district is dark, and especially kinda creepy along the roads in Golden Gate Park due to the lack of lighting and raccoons jumping in front of your car. I'm not a fan of driving in the evening, but it's what you have to do if you want to get home (or start work extra early and leave earlier).

Almost on a daily basis during the evening commute, I notice bicyclists riding in Golden Gate Park without a headlight and/or a taillight. Even worse is finding a bicyclist with no lights, no reflectors, and no reflective clothing. With the lack of normal street lighting in Golden Gate Park, it's difficult to find a bike rider when they are not using the most basic equipment to make themselves obvious and stand out for their own safety.

Yes, there is a state law: Vehicle Code Section 21201 states the following requirements for riding at night:
  1. A white lamp on the front end of the bike that illuminates the road ahead and can be seen by an approaching vehicle/person from 300 feet, OR a white lamp seen at the same distance but attached on the front of the bicycle operator (e.g. front of a helmet).
  2. A red reflector on the rear that can be reflected from lawful vehicle headlights 500 feet away.
  3. Yellow or white pedal reflectors seen 200 feet.
  4. White or yellow reflectors on the both the front and rear tire spokes, or reflectors on both tires.

It isn't rocket science people, it's common sense.

Why we have laws when common sense should prevail is up for debate, but let's get to the facts, people who do bicycle at night should take additional precautions versus riding during the day. The law makes it clear, but people should be doing more in the name of being safe. Here's some additional suggestions:
  • Put a rear tail light, especially one that rapidly flashes a LED lamp.
  • Wear reflective clothing. You might look like the construction worker in the Village People, but at least people can see you better. If you don't want to wear "Caltrans Orange," why not wear a white jacket? Just please, don't wear dark clothing.
  • Wear a helmet, day and night. If you get hit or fall over, would you like your skull to hit the pavement or have a cushion to lessen the blow? I saw a bicyclist cross over the cable car tracks and slipped and fell to the pavement. Not a pretty scene.

At minimum, having at least a front and rear tail lamp helps a lot in locating you when you operate a bicycle at night. I think a lot of drivers would agree, the more obvious you can be, the better it is for everyone. I fear hitting a bicyclist with my car, but if you stick out like a thorn on the streets, I can start planning earlier to steer clear and let you have the lane.

While I'm at it, pedestrians should at least wear some reflective clothing. Why people jog at night through Golden Gate Park is a mystery, but please just DON'T WEAR BLACK!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cool Clipper Card Statistics & More

Three Generations of Transit Cards (TransLink Pilot, TransLink, and Clipper) Widescreen

The MTC's Operations Committee is meeting this Friday morning and Clipper will be a topic of discussion.

Let's get onto the lead story today, some cool stats from the folks at Clipper:
The documentation from the committee shows a comparison of usage from October 2011, September 2011 (prior month), and October 2010 (page 4 of PDF document). Some are well expected (like the increase of growth and usage), while others show a great improvement in how Clipper is operating:

As of October 2011, Clipper has surpassed the average number of weekday transactions goal of 500,000. The number of transactions has doubled in just one year.
--October 2011: 571,532
--September 2011: 555,273
--October 2010: 226,160

There are over one million active Clipper card accounts as of October 2011. This has nearly tripled in the last 12 months.
--October 2011: 1,058,312
--September 2011: 991,253
--October 201: 315,551

Interestingly, the number of registered Clipper cards has dropped dramatically. Last year, nearly 80% registered their Clipper card for benefits like balance restoration. But with the growth of the Clipper card and people making the decision to use their card anonymously, the number has dropped by nearly half.
--October and September 2011: 43% of Clipper cards in use
--October 2010: 77%

Have you ever wondered, how many people use the autoload program? The statistics show that less than 40% are enrolled in the program, even though the number of users has increased and mandatory enrollment for those who transitioned from BART's EZ Rider HVD ticket program. But while the percentage of users is very slowly growing from a year ago, the number of autoload transactions has doubled.
--October 2011: 39% of cards enrolled w/autoload, 219,568 autoload transactions for month.
--September 2011: 39%, 209,674
--October 2010: 36%, 92,018

Just how many people call customer service in a month? It's over 30,000, but there was a huge spike in September 2011 of phone calls. What's really interesting is that back in October 2010, there was three times less Clipper cards in active use, but maintained the same number of phone calls in comparison to October and September 2011.
--October 2011: 37,820 customer service representative calls
--September 2011: 42,124
--October 2010: 36,051

You may think that's a hell of a lot of phone calls, but if you crunch the numbers, it is actually getting better month by month:
--October 2011: 0.08 customer service calls per unique card used
--September 2011: 0.09
--October 2010: 0.16

In summary: Clipper continues to grow as passes and tickets switch over, but it is good to see people are not calling customer service as often for help. I'm guessing the population is getting used to using their Clipper card, knows where their nearest retailer is, and improved maintenance of the service. In a shameless move, I should also get credit for informing the public too, right?

As for other Clipper related stuff in the committee's agenda...
They are planning to approve to renew contractors for public relations firms. The public relations firms the MTC hires does the publications, promotions, tabling, educating, sign-ups, and others.

Um... can I get a contract too for blogging on Clipper? I'm low cost!

Akit's Opinions
This is just a usual meeting for Clipper. I don't think there will be much new news these days as Clipper advances towards their next goals: Transition of all Samtrans passes and BART HVD tickets to Clipper only.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hey Muni, Fix Your Destination Signs

Muni to Chinatown Station?

Ever ride Muni and sometimes notice your bus or train's destination sign doesn't seem right? I know some of you N-Judah passengers are not that happy when the train operator boots your ass out of the train at 19th and Judah to go back towards downtown when the destination sign says: "Ocean Beach."

On a few occasions, it may be an honest mistake. For example, I ride the 38L-Geary Limited going inbound towards the Transbay Terminal, and the sign accidentally says "48th Avenue,' but we know the bus is really going towards downtown. Even the photo I provided for this blog entry shows just how funny it is to find some Muni operators already using "Chinatown Station" when it won't be ready for another few years.

But as always, you can always laugh at the F-Market's signage: "Nowhere in particular."

Unhelpful and Uncooperative Operators who Refuses to Fix Bad Signage
The primary reason why I'm writing about this is just the bad attitude you get from Muni operators for pointing out the problem. Just yesterday, I was waiting at 14th Avenue and West Portal for the next inbound train. A K-Ingleside/T-Third train arrives and the destination sign says "West Portal."

I asked the operator: "Are you turning back at West Portal? Your sign says "West Portal."" The operator doesn't speak loud enough even though my ear is right next to the opening in the window. I asked him to speak louder and he gives me a snarky remark saying it's going to downtown. I argued that all inbound K/T inbound trains should always say the final destination is: "Sunnydale" and his current signage is misleading. That sure pissed him off as he jammed the accelerator and hit the brakes hard.

I had the same situation happen when I was going towards AT&T Park and the K/T train said: "Embarcadero Station." I had to verbally ask the driver to make sure we are all on the same page.

Do some of those operators realize that when speaking to a passenger through the window, they should at least speak up or at least turn their head and speak towards the passenger if the train is stopped?

Come on Muni, make sure your operators have the correct destination signs at all times.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Strangest Muni Permanent Route Change (44 O'Shaughnessy)

I noticed a tweet today from Jerold Chinn, a reporter for the SF Public Press, and he mentioned about a new Muni 44 O'Shaughnessy reroute and provided a link with the details on the SFMTA/Muni's website.

Muni says the re-route is for the inbound direction of the 44 line (going north). The old route to make the turnaround to go back outbound (southbound) was to turn left from 6th Avenue to Clement, right turn to 7th Avenue, right on California, and a final right on 6th Avenue. Basically, the route is to just go "around the block." See map below:

View Larger Map

But the new route Muni mentioned will instead have the bus continue down Clement to Park Presidio, make a right onto Park Presidio, and right on California.

View Larger Map

From crunching the numbers, that's a 15 block permanent re-route for the line. I feel this permanent reroute is just a joke, why make a bus waste extra fuel driving 15 blocks when it can really just go on its normal route?

Also, why make it go all the way down Clement to Park Presidio? Clement is just as congested as Irving Street on a normal weekday with double parking and heavy traffic. And making it turn onto Park Presidio is not a great idea, what happens if traffic is heavy due to an accident ahead? Is the bus going to attempt to make a wide turn on one of the busiest corridors in the city?

San Francisco's City Government at its "Best" - McDonald's Toy Ban

So our Board of Supervisors (or what I call the Stupidvisors) approved a law where fast food restaurants that serves higher than a set standard on fat, sugar, and other content, cannot give away free toys with their meals. Basically, the is targeting the McDonald's "Happy Meal," but can also affect other fast food chains in the city as well.

But from what this article from the Chronicle says, the owner of a majority of the McDonald's in the city found a creative way to go around it, just have the toy sold as a separate item.

I've known that this law is a joke from the start. Instead of selling a $5 Happy Meal with a free toy, just sell the meal itself for $4.99 and charge the customer an additional one cent to "purchase" the toy." In the end, it's still $5 for the meal and the toy.

Here's another way to look at the argument: Let's say buying a pack of cigarettes comes with a pack of matches free; a city law similar to the Happy Meal toy ban makes it illegal to give away the matches for free, so therefore a business can easily just "sell" the matches for a penny. If the law was different where selling matches was banned, then one can argue in court that a cake shop can't sell them too so customers can light birthday candles on their cake.

So Board of Supervisors... what's the point of the "ban" on giveaway toys in kids meals, when the way around it is so simple? Is this just a way to encourage us San Francisco citizens to go across the border into Daly City (San Mateo County) and pay a smaller sales tax?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Standing in Line for Four Hours for Giants Tickets on Black Friday

Crazy Crab

Can you believe it? We are less than a month away until Christmas. Time does fly fast, doesn't it?

Well... time doesn't fly as long as you stand in line for four hours with only twenty people in front of you to buy Giants tickets...

The Horror of Buying Giants Tickets on Black Friday
Did any of you get any Black Friday bargains? For me, I'd say yes, but here's what happened when I was in line buying Giants tickets on the first day of early sales...
  • On Black Friday, Giants tickets went on sale at 10AM, and in order to buy tickets without paying the outrageous surcharge, I went to AT&T Park's Giants Dugout store to buy my tickets.
  • I stood in line at 9:30AM with 20 people ahead of me and was expecting to get in the door at 10AM, stand in line for no more than 20 or 30 minutes, and get out as quickly as possible. But the horror came when the line was hardly moving...
  • Why? They only had one computer working to sell tickets. Their other computer wasn't operational. With only one computer, it took the average person 10 to 15 minutes to buy the tickets they wanted, and a good majority of the fans was unprepared, thinking on the fly on what games they wanted to see.
  • To make matters worse, the Dugout store realized after two hours, they needed extra workers to run the other ticket computers at the glass window sales booths on King Street. One they got those working, they decided to mishandle the next in line customers by allowing the people in the back of the line to get to the glass window booths first, therefore someone like me, #20 in line, got royally screwed over in this fiasco.
  • In the end, I stood in line for FOUR HOURS just to buy twelve Giants tickets.

Okay, so the Giants Grinch got me again, Giants management making me waste many hours of my life because they were too stupid to use common sense by being prepared for the masses waiting to get game tickets.

On a better note, let's all remember something important:
The holidays are not the same because John Toomey, a.k.a. Santa Claus whom was fired from Macy's Union Square and hired by Lefty O'Doul's, died in late July.

During his stint last holiday season at Lefty's, the message put out showed that us citizens should be generous and donate to needy people in the Bay Area. I decided last year to buy some toys and bring it to Lefty's to donate it to the SF Firefighters toy program, and I was stunned to see the barrel overstuffed full of toys from great people of our city.

This year, I will make sure to donate again, because I know that while I'm thankful to have a job and income, the less fortunate may not be able to buy a toy for their child.

want to propose a challenge to you readers, make a donation, whether it be a toy, dropping off food at the local food bank, or even spend time at a program like Glide to serve food. Make sure to share the holiday spirit with others, and I'm sure someone out there will appreciate what you have donated.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Clipper Card Transition of BART High Value Discount (HVD) Tickets is Poorly Thought Out

BART Gate & Clipper Card

If you are a regular commuter of BART and use High Value Discount (HVD) tickets to save a little money on your trips, you are aware the classic magnetic strip tickets will be going away at the end of the year to be a Clipper only product.

But while you may think, "wow, Clipper will make it so easier!" Ha! Time for a reality check.

The old way to buy HVDs:
  • Any BART ticket sales window at major stations. Accepts cash and commuter benefit checks.
  • Vendors around the Bay Area, including some grocery stores. Accepts cash and sometimes commuter benefit checks.
  • Mail-in tickets to BART sales office. Personal checks and commuter benefit checks accepted.

The Clipper way to buy HVDs:
  • A Clipper card user must register their personal credit/debit card, or use a commuter benefit debit card. Once registered, the user must sign-up for autoload where the card will have $32 in HVD value, and when it dips below the $10 threshold, the card will be automatically replenished with $32 more HVD dollars.

For more information about the HVD transition, click here.

For some of you, this new method might be an okay option to charge your personal credit/debit card to automatically purchase HVD value for BART. But if you like buying your HVDs in cash, you'd be grumpy too.

For those who uses commuter benefits, your options are SEVERELY LIMITED. Here's how it sucks for all of us:
  • Commuter benefit checks/vouchers cannot be claimed for HVDs.
  • You must use a commuter benefit debit card. Some of you have told me your employer doesn't give you one, and you only get vouchers. Basically, you are screwed.
  • You can only use autoload only. If you use a commuter debit card, you must be very strict on your BART spending, otherwise your card can get blocked if you don't have sufficient funds on your commuter debit card.
  • If you still want to use vouchers or a debit card without the stupid rules about autoload, you can only claim them for e-cash (universal Clipper cash fund), but you will NOT receive the 6.25% HVD discount.

Now you know why this really sucks.

As a long time blogger writing about Clipper, I highly DO NOT recommend Clipper's autoload program. It has a bad reputation and if for some reason your card gets blocked (even by accident), your card is unusable for a number of days until the system can resolve it.

For me, I'm very uncomfortable about giving out my credit card number to Clipper. For the fellow wary folks out there, there needs to be better options for all of us to get BART HVDs on Clipper, regardless if you use commuter benefits or just like paying cash to your favorite grocery store for the magnetic stripe card. MTC has said in the past that making other options to obtain HVDs is cost prohibitive, but I think it's very necessary to gain the public's trust in the program.

Here's my recommendations BART, Clipper, and MTC should do to make it easier for all for this Clipper card transition:
  1. HVDs remain available with autoload.
  2. Passengers can purchase HVDs without the autoload commitment at any Clipper ticketing machine (including Muni metro's), BART ticketing machines, and all Clipper card vendors.
  3. Passengers have the right to purchase a single HVD with cash at any location selling Clipper.
  4. Passengers have the right to use their commuter benefit voucher to buy a HVD at Clipper vendors that are willing to accept them.
  5. Passengers have the right to use their commuter benefit card to purchase a HVD at any self-service Clipper card machine, Muni metro ticket machine, and any BART ticketing machine.

If BART is willing to accept this idea instead, I'd say, run with it:
  • Since seniors, disabled, and youth card users automatically gets their discount without the need to have a separate BART pool of funding (they use their regular e-cash), why don't extend the idea to adult Clipper card users by giving every person using a Clipper card a 6.26% discount? By doing it this way, MTC, BART, and Clipper doesn't have to spend millions on reprogramming every single ticketing machine, vendor machine, and rewriting software; they just rewrite the BART fare table by subtracting 6.25%.

What's your opinion? Leave a comment.

Central Subway - The Subway to Nowhere

Muni to Chinatown Station?

When you think of the Central Subway, how do you feel? In my point of view, I think the subway is a poorly thought out project.

It's truly a "subway to nowhere." Why would the city decide to build a subway that ends in Chinatown? Sure, it helps the infamous overcrowding of the 8X, 30, and 45 lines, and the horrifying traffic on Stockton, but that's mostly it.

Just Chinatown?
Why doesn't the line go any further than Chinatown? The city is installing a stop in tourist infested Union Square, but what's the use of stopping there when tourists have only one place to visit, Chinatown?

Can't the line go further to end at Fisherman's Wharf?

Getting to the Wharf from downtown is a total pain in the ass, you either have to wait at a Cable Car stop and pay an outrageous $6 fare or be sardine packed on the F-Market streetcar. By having a light rail line going underground from Union Square to the Wharf, tourists and residents alike can get between these areas in record time, and it helps reduce the overcrowding on the F-Market and Powell cable car lines.

If you can shuttle more passengers to the places they need to go, Muni stands to make a bigger cut of money from their farebox revenues and get people from end to end in record time. Even the residents of North Beach and Wharf areas would benefit too with quick metro service to downtown.

Common sense! A lot of the general public has it, except for most of our city politicians and people coordinating the subway project.

Monday, November 14, 2011

14 Realistic Vision Statements for Muni

Muni to Chinatown Station?

Muni's vision starting in the year 2013 is:
"San Francisco: Great City, Excellent Transportation Choices." (PDF document)

What a classic! We the public believe that!
I think I just peed in my pants.

I thought to myself, let's make some real vision statements for Muni... here we go!
  1. "We continue to suck, and the public knows it."
  2. "Proposition G saved us millions, and we used it to pay for the central subway."
  3. "On time to us means if we never show-up, we don't get in trouble."
  4. "We think fare hikes is an easy way to fix our budget."
  5. "Slow is our middle name."
  6. "Central subway will solve all of our problems."
  7. "NIMBYs rule our agency."
  8. "Preventative maintenance is our tenth priority over other items such as my big fat salary and pension fund."
  9. "Our reputation is like our graffiti problem, we can never get it clean."
  10. "Fail, on top of fail, on top of more fail = fail sandwich."
  11. "We don't suck as bad as AC Transit, but they got cooler looking buses."
  12. "Screwing the public everyday."
  13. "There's no such thing as a guarantee, except fare hikes and cuts in service."
  14. "We love cameras, including the malfunctioning ones operating on our entire fleet."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Akit Voted - His Opinions on the Results

San Francisco Proposition B Fail

Voting, a time for us citizens to make serious choices, and tell politicians we like them or hate them with the stroke of a pen; instead of opening our wallets.

It turned out a lot of my picks on the ballot didn't turn out the way I wanted it to go. So here's my views about it:

Mayor Ed Pak, I meant Rose Lee, sorry, Ed Lee wins
Great... just great. If you read my twitter feed, I don't like the guy. I didn't put him as any of my choices on the ranked choice ballot. What's so bad about the ranked choice ballot is if you pick three candidates and they don't make it into the last round after most people are eliminated, basically, your vote doesn't count for one of the last two survivors.

District Attorney Gascon wins
Not a bad choice. But I wouldn't pick Fazio because he was the lawyer for Ed Jew whom is now enjoying time in a federal prison camp.

Sheriff Ross wins
Interesting, real interesting. Not much to say, but from meeting him in person, he's a nice guy.

Proposition A wins
Bonds to refurbish schools is okay for me. If I have kids, I'd send them to SF public schools and are well maintained and not at risk of falling down in an earthquake.

Proposition B wins
Fixing potholes with bond money. I voted no because we never need bonds to fix our streets. Shouldn't the extra money saved from Proposition G (a.k.a. "the public seeks revenge on Muni employees") and money from the general fund be enough to fix our streets?

Proposition C beats D
Oh god. I picked D over C because we could have saved an extra $300 million in ten years by going with D. Hey, $300M could keep our streets nice and smooth instead of potholes every day. But give some credit to Adachi, if he didn't speak up and demand pension reform, proposition C wouldn't pass.

Propositions E and F
Annoying propositions about inactive laws and "campaign consultants." Nobody really cares.

Proposition G Loses
Raise the sales tax by 0.5% to 9%. Um, that just encourages me to shop more in Daly City and Colma where the tax is a nice 8.25%!!!!!!!! I totally voted no on this one.

Proposition H Wins Loses
The school district assignment proposition barely wins loses with just 115 votes making the difference. The controversy about neighborhood schools has always been a hot topic in this city, and I'm going to bet within five years, this issue is going to be raised again.

I love voting... it's an opportunity for average folks to give the middle finger to the city government.

Friday, November 4, 2011

BART Has Ideas of Changing Fare Structure - Big Savings but Fare Hike Too

BART Gate & Clipper Card

Today and yesterday, the BART Board is having a retreat and talking business over teleconference across the east and west bays.

BART is considering to change their fare policies to make it more attractive than their basic system of mileage based fare with minimal discounts for adults for riding often. To review the documents, click here (PDF file). Additional documents are attached within the PDF file to review.

Here's a list of what they may consider to do. They could pick and accept all of them, just a few, or just none of them:
  1. Continue with usual fare increase every two years. Next increase would be 3.9%. Would raise extra $13 million.
  2. Establish a monthly pass under a zone based system. Loss of $10.5 million.
  3. Extend youth discount up to age 17 (currently ends at age 12). May stick with 62.5% discount or may reduce it to 50% discount. Loss of $4.6/3.1 million, respectively.
  4. Offer passengers who ride more than 40 times in a calendar month the privilege to ride BART for free for the remainder of month. Loss of $8.4 million.
  5. Increase capital surcharge by 10 cents, from 12 cents to 22 cents. Raise extra $8.3 million.
  6. Automatic 15% fare discount to all Clipper card users. Loss of $22 million.
  7. Peak fare and off-peak discount; 15% fare hike on rush hours, 10% discount during non-rush. Raise $6.8 million.
  8. Lifeline program to those making less than $25,000 or $50,000 by offering a 50% discount. Loss of $16/$18 million, respectively.

Akit's Opinion
In a fantasy world, we would approve of all the cool benefits that we can take advantage, like extending the youth fare to up to age 17, monthly pass, the free rides after 40 rides, 15% discount for Clipper users, and the lifeline program.

But in the real world, all those fantasy options comes at a cost to BART and taxpayers. The only way they could compensate for the losses is to raise fares. They already do a fare increase every two years, and would need to do a fare hike during peak transit times to encourage less crowding by having those take BART during non-peak hours, and increase the capital surcharge.

In a marketing and PR standpoint, it would make BART look more attractive for many people. Passengers have been begging for a monthly pass system for the longest time, youth from ages 13-17 have been screwed over by not getting a youth fare discount while other transit agencies still offer it until they become 18, no need for high value discount tickets to ride BART as all Clipper users are eligible for the automatic 15% discount, and those with low income can save money.

BART's current fare structure and rules works well for them as their farebox revenue generates over 50% of the agency's income. And in a time when the status quo works well, BART could be hesitant to change it. I feel their current fare structure is simple enough to understand, how far you go determines your fare, simple to understand discounts for youth, disabled and seniors, and high value discounts for adults.

But even though the current fare structure is simple to use, it's getting old. People want rewards for being loyal riders, and there's very few incentives for people to use. The only few incentives for the regular commuter is using commuter benefit vouchers, high value discount tickets, and Clipper fare payment. BART used to offer a credit card that gave people free BART tickets for using their card on everything, including buying groceries, but that card disappeared.

I like the idea of a monthly zone pass. People can benefit from traveling around the Bay Area without worrying if their Clipper card has enough money, and it makes it easy to budget a passenger's cost to ride BART every month and year.

I also like the 15% discount for Clipper card users. It sounds like they want to follow in the tracks of Golden Gate Transit when they decided to give all passengers a discount to ride when using Clipper, versus having everyone buy GGT electronic zone based ticket books on Clipper. By having BART encouraging Clipper usage, the agency can save money on reduced maintenance on ticketing machines as they are used less often, and can buy less mag stripe tickets because people use a reusable and refillable Clipper card.

Surely, I don't like the idea of a fare hike, but I have to sometimes accept that fact. As I am not a regular commuter on BART and stick to weekend rides, I would benefit with the 10% fare discount, but regular commuters would grumble at paying a 15% premium. But even then, the premium fare would be zero percent if BART offers the 15% discount for using Clipper.

What's your thoughts about BART's proposals? Like them? Hate them? Leave a comment.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

BART Publishes "How To" Videos on Clipper - Akit Beat Them to the Punch Over a Year Ago

Wow BART, you finally made a video on how to use Clipper cards on your add value machines and enter/exit your gates.

BART also produced how to add value videos here and here.

But wait just a second... you folks at BART are way behind the times, because I shot and edited this video over a year and eight months ago:

Get with the times, BART! A single person with a cheap digital camera and a Mac was able to record and produce a video in less than a day. For you guys, it's HD cameras, contractors editing video, and lots of money. Heck, why not pay me $500 and I'll do it all myself?


In other BART related news:
The agency is working with the MTC on a possible plan to modify the exitfare machines to allow passengers with insufficient Clipper card funds to pay the difference before exiting. This policy will fight back against those who exploit Clipper card's negative balance feature and contributes to the $700,000 yearly loss the MTC has to swallow. This is mentioned in last week's BART Board of Directors agenda documents (PDF document).

Lastly, the MTC's operations committee is supposed to meet this Friday, but there's nothing interesting to report.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Clipper (Cubic) Hits a New Low - Exposing E-Mail Addresses

Muni New Faregates - Civic Center Station Secondary Gates (Edited)

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a party foul. In the news today, Clipper and the MTC are apologizing for releasing the e-mail addresses of over 1,700 card users. This happened when an e-mail was sent to customers whose credit card registered with autoload was going to expire. The employee whom works for Cubic (MTC's contractor for Clipper) sent the mass e-mail to those applicable customers, but forgot to place the contacts in the BCC (blind carbon copy) address list, therefore a ton of people got it.

But that doesn't end there, people outraged about it also hit the "reply to all" button on their e-mail service to let out a rant, but to also annoy those who became victims and didn't want any part of this mess.

You can review these news sources: SFGate/Chronicle and Muni Diaries.

Akit's Opinion
Clipper is hitting new lows, and this one is another kick to the nuts.

I don't get it, why doesn't Clipper/Cubic use automatic e-mail notifications for this? Why does an employee need to dig-up the e-mails, copy and paste it (in this case, incorrectly), and send off a mass message like this? Shouldn't the website automatically know when a credit card is about to expire and automatically shoot-off an e-mail?

Automation for Clipper has been slow at times, they used to manually e-mail reports when people requested it, then was able to automate it by having users log into the website and just clicking on a couple of links to instantly view the report.

Some are saying "yeah yeah, at least it wasn't as bad as the MyBART incident." But if you are a victim getting all that junk anger mail from other Clipper card users who hit the "reply to all" button, you'd be pissed too.

Clipper really needs to clean-up their reputation. There's a lot of positive stuff that shines good on the agency, but there's a lot of things that really doesn't make a lot of sense. Other than not automating e-mails, they also haven't done the following to fix or improve:
  • Allowing all BART ticket machines to sell all e-passes and e-ridebooks for all agencies, other than just letting people load e-cash only. If you are at Daly City BART where Muni and Samtrans also stops at, wouldn't you want a place to buy your bus passes?
  • Installing Clipper add value machines at more than just a few Caltrain stations (which are not yet operational).
  • Finding other ways for people to fix autoload problems causing the card to be blocked, whether it be going to an automated machine or the in-person customer service centers to resolve it.
  • Finding decent methods to stop people from exploiting the negative balance feature.
  • Toning down Clipper's trademark beep sound. You can sometimes hear it a block away, on a noisy street!
  • Why does youth who ride AC Transit need a Clipper card with their photo so they can be eligible to buy a youth pass? All the other agencies doesn't require a photo Clipper card to obtain a youth pass. When a youth passenger loses their specialized card from AC Transit, they have a bigger hassle than those with a uniform policy of no photo.
  • BART passengers who wants to pay for their parking without obtaining a special EZrider hangtag by just tagging their card and punching in their parking stall number.
  • BART doesn't like the idea of adult passengers being able to buy HVDs at their ticketing machines or a vendor, everyone must use autoload (which many hates to use).
  • Caltrain's stupid policies on 8-rides and monthly passes on Clipper.
  • Want to add one to this list? Leave a comment!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fail Alert: Does the San Francisco Chronicle Cost Just 3/4 of a Cent? [Photo]

Chronicle Error Fail

Here's a peculiar photo I took a few weeks back. I was having a nice scoop of sherbet at Joe's Ice Cream and was looking at the newspaper machines just in front of the establishment. The Chronicle's yellow machine said the price of a Monday-Saturday newspaper is just ".75¢" which made me think about that price.

.75¢ means 3/4 of one penny (or $0.0075); if you remove the dot, 75¢ means $0.75 or 3/4 of one dollar.

If you seem confused, so was I. Here's an easier way to think of it: Let's say the sticker price on the machine said 1.75¢, then that would mean it would be one cent plus 3/4ths of a cent to buy a newspaper.

Hmmm, I wonder if I cut a quarter of a penny and drop it in the machine, would I get a newspaper? Okay, it's just a fun question and blog post, and we all know it costs $0.75 to buy a paper, and the machine doesn't accept pennies.

Even then, some crazed-up lawyer could think about suing the Chron for misleading customers by not selling the paper for the advertised price.

I have a good eye to seek out fails!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Local Survival Guide to the PGA Charles Schwab Golf Tournament at Harding Park (October 31st to November 6th)

Parking Hog/Fail CA 5SYT671

It's that time again folks, the PGA tour is coming back to San Francisco's Harding Park golf course for another round of televised golf, and that means for us locals, time for us to prepare for war.

Event basics:
  • The PGA's Charles Schwab Championship Cup tournament will be going on from October 31st to November 6th.
  • While the event organizers mentions it is from November 3rd to 6th, Harding Park will be occupied by the PGA as early as the 31st for practice rounds. The public can access the golf course to watch the Pro-Am and professionals play starting November 2nd. See schedule by clicking here.

What Spectators Should Know

The PGA's event website has some information. Unfortunately, the SFMTA's website has ZERO information about planned road closures, traffic problems, or transit re-routes.

Public entrance:
The only public entrance to the golf tournament is via Sunset Circle (the huge parking lot) at the north end of Lake Merced where Lake Merced Blvd. and Sunset Blvd. meets. See golf course map by clicking here.

The only event sponsored parking is at Stonestown Galleria/Mall. They charge $15 a day and will provide free bus shuttles to and from the gate. Click here for parking/transit map (PDF document).

Unofficially, spectators can take a punch at street parking, but please be kind to the residents and SF State students who normally utilize street parking. If you dare to use the SF State parking lot, you are going to piss off a lot of SF State students and employees.

Public transit:
The PGA is encouraging the public to take either Muni Metro's L-Taraval line to the end of the line (SF Zoo) and walk to Sunset Circle, or take BART to Daly City station and catch a free shuttle bus. Click here for parking/transit map (PDF document).

The public can also take the following Muni lines: 29-Sunset stops a short distance from Sunset Circle. 23-Monterey stops at the Sunset Boulevard overpass and is a short walk south on Sunset.

Do not park your car at Daly City BART and catch the free shuttle to the golf tournament. Parking at the station is restricted to BART passengers because they register their parking stall number at the machines in the paid area of the station. Those abusing the parking system will get caught, fined, and/or towed.

Watch out for parking restrictions in the area. While the SFMTA's ISCOTT board hasn't approved any tow away zones at this time, look in the area for temporary tow away signage, one or two hour neighborhood parking zones, and don't block driveways and hydrants.

Don't dare to park within the SF State area. The area has very heavy parking time limits and are strictly enforced by parking cops.


What SF Citizens and Commuters Should Know
Unfortunately, the SFMTA's ISCOTT department has not published any information about road closures and parking restrictions, nor has Muni published any planned re-routes for the 18-46th Avenue bus line which drives along three sides of the event area: Skyline (including Herbst Road), John Muir, and Lake Merced Boulevard.

To view the ISCOTT agendas, click here, you'll find nothing in their next meeting coming up on October 27th.

I also asked SF State's Parking & Transportation department and they were not sure of any parking or traffic difficulties.

What we can assume will happen...
It's likely there will be heavy traffic around the following roads: Skyline Boulevard, Lake Merced Boulevard, Brotherhood Way, and Sunset Boulevard southbound towards Sunset Circle. If you need an alternate route, don't take Brotherhood Way/Lake Merced and stick with the 19th Avenue freeway entrance/exit. See map of an alternate route:

There may be delays on the 29-Sunset and 18-46th Avenue Muni lines.

Parking might be difficult if you live or work within a half mile of the Sunset Circle entrance.

Road closures may happen along Skyline Boulevard and Herbst Road adjecent to the golf course. The south end at John Muir may be restricted and has been in the past used as a sanctioned VIP parking lot.

I'll update this page when the SFMTA ever takes their time to update theirs.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bad BART Manners - Foot on the Window

BART Passenger Manners Fail

I thought some passengers on BART have bad manners, from clipping nails to hogging seats with luggage, but this one reaches new lows.

The photo I just took yesterday afternoon shows the worst manners of all. I was riding from Daly City to Downtown Berkeley on the Pittsburg/Bay Point line and found this guy sleeping on the train by laying on both of the seats. He then proceeded to put one of his feet up against the window when the train was going through the transbay tube up until I had to transfer at 19th Street.

I thought the BART seats was infected with all kinds of nasty bacteria. Surely I don't want to lay my face on one of those funky seats.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Solar Panels Back at Powell Street Parklets & Less Dangerous

I've been keeping tabs on the Powell Street parklets ever since there was some serious safety flaws discovered when they first opened to the public in mid July. Read up: My initial report, follow-up on improvements and new damage, and more improvements.

Now that we are in October, there's much more improvement and care for the parklets. The barriers are not getting bent, new plants are flourishing, and the newest change, the return of the solar panels.

Supposedly, the solar panels are supposed to power up the free wifi for the parklets, but I haven't tried that out for myself.

The reason why they were originally removed is because they were dangerous trip hazards. They were placed in the middle of the width of the parklets and their base stuck out like scissor blades.

Powell Street Parklet Trip Hazard

They are now back and while they still have their trip hazards, they have now been relocated to be the closest to the barricades that separates the parklets from the vehicular and Cable Car traffic.

Solar Panel at Powell Parklet

One thing that still bugs me is there's still a lot of people smoking on the parklets and dumping their butts in the planters. On the brighter end, I appreciate the city reading my blog to fix the serious problems with the Powell parklets from the start. Next time, the city should think before they build; unlike the $567,000 on this cheap ass looking wheelchair ramp in the "Board of Stupidvisors" chambers.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Muni's 18-46th Avenue Major Reroute - Through Irving Street?

Remember when I mentioned about Muni's 18-46th Avenue line taking a 51 block detour because of Sunday Streets?

Just yesterday, the 18 line had to reroute because of the Nike Women's Marathon blocked off many roads, including the Great Highway from midnight to about 4PM. While that did cause big delays for the line by only being allowed to cut through 19th Avenue and Crossover drive, I didn't expect Muni to pull this particular stunt off:

Around 1:30PM, I was driving through extremely heavy traffic eastbound on Irving from 26th Avenue to 20th Avenue to grab some lunch, and noticed in my rear view mirror an 18 bus going through Irving. To give you an idea of how bad traffic is on eastbound Irving, there's double parking, cars moving to a crawl, and traffic at a standstill within two blocks of approaching 19th Avenue.

That made me scratch my head... why did the 18 bus go along the entire length of Irving? Normally during a reroute, the 18 bus would go on eastbound Lincoln, but since it can't make a direct left turn onto 19th/Crossover, it has to follow the 29-Sunset's route as shown below.

View Larger Map

For me, to get through the heavy traffic from 26th Avenue and Irving to 20th Avenue took nearly 15 minutes (and failed to find a parking space). Why would the 18 take the slowest street in the entire Outer Sunset district when the bus should have taken Lincoln which has faster speed limits, less traffic jams, and very few stop signs?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

October 2011 Clipper Card Updates from the MTC's Operations Committee

Three Generations of Transit Cards (TransLink Pilot, TransLink, and Clipper) Widescreen

The MTC's Operations Committee will be meeting this Friday, October 14th, and as usual, Clipper will be a well discussed topic for this de facto Clipper Board of Directors.

Here's the highlights from their agenda documents:

Last month's meeting minutes:
  • The committee has chosen the ferries to be next with the Clipper 'phase three' implementation.
  • The Clipper program's Title VI report was mentioned. While I won't get into all the dirty details on this blog entry (you can read about it here), the one thing I will mention is they will have public comment sometime during the Fall.

Updating the Transit Coordination Implementation Plan
A lot of the material is scratching out the old the name "TransLink" to its current name "Clipper."

The most useful information is the pass/ticket transition dates:
  • All AC Transit, Caltrain, and Golden Gate passes/tickets completed.
  • BART must complete transition of blue high value, red, and green tickets by December 31, 2011. BART's student orange ticket is up for debate as there is no current date of transition.
  • Muni has delayed transition of all Muni visitor passports until a usable substitute (e.g. Limited Use Ticket) can be used.
  • Samtrans will complete transition of all passes to Clipper on December 31, 2011.
  • VTA's monthly passes scheduled to transition on June 30, 2012 as long as VTA has a 'day pass accumulator' active by January 15, 2012.
Transfer changes:
  • Daly City BART's free Muni transfer scheduled to transition March 1, 2012.
  • Muni transfers scheduled to be Clipper only on June 30, 2013.

BART's Ticket Transition (More gritty info)
  • BART has closed many of their ticket retailers to prepare people for the Clipper transition at the end of the year. There are far fewer locations where the magnetic stripe tickets are sold and will be closed at the end of the year.
  • MTC and BART has done outreach and are giving away Clipper cards with $2 preloaded to encourage usage.
  • 1 out of 3 BART passengers currently pay for their rides with Clipper, and 40 percent of card users are enrolled in autoload.
  • Blue high value tickets will only be available through autoload with no intention to offer it for sale at vending machines and vendors. This causes a hardship for transit passengers that pays for tickets with commuter benefit paper vouchers; MTC claims offering it at vendors and vending machines is "cost-prohibitive and would result in slower Clipper transaction speeds at BART's fare gates." MTC is encouraging all employers to offer employees a debit card, or consider Clipper Direct which will offer HVDs starting Spring 2012.
  • $150,000 is proposed to be spent on an educational and advertisement campaign for BART's transition to Clipper.

Akit's Opinion
BART's transition is the most concerning to me.

For the Daly City station free Muni transfer going Clipper only, there's a big issue for SF State students who utilizes the free shuttle provided by SF State. If the paper transfer is eliminated, those who pays for BART with Clipper and takes the shuttle gets their free return ride on Muni's 28 line to BART voided because of the 1 hour policy to ride Muni to be eligible for the return ride back. Read more about this odd quirk.

I totally disagree with MTC's policy that all adult blue high value tickets (HVDs) on Clipper must be on autoload only. This does not meet the demands of the general public who are not comfortable with linking a credit card to their Clipper card (read why autoload is not recommended). People pay cash for their paper HVDs at retailers, so it's hard to believe that the MTC says it's "cost-prohibitive" and would slow down the BART gates if alternate methods are not going to be available. If youth and senior Clipper cardholders automatically gets the discount without the need to buy red and green tickets (with a high value), why can't us adults also get the automatic 6.25% discount we are entitled to? Or, why doesn't the station ticket machines offer adult HVDs to purchase?

Lastly, I hardly believe Muni will ever eliminate paper transfers. With no decent proof of payment enforcement, it's going to be free rides for everyone.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dear Candidates for Mayor of San Francisco: Stop Calling Me!

San Francisco Proposition B Fail

Dear Candidates for Mayor of San Francisco:

You suck. That's right, you suck.

Why do you suck? You call my house to bother me to ask for their votes or do some touch tone phone survey to ask who I would vote for mayor.

Getting calls from your volunteer scumbags telling me who to vote for is just annoying, and I know that you are robocalling me because if I answer my phone and say "hello" and hear silence for about two or three seconds means I'm about to be bothered by another jackass.

To give you a good example, here's the last phone call I got at 8:45PM (yeah, 8:45PM) last night:
I'm quietly reading a book in bed and I get a phone call from some volunteer for David Chiu for Mayor. I quickly interrupt the jackass who disrupted my peaceful time by saying: "Now that you called, I just changed my mind, I won't vote for him." I hung up my phone without letting the guy get one word after that.
Here's a fact, it's NOT FUN to call me. Anyone who dares to ask me to vote for someone or something will get a rude reaction. Another time when someone called me, I said, "is that you Jesus?" then hung up. It's worse if you call me after 8PM because I'm busy enjoying watching a good TV show, writing my blog, or just reading a good book.

I've been also getting robocalls asking me to use my touch tone phone to pick who I would vote for mayor. They gave me nine options (press 1 through 9), instead, I picked option zero: "Get the fuck off my phone."

Here's other annoyances I hate about election time:
  • You folks like mailing junk to my house on who I should vote for? Here's what I do: It goes straight into the recycling bin. Oh, Alioto wants to be mayor? Cram it; into the blue bin you go. Stop wasting trees.
  • Mayoral candidate cronies (possibly paid ones) who abuse twitter by retweeting every single tweet from the candidate's account. The worst offender: Phil Ting's and his ResetSF (Reset San Francisco) account. Here's one of their "political consultants" and another one. Makes using Hootsuite and other third party programs to keep tabs on hashtags like #muni a nightmare.
  • And while I'm on the topic of Reset San Francisco, how many of you actually knows that Reset San Francisco is actually a website for Phil Ting to be Mayor? It's not as obvious as other candidate's websites; ResetSF's website mentions it in very little print on the bottom of the site. If it wasn't a political candidate's website, it would win awards for being a pretty good blog, but because it's a candidate's website, it's just using his cronies to write twisted articles, like this one full of incorrect facts about Clipper. Even I put out a tweet asking people if they knew if that website is for a candidate and some of the reaction I got back was: "agreed," and "I don't think most know he's even running."
So to all you political candidates who wants to be Mayor of this city: Stop calling me, mailing me, and cramming Twitter. I've got better things to do.


UPDATE: [Retracted due to error]

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

BART Spends Money Like Water - $2 Million for a Ramp?

BART Agent FAIL - Setting bad example

I'm curious to why it costs $2 million to build an ADA accessible ramp at Lafayette BART station. In today's Chronicle, there's an article mentioning about some accessibility issues after the ramp was built, but I'm just shocked at the outrageous cost to plan and build a zigzag ramp.

Does it really cost two million taxpayer dollars to build a ramp? Why should these government projects be such huge money wasters? If BART spent their money wisely on the ramp project, the decent remainder of the two million budget could have been used for smaller improvement projects. There's lots of way to spend two million bucks, from removing a row of seats to better accommodate bikes, renting a bunch of Rug Doctors from Safeway to deep clean the nasty blue carpeting, or even just keeping the money on reserve for a rainy day.

Here's other government projects that is just a laughing expensive joke:
  1. Two new Muni sales booths: $829,000.
  2. Board of Supervisors chambers ramp: $500,000 to $700,000.
  3. Central Subway: $1,600,000,000 (1.6 billion).
  4. Each portable Clipper card reader for Caltrain: $10,000.
  5. Yearly cost to advertise to people to stay away from the Castro for Halloween: $40,000.
  6. A one night alternative Halloween event at AT&T Park to steer people away from the Castro (and epically failed): $500,000.
  7. James Fang's BART failed cell phone failed RFID project (competing against Clipper): $350,000.

While I'm on the topic of BART, there's been word the agency will be spending on replacing the seats to new vinyl ones that will be easier to clean and won't absorb the infamous bacterias and other odd growth in the original fabric seats.

When you think about that, will BART be doing a half-ass job by only replacing the seats on about half the fleet?

Why do I believe they'll only do a partial job? Remember the nasty blue carpeting BART put in when they refurbished their train cars? The light blue carpeting made dirt, grime, food stains, and spills show up versus the original brown carpeting. BART decided to replace the carpeting with rubber flooring, either in the form of rubber tiles or a spray on flooring. After all these years, BART only did a half-ass job by only replacing floors on about half of the fleet, and to make matters worse, the flooring is not always the same; some have the tiles, others have the spray on with flicks of blue and tan paint to help make it non slip.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Closes Road Without Advance Notice - Forces Commuters to take 20 BLOCK Detour

It's that time again, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is back in Golden Gate Park for a three day stint. Sure, they are better than the super loud and costly Outside Lands festival, but they really made a lot of us regular commuters going north from the Sunset to Richmond district confused and for me, a little angry.

This is my normal commute: Northbound Sunset, left turn to westbound MLK drive, right turn to northbound Chain of Lakes.

Here's the situation:

I was just driving on northbound Sunset Boulevard going towards MLK drive (the first road upon entering the borders of Golden Gate Park). There's a metal barricade blocking drivers from making a left turn, and two signs on the barricade saying "exit" and "one way, right turn only."

The incredibly stupid detour forced people to make a right to eastbound MLK drive, encounter HEAVY TRAFFIC, and go all the way to the next park road exit at 25th Avenue (Sunset district side). This meant a 10 block detour, then driving another ten blocks west just to get around the stupid road closure.

View Larger Map

If they removed the left turn blockage, it only takes two minutes to get to Chain of Lakes & JFK drive. Now it takes at least 10 minutes just to go around the mess, and that doesn't include the traffic and all the cars parked along the park roads (and the roads can be narrow!).

This road closure info is NOT posted anywhere at these places, so therefore, I blame them for failure to provide advance notice to us residents who depends on westbound MLK drive to get to/from work and home.
  1. SFMTA's website just says park roads may be closed. No specifics.
  2. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass's website has NOTHING. They don't even answer their community hotline phones, they just let it go to voicemail.

The detour:
Take the right lane upon approach to Sunset and Irving, and make the slight right turn to approach Lincoln. Left on westbound Lincoln and turn right onto 41st Avenue.

The hell with it, just take Great Highway.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Muni Pays 10 Minutes to Operators Just to Submit Their Unused Transfer Books (An E-Mail from an Anonymous Operator)

Muni Transfer and Muni to BART Coupon

I just got an e-mail from an anonymous Muni operator on an interesting fact about their pay (edited to protect privacy):

Did you know that MUNI pays its drivers 10 minutes of time to turn in their transfer books? [Personal information omitted], one of the little things I learned:

When a driver finishes his run and returns his/her bus to the yard, MUNI pays each driver 10 minutes of worktime to turn the transfer book to the manager inside. The old policy was that the driver simply handed over unused books to the yardmaster as he entered the yard. And MTA wonders why it can't pay its bills!

The veteran operator who explained this to me laughed about it as he explained how stupid it was to pay drivers to prevent transfer theft as though there's an epidemic of drivers selling unused transfers.

Multiply ten minutes of work time at a minimum of approx $28 dollars per hour, by all the drivers in the system, every single day, and it must add up to a pretty penny.

Akit's Opinion
Wow, kinda freaky. They get paid just to turn-in their transfer books? So if they just take a minute to drop it off with the yard supervisor, they get paid 10 minutes worth of time? If you crunched in the numbers, it would be $4.67 for 10 minutes (at $28/hour), times say 300 operators, that's $1,400 a day or $511,000 in a year!

I could understand the idea to prevent selling the books to citizens so they can sell transfers for a buck, but I'm just amused this is another oddball policy in the Muni operators' contract.

The long term solution planned by the MTC that might kill the 10 minute pay rule is if transfers are only issued on Clipper cards; if that happens, let's see if the operators union will be protesting that it's unfair.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Update: Golden Gate Ferry Makes Changes after Akit's Report

Golden Gate Blue Gold Clipper

In a previous blog entry in July, I mentioned that Blue & Gold Fleet passengers boarding the ferry at Sausalito was paying for the wrong boat. This was due to a change in Golden Gate Ferry's policies where the trip from Sausalito to San Francisco (Ferry Building) changed from pay on board the boat (give ticket upon exit), to a prepaid system. This caused confusion as Blue & Gold's policy is to pay on the boat and surrender the ticket upon exiting. Due to all the confusion in policies, there were people paying Golden Gate, tagged their paper Clipper card upon entry, and boarded the Blue & Gold boat not realizing they'll have to pay an extra $10.50 to the cashier on the boat because they paid for the wrong one.

Just a couple of days ago, I took the Golden Gate's Sausalito ferry for a nice day trip and I noticed some drastic changes at the Sausalito dock:
  1. The Clipper card readers at the dock's gate is now locked-out unless if a Golden Gate employee tags a special Clipper card to activate the readers. This means that if a Blue & Gold passenger accidentally buys a Golden Gate ticket, at least their ticket will still have a ride stored on it for a future trip.
  2. The huge time table at the dock clearly tells passengers how to pay for their ferry ride back to San Francisco.
  3. Golden Gate Ferry honors the Blue & Gold Fleet's paper vouchers to those who rented a bicycle from one of the vendors around Fisherman's Wharf.
Still, they can make one improvement that's good for everyone: The automated machines at the Sausalito dock should ask passengers what ferry they plan to take to make sure people don't buy the wrong ticket. It's an improvement in the right direction, but I feel that both ferry companies can always strive to do better.

On a final note, I found out the transfer policy for Golden Gate & Muni passengers has changed. The new benefit, it allows Muni pass users to save 50 cents on their boat ride.

The old policy (which is similar to BART-Muni transfer):
  1. Using a Clipper card, you exit Golden Gate Ferry and board Muni and receive a 50 cent discount if used within 90 minutes. No credit/discount for Muni pass users.
  2. For the return trip to Golden Gate within 24 hours, tagging the same Clipper card on Muni receives a 50 cent discount on the Muni ride. No credit/discount for Muni pass users.
The new policy:
  1. Using a Clipper card, you exit Golden Gate Ferry and ride Muni to receive a 50 cent discount within 90 minutes. (same policy as #1 above). There's no credit/discount for Muni pass users.
  2. For the return trip to Golden Gate, you don't get the discount for Muni, but by taking Muni, your card gets encoded and you get a 50 cent discount on the ferry boat ride. This means no more 24-hour limit rule (especially great for commuters that doesn't ride on weekends). This even works if you have a Muni pass, you still save 50 cents on the ferry boat ride.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lost Your Clipper Card? How to Get a Replacement Fast

Nat Ford, CEO SFMTA (Parody 2)

One of the cool quirks of the Clipper card is if you ever lose your card, you can get a replacement card with your balance restored, as long as you meet some very basic criteria.

With paper passes and BART tickets, if you lose it, it's highly unlikely you'll ever see it again.

In order to get a replacement Clipper card with your e-cash balance, ride books, and/or passes restored, you need to have one of the following:
  1. Clipper card registered under your name.
  2. Clipper card enrolled with autoload (your name is automatically registered).
If you are not participating in autoload AND you didn't register your card (anonymous card), you can stop reading this blog entry because do not have the right to have the balance restored.

What you need to do first...
Inform Clipper about a lost or stolen card so that you get protected from any unauthorized usage of the card, and puts card readers on alert to rewrite the missing card as invalid. You can give them a call or login to your account online; the other option is to fax the form.

Fastest Method to Get a Replacement Card
If you want to get a card replaced immediately, go to the Clipper customer service center at either the Embarcadero BART station or the Bay Crossings booth at the Ferry Building. If you filed a report online or by phone, a card will be ready for you the next day. But typically, if you lost your card, just walk up to them and they should be able to do it on the spot (without first calling, going online, or faxing). UPDATE: A recent comment said that you must report it lost first; going to the counter without a lost card on file will not get a card issued immediately. Can Clipper please verify this?

Not Willing to Go to Downtown SF?
You will need to inform Clipper that you want your replacement card to be sent in the mail. It can take up to five days for a new card to be mailed. They won't reimburse you for the days you lost your balance or days you can't use your pass.

Got a Youth Card with your Picture on it?
If so, you have a card issued by AC Transit and you are eligible to purchase AC Transit youth 31 day passes; other youth cards (without the photo) can't buy the 31 day pass, but are still eligible for the youth cash fare. To get a replacement, call Clipper; the downtown service centers cannot issue new cards because they don't have the machinery to add a photo.

Replacement Fees
  • Clipper does charge a $5 replacement fee for a new card if you want the balance restored and you don't have autoload.
  • If you have autoload, the card's balance will be restored for no charge.
  • If your card has less than $5 balance, your card won't be restored because there's no point of paying a $5 replacement fee. Just get a new card at a local vendor.
Akit's Opinion
Having the option to restore your products is a good idea and at least is better than the old days when forking $50+ a month for a paper pass and losing it meant buying another. Losing a card sucks and it comes with a $5 fee, so always remember to keep your card in a secure location and don't drop it down onto the BART tracks.

On a final note...
Congratulations to CLAYCORD and the Richmond SF Blog for winning the Most Valuable Blogger awards for Local Affairs!