"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, April 28, 2011

Hey BART: Why E-Cash Purchases Only on Your Ticketing Machines? Let People Buy Passes for Other Agencies

We all know the fact... the Clipper card empire keeps expanding to meet the needs of the public. While not every single agency is not participating, it's good to have all of BART's ticketing machines able to add Clipper card value.

There is one awkward quirk about BART's ticketing machines and Clipper...

Why can't it do more than just purchase e-cash value?

I use e-cash because it's universal and I can use it on any participating agency, but can't BART's ticketing machines be a little more flexible by letting passengers also purchase passes for other agencies?

A good example is the Millbrae station. Caltrain doesn't have Clipper add value machines at that station, so people can use BART's ticketing machines to add e-cash value. But the problem is that since BART shares that station with Caltrain, can't the machines also be able to purchase Caltrain's monthly passes and 8-rides?

Other stations like Daly City, Balboa Park, and Glen Park is also a transfer point for Muni, shouldn't the BART machines also be able to purchase Muni monthly passes too? BART stations in the East Bay are next to major AC Transit stops, why not allow AC Transit pass purchases too?

The point is: Clipper and BART, please make those machines flexible and allow passengers to purchase more than just e-cash. Muni metro ticketing machines and Clipper self-service machines can do it, why can't you?

Monday, April 25, 2011

An Open Letter to Muni's Union

Dear Muni's union,

Bite me, yeah you heard me correctly, bite me. You want to strike? I dare you to.

I'm shaking in fear... (sarcasm!)

Why am I encouraging you to strike? Because us citizens will live without Muni for a long time. We can sustain ourselves by organizing our own casual carpools, and jitney buses will magically pop-up and offer cheaper fares to ride to and from major points of interest.

We have a bad economy, and you want to strike? Gees, so grumpy about your pay and benefits? Be happy you even have a job in this crappy economy. I'm lucky I survived a furlough program where I lost 10.7% of my pay.

Here's a box of diapers, you'd better wear it because you'll be shitting in your pants in no time.

Akit (and most of the rest of the city)

Friday, April 22, 2011

SFMTA's SFpark App - Low Memory Warning? Yeah, it SUCKS


I know you are all so happy about the SFpark program that your super boss, Nat Ford decided to attend the ceremonies to this new program while skipping on the Caltrain Board meeting.

I'd hate (love) to tell you, your new SFpark app just sucks.

Why in the hell do I keep getting this message saying I have a "low memory warning" and you throw me into a useless "light weight view" where I can't even see block by block what parking is available and the cost of parking?

I don't have low memory in my iPod, you fools. I have some games that uses tons more memory than this lame SFpark app, such as a 3D game where I hit home runs (and drains my battery).

Seriously, fix the damn app. Fix the low memory error by jacking-up the tolerance level.

Respectfully (and pissed off),

P.S. Muni still sucks. Someone caught another incident of a train door wide open in the subway.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

MTC and Clipper Keeps Quiet About $2 Monthly Fee for Commuter Benefit Users

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has been an advocate for Clipper card users to end the annoying $2 monthly fee for commuter benefit users who requests for direct monthly loading of passes, e-cash, and ridebooks (not vouchers and debit cards).

This $2 has been going on for many months with no news, but the MTC and Clipper folks have very quietly posted an update on April 11th about the situation.

Since the MTC and Clipper wants to be sneaky and not grab the attention of the public and mass media, I'm going to bang on the pots and pans to tell you what's going on.

The $2 monthly fee was imposed by Clipper (not MTC) to all commuter benefit companies if customers requested to the benefit company to have their pass, e-cash, or ridebooks loaded directly to their card, thereby there is no need for a plastic debit card or paper vouchers. It was up to the benefit companies if they wanted to absorb the costs or pass on the $2 to the customers.

The MTC (via Clipper's website) has quietly informed the public of an update, the policy WON'T CHANGE. That's right, the fee will still exist; this means, for some people, you may have an automatic $2 fee imposed against your commuter benefit account.

The alternatives to not being charged the fee is simple: Request a paper voucher that is valid at many in-person Clipper add value locations, or request a special debit card which is good at all Clipper automated machines, transit agency ticketing offices, ClipperCard.com, and Clipper's customer service centers at Embarcadero BART/Muni station and Bay Crossings at the Ferry Building.

For those who uses Clipper's own commuter benefits program, known as "Clipper Direct," they will not impose the $2 monthly fee.


Akit's Opinion:

I thought the MTC was on our side (the card users) to kill off this incredibly stupid monthly fee. The most convenient way to have passes, e-cash, and ridebooks loaded to our Clipper card accounts from commuter benefit agencies, is now the most annoying way to do it because it now costs us $24 a year.

Okay, fine, we'll use the paper vouchers and debit cards to get around it (for free)... but that's not eco friendly. Paper vouchers costs money to produce by killing trees, and the labor it takes to cut the checks, stuff them, and pay for postage to mail it to customers. Debit cards are a little more eco friendly as they only send one card that's good for many years, but it's just another piece of plastic to carry around.

How low can the MTC go? Makes me sick.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Warm Fuzzy Feelings at the Cherry Blossom Festival

I'd like to give a big thanks to everyone attending the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival at SF's Japantown over the weekend. The weather was a little windy, but everyone had a great time with the parade and all the fun booths selling all kinds of goodies.

One thing I'm especially proud about is the people who generously donated to the earthquake and tsunami relief fund during the festival.

On Saturday, the Teriburger booth had one of those donation cans on their counter, but hardly received any donations. I thought to myself, why don't I solicit donations as part of my duties at the booth?

It worked out! I'm the street barker for Kimochi's Teriburger booth and I was advertising our burgers and also asking for donations by holding onto the donation can. Donations kept coming in, just within the first 30 minutes, I had several people drop their coins and dollar bills in the can. At other times, I had people feeding $20 bills. On multiple occasions, the can got so full, I had to push down the bills as far as I can just to accept more cash.

It's also nice to hear some of the great stories from people:
  • A child donated all of her piggy bank savings.
  • A second child sold baked goods in front of her home and donated all the proceeds.
  • One said she already donated $80 and donated more out of kindness.
In the end, word has it the festival generated $200,000 in donations to help Japan. The Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California already received over $1,000,000 donations and the extra $200K will do great help.

Thanks for a great weekend!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Come on Down to the SF Cherry Blossom Festival This Weekend - Maybe Meet Akit In Person!

This weekend is the second weekend of the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco's Japantown. If you went to last weekend's, you'll notice this weekend will be more crowded and more popular...

Why? The big parade is this Sunday afternoon with approximately 45 groups marching in the parade from Civic Center to the heart of Japantown. Don't forget the Taru Mikoshi which is the exciting climax of the parade when 100 individuals carry a huge portable shrine down Post Street.

But as always, my personal favorite part of the festival is all the great food! Who can resist all the tasty temptations? There's so much for everyone's tastebuds: Japanese beer, shaved ice, udon noodle bowls, riblets, spam musubi, and the famous Teriburgers (there's plenty more than this short list).

Don't forget, all the food booths are for great causes. No, you are not feeding money into some for-profit company; each booth supports a great community non-profit organization, including childcare centers, senior services, cultural programs, Boy Scouting, churches, and for earthquake relief to those affected in Japan. To make it even sweeter, all the people working the booths are volunteers, including some of my family friends who have done it for over 30 and sometimes 40+ years.

Want to meet me at the festival? I'll be volunteering in the food booth area on both days for my favorite organization, Kimochi.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Naming the New 49ers Stadium - My Nomination Won!

If you read that blog entry title, you might have noticed I won the naming of the future 49ers Stadium in Santa Clara. Well... that's half-true. In fact, it was a hypothetical name that I suggested.

Last Wednesday, SFGate's 'City Insider' asked their commentators for their ideas to name the future 49ers Stadium in Santa Clara. Many suggested names that identifies how they feel about the team, such as making fun of the Yorks, to mentioning about the tech sector.

I said to myself, hell, why not take a punch at some fun names. I suggested:
  1. Candlestick II (the roman numeral signifies two middle fingers)
  2. SuperMegaTaxpayerDollarWaste Stadium
It turned out, suggestion number two got on the ballot and it was active over the weekend for everyone to vote.

Here was the choices SFGate posted for voting:
  1. SuperMegaTaxpayerDollarWaste Stadium
  2. York's Sports Suckplex
  3. Fool's Gold Field
  4. iPark
  5. San Francisco 49ers of Anaheim Stadium
  6. Field of Schemes
  7. Field of Dashed Hopes and Broken Dreams
  8. York's Dorks
  9. "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" Stadium
  10. Mike "I Want Winners" Singletary Memorial Field
The results (posted here) says, my nomination actually won! I had the most first place votes (250) and the most overall votes (562).

Yeah yeah... like the Niners are really going to pick my name. Maybe York is laughing his ass off right now saying... "It's all private funds! (Cough!)"

(Regarding the photo: Can Crazy Crab be a co-mascot for the 49ers?)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Giants Fans Always Treats Dodgers Fans with Respect - Violence is Wrong

Today is the big day in San Francisco, the first home game as champs at AT&T Park! The weather is gorgeous and the next three days will be filled of awards and praise from the fans.

However, out of all this excitement, Bryan Stow is in the hospital with possible brain damage after a Dodgers fan at Dodgers Stadium decided to assault him. If you are going to game on April 11th, there will be a donation collection effort as his medical bills will likely be expensive and his recovery effort will be a long road ahead. I'm hopeful for a quick recovery and swift justice to those who hurt him.

With this in mind, next week is the big rivalry of the Giants vs. Dodgers at AT&T Park. Let's show how us Giants fans treat Dodger fans, both sides joke and yell at each other for fun, but us Giants fans respect them by not committing violence and anti-social behavior that would not be tolerated by most fans.

Being a fan of baseball, I find AT&T Park to be a very safe environment with many uniformed police officers and staff at every section keeping an eye on the crowds. In instances where fans are out of control, the police arrive quickly to resolve and eject fans. Even after the games, I feel safe leaving the park and riding the metro, even if we played against a big team rival.


I want to share with you one instance when I didn't feel safe and others around me were also very uncomfortable. Last week, I attended the preseason game at AT&T Park against the A's and around the seventh inning, five young people sat behind me. Their breath was strong with alcohol and could be smelt rows away. Things really got bad when they started swearing and was even worse because there were very young children sitting next to me on my right.

Everyone started asking the drunk and unruly fans to stop cussing, and they started threatening physical violence on those who asked them to stop (example: Threatening to slap a fan). I even got spat upon by one of them, but being that I was just in front of them and an easy enough to get assaulted, I didn't want to confront them in fear of my own safety.

They eventually left the area.


I feel one thing all ballparks should consider doing is to curb or severely limit alcohol sales. A lot of the problems with unruly fans is the booze flowing from the taps of the concession stands. I can understand that the ballparks and their vendors are getting rich off expensive cups of beer, but causing a fan to have brain damage after being assaulted by an allegedly drunk and belligerent fan is not worth it.

The general rule about selling alcohol is if the person is intoxicated, the server is not supposed to give the patron the beverage. The one big problem at AT&T Park is many of the concession stands are operated by people who have those temporary badges as they are part of an organization or fraternity/sorority who gets fundraising money in exchange for working the concession stands. From the looks of it, they don't get much training, and I'm not exactly sure they are skilled enough to identify fans who had too much to drink.

Be safe out there and enjoy your weekend.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Muni Patron Filming Open Metro Door Considered Pushing Emergency Stop Button - Decided to Film Incident

A lot of you might have watched the video of a Muni metro door that was open while in the subway on your local news or favorite local blog site.

It's shocking to see an open train door while the train is operating at full speed down the subway tunnel. One wrong move and a passenger could have been thrown out the door. Just to make it more amusing, none of the passengers filmed didn't do anything; they just stood there like the door was shut.

But what's so shameful about this is a report from KPIX news. The news reporter interviewed the person filming the video and he said:
"My first thought was somebody push the red button, stop this train, this is dangerous, somebody is going to fall out of here..."

On the next paragraph, the KPIX reporter said:
"Merenkov did not hit the button himself because he wanted to document the dangerous situation."

EXCUSE ME? Did I just read that correctly? In the interest of "news" the guy just films a dangerous situation like that and contemplated taking action by not taking action? What would have happened if a passenger fell off the train and got killed or seriously injured? That would be something that would haunt the recorder for the rest of his life because he had the chance to prevent it.

The guy filming it should have made the decision to activate the emergency stop button or inform a person nearby to press it immediately.

This is terrible, and a total disgrace. People ignore the problem, and the person filming it could have taken action to stop the incident from happening, but instead, films the damn thing?

Is there an "idiot of the month" award? I'd like to hand it to that guy.


Just to refresh everyone's memory, I wrote a blog entry mentioning about an incident on Muni metro where a man fell face first on the train and was bleeding all over the floor. When the train stopped at the next stop, I got the driver's attention and he called the paramedics to check on him, and had to put the car out of service because of the pool of blood on the floor.

What I didn't tell you is the other passengers who helped the guy who had the gash on his eyebrow said not to inform the driver. I first said to them, I need to get the driver's attention because of the blood on the floor and the risk of pathogens, but the two passengers helping him said NO.

What the hell is wrong with people these days? Blood on the floor is a serious health risk; just like the open door incident, that's also a major risk to the public. People who see incidents like this should inform officials immediately and not wait around or get some major public exposure by filming the problem.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Another Round of Clipper Card Updates from the MTC's Operations Committee

While I love to report about the notes posted on MTC's Operations Committee (the de facto Clipper card board), I should warn you now, there won't be much new material.

The Operations Committee will be meeting this Friday, April 8, 2011 at 10:15AM. (See agenda) Clipper will be discussed in calendar items (item 2, part "D") regarding contract actions. Normally these 'contract actions' is an opportunity for the MTC to modify or establish contracts with the goal of using or increase funding based on the needs of the Clipper card program. The committee uses this opportunity to address MTC staff and Clipper representatives about the program, and the agenda items posted online (see here) also gives helpful info to the public.

  • As of April 1st, all existing paper 8-ride tickets for Caltrain has expired and now operates on Clipper only. This is for any passenger who purchased their paper 8-ride on the very last day prior to being sold on Clipper cards only.
  • Clipper staff are been doing heavy outreach to all Caltrain passenger stations, and have been on all rush hour evening trains on March 29th to answer questions about the switch.
  • Muni has recently switched from the paper "M" Muni only pass to Clipper only.
  • BART's activation of their ticketing machines for Clipper e-cash purchases is currently at 30 stations (as of April 1st). BART will be activating functionality on the last 14 stations this month.
  • Golden Gate Ferry completed installation of Clipper purchasing machines at their ferry terminals in February, and will begin patron operations in April.
Contract Actions
  • The committee approved $750K for upgrading VTA's existing ticketing machines to be able to also add Clipper value, however the planned cost for Cubic to handle the work has come way under budget. Due to the reduced budget cost, the entire build will now cost $500K, and they will vote on shifting the extra $250K to the "VTA Funding Agreement."
  • The committee is to receive a proposal to amend a contract for the Bay Crossings booth at the Ferry Building. If you remember in my prior blog posts, the Bay Crossings vendor is one of only two in-person customer service centers for Clipper cards. The plan is to increase the existing contact to $167,000 in order to extend Clipper services at that location to June 30, 2012. The original contact was approved for $64,500, but in order to sustain continued services, the proposal is to increase it by $102,500 (thereby equaling $167,000).

Akit's Opinion and Analysis
After spending a four day weekend riding Muni to see old friends and get lunch, it seems things are going okay with the big switch for all Muni "M" pass users to Clipper only. There's only been a few occasions where rookie users didn't know how to properly tag their card, and that's going to be expected this week as the 3-day grace period has officially ended. This switch also means their favorite pass vendor, whether it be a corner liquor store, discount housewares shop, or their donut shop won't be able to handle Clipper transactions. It's a change for many, but realize that if you take transit and pass by a nearby authorized Clipper vendor, just take ten minutes of your busy life and hop-off the vehicle and go purchase it.

Clipper on Caltrain will always be the nagging problem for the program. It's not an easy to use system as Clipper is required to mimic existing pass and ticketing policies from Caltrain (with a few modifications, such as tag-on and off). With so much complexity, there is a need for the program to simplify, such as following the model used by Golden Gate Transit & Ferry where they eliminated all ticket books (they never sold passes) and just gave all passengers an across the board ride discount equal to the discount given from the ticket books.

While I'm on the topic of transit payments, when will Clipper consider the pass accumulator program and a regional pass? A pass accumulator is a system where a passenger pays for their rides with a specific agency with e-cash, and when it reaches a certain threshold, the rest of the rides for that specified period is free. A regional pass is similar to BART Plus where a rider has the ability to ride unlimited rides on multiple agencies for one flat price. While these are two separate ideas, the ultimate dream for all Bay Area transit riders would be a program where if you spend so much in a specified period on ANY participating agency, the rest of the rides on all agencies are free. The MTC has talked about this before, but have been quiet about it. Plans are in the works to simplify the fare structure for all transit agencies using Clipper.

If you ever wondered about where all this money comes from to fund Clipper and its services, one primary source comes from the "Regional Measure 2" funds us voters approved back in 2004. The funding comes from the additional dollar all drivers must pay to cross all Bay Area bridges (except Golden Gate Bridge) and is used to fund transportation projects with the goal to reduce congestion and to improve existing toll facilities (read more). Other funding comes from the state and federal levels.