"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)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

More Clipper Card Vendors Needs to Accept Commuter Debit Cards

I believe it's time to ask for more Clipper card vendors to accept commuter debit cards.

If you don't know what a commuter debit card is, it's the ones issued by major transit benefit companies like Commuter Check and WageWorks. Instead of sending you a voucher or your passes in the mail on a monthly basis, you get a debit card when you sign-up for it and the funds will automatically load to the card every month.

You just can't use this debit card at any place that sells transit media, it has to be a specific place that ONLY sells transit media, such as a Muni ticket booth at Presidio and Geary, a transit ticket automated machine like at all BART stations, or a vendor that only sells transit media like the third-party ticket sales booths at Embarcadero station. The reason behind that is, you can't use the funds on the card to buy anything other than transit passes, thereby using the card at Walgreens (which also sells passes on Clipper) would be prohibited because the data returned to the commuter benefit company would say what type of business is it, like "grocery store" or "pharmacy." If you have ever looked at your own personal credit card statement, most of the time it will say the description of what the vendor normally sells, not what specific items you bought.

I think it might be time for Clipper to consider getting more local businesses to accept the debit cards by giving them a separate debit card machine to handle it specifically for Clipper card purchases. The demand to purchase Clipper media grows by the day, and people want the most options available. People with debit cards in SF have very limited options beyond all the Muni metro stations and the two sales booths at Presidio & Geary and Powell Cable Car turnaround; there are a few Clipper add value machines that can purchase Muni passes such as the Golden Gate Ferry terminal and the Temporary Transbay Terminal, but there's no debit cards accepted in areas beyond the downtown region (Market street between Castro and the Ferry Building) and Forest Hill/West Portal area.

Maybe Walgreens can add a separate debit card machine to handle it; SF State doesn't accept debit cards, but will accept vouchers, why not them? The debit card is a much easier option because you get one card good for many years, saving trees by not mailing items on a monthly basis, and gives people flexibility to change from a pass to e-cash in situations where they may be going on a planned vacation.

Some of you may be saying, how about buying Clipper media online? Sure, they accept the debit cards online, but as we all know, the 5-day delay sucks, especially when you need the pass or e-cash funds immediately.

Why did I even write about this?
My mom gave me a call because she knows I'm some transit expert (Akit in the house!). She told me she waited in a 30 person line at the Presidio & Geary Muni sales booth to purchase her September "M" pass and with only one person at the booth, it took nearly an hour just to buy it with her debit card. It made me wonder if her neighborhood Walgreens could eventually be able to accept those cards to pay for her pass without the long wait.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I Won a Ride with Lou Seal - Worth Every Second

This is really cool. On Friday the 26th, I was a passenger on the Lou Seal-ebrity Ride of the Game! That's right, I scored a ride around the ballpark at the end of the third inning.

You might be thinking... how did Akit afford to pay $400 to ride around the ballpark? The answer is, I didn't pay anything; I won it!

Here's what happened...

I got a call the week before and the lady said, "hi, I'm calling from AAA." I thought to myself, oh crap, what did you do to my membership and insurance? She then told me I was the winner of four Giants tickets; okay... good! And to top it all off, I won a ride with Lou Seal around the ballpark!

It turned out it was a text to win raffle I entered when I was at a July giants game and noticed on the scoreboard information on how to enter. So I took a punch in the arm, put my info into the cell phone and took a chance at fame.

I got an e-mail later that day with all the information I needed to know, and gathered up three people to come along with me; the only people I could find are my co-workers I work and I dragged them along with me for the fun.

I could only pick one person to tag along with me on the golf cart, and I picked my fellow SF State colleague, Amanda. The group (not including me) was two guys and one lady; as a gentleman, I gave up my second seat on the policy of 'ladies first.' The two other guys wanted to bribe me to take them, but even then, I didn't want their money, nor let them pay me for their ballgame tickets.

It was quite interesting. Two reps from the Giants came to our seats to pick-up Amanda and I, and we were waiting for Lou Seal's arrival and the end of the third inning for the moment to shine. That cart driver went FAST! So fast that my other co-worker, Ryan, was able to take a blurry picture of us passing by. At least my famous pin hat didn't fly off in the process.

A Blurry Photo of My Lou Seal-ebrity Ride

That was definitely a lot of fun and once in a lifetime opportunity.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Major Improvements & Repairs on Powell Street Parklets

Powell Parklet

The City & County of San Francisco has made some major improvements since my last two blog entries about the Powell Street Parklets (original story and update).

A lot of the problems stemmed from the tripping hazards caused by the solar panels installed and the barricades separating the parklet from the road traffic was getting bent and damaged because people was sitting on them.

Solar Panels Removed
Powell Street Parklet Trip Hazard

Originally installed to give power for free wi-fi on Powell Street from Ellis to Geary, the installation was terrible with large metal parts sticking out from the base of the parklet to cause injury to those who tripped over it.

8/20 Powell Parklet

The city has now removed the dangerous hazards from all parklets and now there's new planters the size of garbage cans being installed. Just last week they looked like empty garbage cans, this week it's filled with brand new plants.

Bent Rails Fixed
8/20 Powell Parklet

I just snapped this photo last week Saturday (August 20th) and this one in front of the Walgreens was really bent out of shape. Actually, most of the ones between Ellis and O'Farrell was almost all bent with some of the bolts keeping them together, snapped off. The ones between Geary and O'Farrell last weekend was repaired with new ones and newer types that have a smaller gap, thereby impossible to bend out of shape.

Powell Parklet 8/27

I just snapped this photo a few hours ago while I was eating a sandwich at one of the parklet's tables in front of the same location where that heavily bent rail was last week. The city did a great job to replace ALL the bent rails between Ellis and O'Farrell.

Still... I caught two people starting to destroy our new barricades. People don't respect city property and that makes me grumpy. I wonder why the Union Square ambassadors in red doesn't boot their ass off the rails.

Powell Parklet 8/27 Powell Parklet 8/27

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Akit Already Knows Muni Won't Take Action Against an 18-46th Avenue Driver - So I Will Just Report it Here

When you ride Muni on a regular basis and strictly follow the time schedule, it's likely your bus operator will be the same person. This is especially true for me when I take the 18-46th Avenue line because it operates on 20 minute frequencies during rush hours.

But when you ride with the same driver, you start to notice certain patterns that are just inappropriate, and I finally got fed-up enough to call 311 and report the driver for poor practices. But as we well know, reporting problems to Muni just gets ignored, so I'm deciding to take another step and use the power of my blog to get a wider audience.

Before I tell you about what happened, did you know that in order for Muni to take action against a bus driver, the union rules states that you have to surrender your name and contact information? I usually call 311 and just state I refuse to provide that info, but without it, Muni can't do shit.

Here's the whole story:
Bus: 8417
Line: 18-46th Avenue inbound (to Legion of Honor)
Time: Bus leaves at 6PM at Stonestown (outbound terminal for 18 line)
Driver #: Not known
Description of driver: African American male, thin build, in his 40s.

First incident: Stop at Lake Merced & Font (SF State)
I normally ride the 6:05PM bus arrival at that particular stop because it's just a short walk from my office and it takes me close to my home in the Outer Richmond District. The same driver always picks up passengers 50 feet ahead of the yellow mark on the pavement that indicates the bus must stop there to pick-up passengers.

To make it even more amusing, I flagged the driver by standing near the yellow mark as it was about 200-300 feet away, enough time for the driver to gently hit his brake and hazard lights, but every single time, pulls fifty feet ahead of the yellow mark, thereby forcing any passenger waiting there to rush over to the front door.

Here's a streetsview map from Google:

View Larger Map
On the map image, you'll see a bench on the right side, and just in front of it on the pavement is the yellow mark indicating it's a bus stop for the 18 line. All other Muni operators who drives on this line always stops very close to the yellow mark and the bench, but the regular driver of the 6PM bus doesn't; that driver pulls up to where you see the green "Font" sign, about fifty feet ahead of the bench/yellow mark.

Second incident: Stop at La Playa & Cabrillo
The bus stop at La Playa & Cabrillo next to the Safeway supermarket is a really long bus stop of about 400-500 feet, and the passenger shelter is in the middle of the long bus stop. This stop is so big because back in the day, Muni used that long red zone as a terminus for the 38-Geary Ocean Beach branch, and those articulated buses are a good 60 feet long. These days, it's not used as a terminus stop because Muni built a terminal area for the 5-Fulton and 31-Balboa in an empty lot just across the street, and the 38-Geary Ocean Beach branch doesn't exist ever since the 18 line was forced to take over that route.

Since the bus stop is so huge, the same driver always decides to pull to the very front end of the bus stop, this means the people sitting or standing near the passenger shelter has to walk about 50-75 feet just to catch this particular bus. When I ride at other times with other drivers, they stop as close to the shelter as possible, and that even includes the 31-Balboa. A lot of times, the passengers are mostly senior citizens carrying grocery bags, and making them rush to catch a bus that pulled 75 feet in front is just rude and disrespectful.

Here's what made it worse. Yesterday, the driver did the same tactic: Pull the bus to the front end of the bus stop (very close to where that white truck is). Nobody wanted to exit the bus (did not ring bell), and there was about three people sitting in the shelter. The driver slowed down upon approach to the front end of the stop, and I noticed in the window, two people standing-up wanting to catch the bus when they saw it. The driver assumed nobody wanted to board, so he picked-up speed and continued on. I took off my headphones and hollered at the driver, "wasn't there people who wanted to board?" I got no response.

By this point, I was fed-up with this driver. He doesn't give any respect to passengers pulling-up close to the passenger shelter at La Playa & Cabrillo and doesn't make an effort to stop at the yellow marking at Lake Merced & Font. Oh, but he'll allow any of his friends to board at any point along the route that's not a designated bus stop.

Now that I told my story online WILL MUNI TAKE SOME ACTION? It seems complaining to 311 just goes through the cycle of nowhere.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bicyclists Suck in Golden Gate Park (Okay, Not Everyone Sucks)

On Tuesday during evening rush, I was going home from work in my car and it requires me to drive into Golden Gate Park to go from the Outer Sunset district to the Outer Richmond.

What irritated me during this commute is a huge wad of bicyclists who decided to blow right through two stop signs. No, it's not Critical Mass, that's not until this Friday in downtown. It was around 30 bicyclists that was like a huge swarm of pissed off bees down Martin Luther King drive, and I can see them in my rear mirror coming fast. These were bicyclists that looked like they were training to be in a bicyclist racing event because of their racing bikes and their tight fit clothing.

Here's where they were going:

View Larger Map

I was stopped at point "C" just behind a SUV waiting for its turn to make a right turn onto Chain of Lakes. I noticed the swarm come from behind me, blew through the stop sign at Middle Drive (point "B") and on approach to make a right turn onto northbound Chain of Lakes.

I noticed in my mirror that they almost caused an accident when a car with the right of way (no stop sign) had to slam their brakes, and the SUV in front of me at the intersection had to also slam their brakes because the bikes passes on the right of us between the curb and the car.

That was just creepy to see a wad of bikes just violate state traffic laws and nearly cause multiple accidents. State law clearly says that ALL bicyclists on the road must obey all traffic signs and signals; did they? HELL NO. I'm no vigilante to put a stick in their spokes, and I decided the only decent thing to do when there's safety concerns is to call the police. I don't know what happened after that, but I hope those bikers gets a ticket and enjoys their day in traffic court.

This has happened before...
About six months ago, I had the same incident happen at map point "B" where I was the car going west and had the right away, and about a dozen fast moving bicyclists decided to cut me off by blowing through the stop sign on Middle Drive.

I know there's a lot of you that are angry at bicyclists, and much of the complaints happens in downtown. But let's remember that not all bicyclists breaks the law, just a handful who thinks they are superman or totally invincible to cops writing tickets. All it takes is one crash to end someone's life and haunt the car driver forever.

But nobody really targets the bad cyclists in Golden Gate Park. It is because it's easier to get away with it due to the winding roads and you don't exactly know what street they went on so you can call the cops and report it? Would you know where South Fork Drive is? Likely not for many drivers.

For the rest of you, have you experienced a bad incident with a bicyclist breaking the law? Leave a comment.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Abusing Food Bank Programs Makes Me Sick

Lately in the news, we're hearing that the San Francisco Food Bank is hitting hard times with a shortage of money and the need for food for hungry families rising drastically.

SFGate and KTVU are addressing the problem head-on, but what are we really doing to address the underlying problem that hardly anyone has the guts to do?

Sure, the KTVU video shows people selling the food, but a less than two minute segment doesn't hit the issue hard enough.

The problem with our society here in San Francisco is that there's a lot of greed, people who take advantage of church and charity food banks and either abuse it or utilize it in a fashion that would be morally inappropriate.

The Big Problem
My parents volunteer for a local neighborhood church by helping with assembling the grocery bags to those who desperately need the food, but I hear time and time again from them that there's people who abuse the system because when it's "free," people will find loopholes and ways to abuse it. The problem I find:
  • People go church to church to take full advantage of the free groceries.
This problem shows that people have a total disregard for others by ignoring the fact that there's other hungry families in the city who needs food. What happened to everyone gets their fair share when it's needed?

I don't like to be racist, but I have to say, a lot of this abuse stems from older Chinese Americans. I don't exactly understand why, but when I drive by community centers and churches doing these programs, you just see a lot of them waiting there. Even at Glide Memorial Church, a good portion are Chinese Americans, and you can even watch press coverage showing those people who picked-up the items either goes back in line for a second shot or tries to sell it a few blocks away. I'm half-Chinese, but I know that's wrong.

Distribution Methods
Some of these programs just gives out the grocery bags very blindly. First come and first served. Those who knows how the program works can take full advantage of the loopholes by going church to church. That has to stop. By doing the "church to church" method, there's no cross referencing through a local online database to see if someone has gone multiple times in one day, nor do I notice any type of hand stamp or finger ink to designate that someone has already taken their share.

There are other programs that do it the right way. They register every single person that enters through their door for a bag and limits it to once a month. Now that's powerful stuff, being forced to surrender identification so the name can be screened to make sure that others can at least get a fair chance at getting food, even if it's only a monthly giveaway.

What the State did to End Abuse
The food stamp EBT debit card program has had its share of problems, but when the news media exposed merchants who decided to give cash instead of food to those in need many years ago, the state came in and kicked serious ass. The method was the customer would go to the merchant, swipe the card to find the value, and wipe the value to zero and give money back; thereby the merchant gets a cut of the money, and the customer gets a portion back (say $20 on card, merchant keeps $5, customer gets $15).

Akit's Method to Ending Abuse
I think there's a stronger method that can be used to stem the abuse from these food giveaway programs. It's a combination of a local database, identification checks, limits on how much per a certain time period, and access to resources.

The resources piece is a very important part; by registering a person into the database, the church or community center can make contact with the person or a social worker can help them with finding ways to get out of poverty or the financial troubles they are facing. Some examples would be: City College, getting a GED, where to find jobs (e.g. unemployment office), community service programs, and many others. By making people know and use the resources and becomes successful, they'll not need the grocery bags and it can go to others who now need it more than ever.

What did Akit skip?
Some of you may be asking, why did I skip on the people who sell the stuff? I might be an unofficial public policy consultant, but even I don't know how that can be stopped. Is there a law against it? If there isn't, maybe it's time for some good ol' public humiliation. KTVU did it, maybe other media outlets should shove a microphone in their face and force them to answer why.

Friday, August 19, 2011

What Now Clipper Card?

The Clipper card has grown a lot in just a matter of a year, especially with the absorbing of most paper passes to be on electronic form only. There's little changes here and there these days, but we haven't seen anything huge or at least I don't see any new progress as of late.

My concern is, how long until we get the smaller and private agencies to join the consortium? We currently have all the major transit agencies in the Bay Area using the universal card, why can't the card grow?

Ever since the birth of TransLink, Muni, BART, Golden Gate, AC Transit, VTA, and Caltrain was the first agencies to start the pilot program with very limited usage. It was over a decade until in 2010 and 2011 where SamTrans joined the group when the name was changed to the Clipper card.

But even then, where's the new growth? If we are to be truly a one card system, wouldn't it be fair that we include everyone, even the smallest agencies? When will Clipper expand to non public transportation realms such as paying for parking meters, city parking garages, and maybe your next snack at your local convenience store?

There is so much potential for the Clipper card to become even more helpful for our daily lives. Heck, the Japanese are kicking our asses because you can even order ramen out of a vending machine with the touch of your transit fare card.

I'm somewhat confident the folks at the MTC can push through and make it easier for citizens in the Bay Area to take public transit, but it seems Clipper's reputation is somewhat scarred. I still notice those who just thinks it sucks, and there's so much confusion and oddball policies (such as Caltrain's) that things won't get easier until people take action to make changes.

What will it take to clean-up Clipper? What will it take to expand the system? And what will it take to eliminate stupid policies that is either pointless (e.g. selling Muni ridebooks with no discount) or so complicated you'll want to pull your hair out (like Caltrain's idiotic monthly pass policy)?

I challenge the MTC to use their brains and push things along. If you want input from the people, ask the people what they want and give recognition to suggestions and changes on what is fair and good for the public. Convince transit agencies that change is a good thing:
  • Tell Caltrain to end the stupid 8-rides and go with an across the board 15% discount
  • Tell Muni to stop selling tokens on Clipper cards because it costs the same to ride if paid with e-cash.
  • Tell BART to start selling high value discount tickets for Clipper cards at all station ticket vending machines.
  • Make Caltrain stations have Clipper add value machines.
  • Offer people an 'all Bay Area' pass with unlimited access to all Bay Area transit agencies for one flat price, or offer a choice package where people can choose the agencies they need and the more they pick, the better the savings.
  • Offer e-cash paying passengers the opportunity to 'earn' a transit day pass after reaching a certain goal within 24-hours.
  • End the stupid $2 monthly fee to those who automatically loads their e-cash and/or passes via Commuter Check and similar employer programs.
  • Give people a decent incentive to use Clipper. New York gives a bonus to passengers who adds a certain amount to their MetroCard.
How long until MTC takes these ideas and runs with it? They do know they can withhold funds to agencies for not meeting goals (like when they threatened BART), so why not use it as leverage to make changes on behalf of the customers?


Sorry for rambling on, I just needed to vent today.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My Opinion about Outside Lands - Not So Bad After All

More Muni Training Bus Accident FAIL

There's been a mixed reaction about Outside Lands and while my blog used to be the hotbed of controversy when the event had its first year, The Richmond District Blog of San Francisco got over 170 comments, and it was pretty heated.

There's a handful that says, it was fine, others argued it wasn't fun because the noise was so bad. Even one of my friends who lives in University Park North (a.k.a. Stonestown Apartments) could hear the bass, and that's a far distance away from the park.

The Sound
As for me, life wasn't so bad in the Outer Richmond. Last year, I could hear some of the bass rumbling my walls and my ears, but this year, I didn't hear anything. That's a little odd, or maybe it's because the stage and speakers on the Polo Fields was facing east instead of west. I did notice some sound when I was on Geary and 19th walking around having some Joe's ice cream, but I surely didn't hear any music when I was inside earlier having curry at Volcano.

Traffic wasn't that bad to go north and south. There was some rumor mill that Great Highway was closed all weekend, but that wasn't true at all.

I took my car on Friday and traveled along Great Highway in the morning without any difficulties. Going back around 6PM was a little troubling with heavy traffic between Lincoln and Fulton, but this was normal traffic people would expect on a weekend during a gorgeous day (those who wants to enjoy a day at the beach).

On Saturday, I decided to go out for an evening at the movies. Things went quite smoothly because I left my house at about 8PM and returned around 11:15PM encountering no traffic; only just a few stragglers walking around for a bus stop.

I'd have to say that Muni was my only major complaint for this entire event. I took the 38L inbound with no difficulties to reach Japantown for the Nihonmachi Street Fair.

Going back was a total hellhole. I just missed the 38L and looked at the Nextbus sign for the next vehicle. It said the next limited bus would be nearly 25 minutes. I waited and waited while four 38 local buses passed by, each one packed to the maximum capacity. I finally hopped onto a limited bus for a horrendous bus ride to Arguello to stop at the bank. I then had to wait for the next limited... the next one was packed, and so was the next few local buses. Muni had a bunch of out of service 60 foot articulated buses just buzzing by, and finally had to force my way on the next limited bus just so I could get home.

I knew most of the passengers on the bus was Outside Landers because they wore a green wristband, and a huge wad of them got off at 25th and 33rd Avenues.

I'm curious of why they took the Geary lines. More direct service is provided by the N-Judah, 71-Height Noriega, and 5-Fulton. I knew Outside Lands rented the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, but it looks like a lot of people went cheap and didn't opt for the express shuttle service. What's strange is the Geary lines are much further away from the Civic Auditorium at Civic Center than the other lines people can take that goes closest to the site in Golden Gate Park.

What did you think of Outside Lands? Leave a comment.

Lastly, regarding the photo, I couldn't find anything amusing to use, so I used a Muni training bus accident photo.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Half of Ocean Beach Parking Lot Closed for Outside Lands - Only One Vehicle Used Lot

It's Outside Lands time again, and for us folk of the Outer Richmond and Sunset districts, we're at war.

Let's face it, there's another year on their agreement with the city to host this monstrosity, so let's get our ear plugs or run to some other festival like this weekend's Nihonmachi Street Fair in Japantown.

What Parking?
Yesterday, I commuted via the Great Highway to and from my job at SF State, and I noticed something, half of the Ocean Beach parking lot was blocked-off, which meant about a good hundred or two cars can't use that part of the parking lot.

I knew that last year, I called the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) and they had to contact the city to find out who blocked-off a large section of the parking lot. They called me back and told me it was for Outside Lands.

And for the last couple of times they've blocked the parking lot, the blocked-off portion was BARELY USED.

Just yesterday afternoon on my drive back home, there was only one vehicle parked in that huge section, a big rig truck. That's it. Just one big truck. There wasn't any security, nor signage indicating the reason why such a huge portion of a public parking lot was shut down. Here's a snapshot of the truck and the huge empty lot:

Wasted Parking Space - Outside Lands 2011

Closing off a huge section, especially on the weekend is not a great idea. Surfers park there, beachgoers with family parks there, and it's used as an overflow lot for the Beach Chalet. If Outside Lands has no purpose of blocking off a huge portion of a parking lot, open it up for the public and shut it down when you truly need the space.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My Write-In Candidates for Mayor of San Francisco

Japantown Fall Festival - Gavin Newsom
I'm no fan of politics, basically I hate politics. I feel that many people who get elected are scumbags, and I've openly admitted it when a politician got in my face at a Farmers Market and I yelled out: "YOU ARE SCUM!"

I thought for laughs, who would I vote for Mayor of San Francisco? No, I'm not picking some person off the ballot, I would do a write-in. Here's my choices:
  1. Tony Bennett. Who else but the man who sings "I Left My Heart in San Francisco?"
  2. Brian Wilson. The beard can kick ass any day.
  3. R. Lee Erney. The sarge can scream and make life a living hell for those who pisses him off.
  4. SF's World Famous Bushman. He'd scare the crap out of the BOS.
  5. Frank Chu. He doesn't have to say a word; he just flashes his sign and people understand.
  6. Any person from that TV show "Extreme Couponing." We can save millions on city toilet paper and motor oil for Muni buses with just a bunch of coupons.
  7. Stone Cold Steve Austin (pro wrestling). Drinking on the job, doesn't play nice with the press, and does stunners on the Board of Supervisors.
  8. Michael Tilson Thomas, SF Symphony. He can bring his symphony with him to press meetings and play dramatic music when he says there's a budget problem, and soothing music to calm the public.
  9. The Cast of Wicked. Glinda and Elphaba doesn't need to rely on gasoline or city owned cars, they can save tons by riding on a bubble or broomstick. They could also cast a spell on Muni to run on-time and under budget.
  10. Dirty Harry. Okay, it's a movie character, but we need a guy who can run this city with a "I don't give a shit" attitude.
  11. Emperor Norton. He might be dead, but fining people for calling SF "Frisco" is respect in my books.

What's your suggestions? Leave it in the comments.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Clipper E-Cash Accepted on Cable Cars Starting August 8th

If you can dream, so can Clipper...

In the past, Cable Car conductors could only verify if a card user has a valid pass, but they could not deduct e-cash to pay for the one-way fare.

Effective Monday, August 8th, Muni's famous Cable Cars will also accept Clipper e-cash!

This is a cool thing Muni will do, but be warned... conductors will yank $6 of e-cash and you won't have the option to purchase a day pass. If you have a Muni monthly pass, no e-cash will be deducted as your pass gives you the right to ride Cable Cars. Also, the senior/disabled discount fare during late/early hours won't work with e-cash as it needs to be paid with dollar bills.

The old rules still apply: If you transfer from BART to a Cable Car, you don't get a 25 cent discount for the Cable Car ride, and if you have BART high value discount tickets on your Clipper card, it's not valid on Cable Cars unless if you also have e-cash loaded to your card.

OK, I took care of the good news, here comes the bad:
Due to Clipper's negative balance policy: Passengers can save $1 on their Cable Car ride if they go to a Clipper card vendor or the Powell vending machine and just buy the minimum e-cash for a Clipper card of just $5; let the card go negative after the first deduction and dump the card in the trash. A passenger could try to load $7 and rip-off the system by saving $5 by going round-trip, or even load a card with $6.05 to be extra nasty.

I wish Clipper fixed this dumb negative balance policy. Now there's another way to rip-off the system.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

BART Wants You to Use Clipper (or pay the price at end of the year)

MTC's threat to put sanctions on BART for failure to transition to Clipper has forced the transit agency to make some big changes in the next five months.

By the end of this year, all BART adult high value discount tickets (HVD), red youth/disabled tickets, and green senior tickets must go Clipper only.

But while you may think this is all just one big crazy transition, it's not so bad for the young, old, and disabled; just the adults gets screwed over.

Blue Adult High Value Tickets
The end goal is all adult HVDs must be on a Clipper card, and that means you will need a Clipper card and enroll in the HVD program. A Clipper card customer must register their credit card with Clipper. When the HVD reaches a certain dollar threshold, your credit card is charged to reload a predetermined amount of HVD money into your card. Be warned, the HVD money doesn't cross over to be used as payment for Muni, AC Transit, Golden Gate, Caltrain, and any other agency; a passenger wanting to have a HVD and ride other agencies must load e-cash at a BART station or any Clipper retailer.

If you don't want to mess with HVDs, just use e-cash.

Red Youth/Disabled and Green Senior Tickets
This won't be so bad for these three groups of people. A person must register for a youth or senior Clipper card, or a RTC Discount Card with Clipper technology inside the card. When an eligible passenger enters BART, they just use their e-cash and will automatically get the discount just like the red and green tickets. Lucky for them, they don't need to have a separate pool of money to be used only on BART, they get the convenience of using the e-cash purse that is universal and good on all transit agencies. This switch also benefits them by not needing to visit a retailer to by the red or green tickets, they just go to any BART station's ticketing machine and can load funds on their card right there.

Akit's Opinion
While youth, seniors, and the disabled will have an easier time with paying for their rides and reloading their cards at any BART station ticketing machine, adults get screwed over by being forced to sign-up for automatic reloading if they want to use BART HVD (unless they just want to use e-cash only). I'm hoping one day, adult passengers will have the option to use the automated machines and be allowed to purchase BART HVDs to their cards.

One big thought would be to just have BART kill HVDs and go with the similar concept that Golden Gate Transit does, give all adult e-cash passengers the same discount. In BART's case, all passengers will save 6.25% when paying with Clipper & e-cash; it would only mean $2 for every $30 spent. Like I said in my earlier post, lets make it much more simpler. In the long run, BART saves money because they don't have to pay that much in maintenance costs for ticketing machines and gates because the magnetic stripe tickets are used less often.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Improvements to Powell Street's Parklets and New Damage

Powell Street Parklet Safety Hazard

A few weeks ago, I reported here at Akit's Complaint Department about the Powell Street parklets going from Ellis to Geary. There was some very dangerous hazards that needed to be fixed, including two major trip hazards.

Even KRON 4's Stanley Roberts joined in the fun by reporting about people throwing their cigarette butts in the planters.

I'd thought I come back to the scene of the crime and take a look around... here's what happened.

Trip Hazard Fixed

Powell Street Parklet Fixed

This is some great news to report. The big trip hazards at the end of each block (such as the one at the northeast corner of Ellis and Powell) has been fixed with a thin sheet of metal so it wouldn't be a trip hazards and makes it accessible for those with disabilities. Unfortunately, the city hasn't taken action on the other dangerous trip hazards, such as the bottom of the solar panels.

New Damage

New Damage to Powell Street Parklet

To make sure the parklets are safe from cars and cable cars, the parklets have metal barricades to separate them. After just a few weeks, there are a handful of the barricades that have a new curve in them because people sat on them. These are not hard steel barriers (like the police barricades), they are light in weight and was never meant to be sat upon.


Akit's Opinion
While these new parklets are nice looking and have eased foot traffic on Powell, it needs some serious work. Poor planning equals big problems, just like the new bent barriers that should have been with harder metal. Also, tourists should respect the parklets by not dumping their cigarette butts in them.

In only a matter of weeks, there's noticeable damage to the parklets. How long until it gets worse, and when will the city attempt to make improvements? I appreciate fixing the trip hazard, but there's plenty more work to be done.