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

Monday, March 19, 2012

Muni to do All-Door Boarding? The Good and Bad

30-Stockton at Chinatown (It's PACKED)

Late Friday, Streetsblog SF presented a report about Muni changing to all-door boarding starting July 1st for the entire transit system. This would expand beyond the existing metro system's policies and would be the first in North America to establish such a major program.

But as you all know, Akit isn't here to stand on the sidelines and cheer, he's got his own thoughts on this idea. If you are reading this blog entry, what else would you expect from this blogger?

Perks of all-door boarding...
  1. We all know the agency's buses are slow; it shouldn't take 45 minutes to go end to end on the 38L-Geary Limited, but that's what happens all the time. We all know Muni's average speed is a sluggish 8 MPH, in fact, you can probably ride a bike and make it to your destination faster.
  2. In theory, if we go with all-door boarding, passengers don't need to flood the front door of buses and wait in line to either pay in cash or tag their Clipper card. That should be able to reduce the time for boarding and encourage more passengers to spread out on the buses where many bunch-up in the front half and refuse to go to the rear.
  3. More people want a Clipper card to pay for their rides? Why not enjoy the benefit of tagging your Clipper card to enter a different door?

But I do have my concerns...

More Fare Evasion
This has to be the riskiest thing Muni will have to face. The honor system is not exactly the greatest idea in our city. When I ride the 38-Geary and see people boarding through the rear door, hardly anyone is tagging their Clipper card, or doing the "flash their pass/transfer" at the driver who isn't even paying attention to their rear mirror; and let's remember, this is happening today, before the new policy is in place!

Also, with the possible plan to allow all of SF's youth to ride free (in which, I hate the idea), and that will cause even more turmoil. Youth could argue to inspectors and police: "why do I need to tag my Clipper card's free pass when you already allow all-door boarding?" If inspectors or cops decides to write a ticket to a person under 18, that's a trip down to the Juvenile Justice Center as per state law; that means backing up the already busy juvenile court system.

I can understand Muni has card readers on their back doors, but only on one side. If a passenger boards the opposite side, they'd have to do the wrestling clothesline move to validate their Clipper card. Even on the metro lines, passengers complain there are too few card readers and passengers boarding a crowded train will have to get through a layer of people just to validate their card.

Passenger Courtesy
Remember riding BART and you always let passengers exit first, and then you board? On Muni... HA! The Muni metro at Powell Street station is a perfect example of seeing old Chinese ladies shoving their way onto an outbound K-Ingleside train while dozens of other passengers are trying to exit FIRST.

Even for me, I got off jury duty and rode the 8X to downtown, and I was about to exit when a Chinese lady decided to board the rear door illegally and sandwiched me into the stairwell's handrail just so she can board first.

If Muni wants to do this, they need to teach passengers some respect. Let people exit first, then board the rear door. If you want to board first while I'm exiting, I don't mind blocking the doorway until you get the hell out of my way.

Smaller & Lesser Known Lines
All-door boarding is a good option for major bus lines and ones heavily used by the public. All the 38 Geary lines is a perfect example because 54,000 people ride the Geary lines on a single weekday at approximately a 75% on-time rate (stats from SF Examiner). By improving boarding times, the Geary lines can increase their on-time rate even higher, or if very successful, adjust their time schedules.

But smaller lines like the 39-Coit, 18-46th Avenue, 17-Parkmerced, 3-Jackson, and a ton more doesn't need all-door boarding. If you think about it, if there's only a few passengers waiting at a bus stop, why not just let them board the front door? What if there was just one passenger? Why waste time and let them board the rear when the front door should be the primary way?

Fare Inspectors
If Muni plans to expand all-door, they need more fare inspectors.

I can understand, if all-door expands to only major lines, hiring extra inspector teams to conduct inspections won't be so bad because they can still concentrate on the metro lines and the lines added to all-door boarding. Surely, they can still inspect the lines without all-door as surprise inspections just to keep people in check with the rules.

If Muni decides to expand to the smaller lines, what a waste of resources it will be. If all-door boarding was on the 17-Parkmerced, I'd bet fare evasion would jump because fare inspectors would hardly ever do any fare checks, and those entering the back door could have a transfer that's fake, expired, or just nothing at all, and the driver would just assume the passenger is A-OK. The larger the number of all-door boarding lines, the more inspectors will be needed to keep passengers in check with obeying the honor policy. Or even worse, forcing inspectors to blanket the whole city to do fare checks on every single line of Muni to make sure of compliance of boarding the rear doors.

What's easier is the smaller lines stick to regular policy, board the front doors only, and exit doors are just exit doors. The driver has full control to make sure every person who enters the front door has paid their fare, used a valid Clipper card, or has shown a paper transfer. Drivers are defacto fare inspectors with authority to halt a passenger who has an expired transfer or something else going wrong, so why hire tons more inspectors or thin out the inspector teams to cover the whole city, when an operator can do themselves?

The F-Market is a tourist line and truly needs to stick with front door boarding. I'd say about 85% of visitors pay for the F-Market in cash, so by allowing rear-door boarding, that will say to tourists, "hey, my streetcar is free!" Very few passengers board with a Clipper card, so front door boarding needs to stay to make sure they collect the revenue to help fund the agency.

If Muni wants all-door boarding for the F-Market, they need ticket machines. Put them at all the major stops so that it reduces dwell time for the vehicles (at the Ferry Building, it can take five minutes for everyone to board and pay cash). Muni could also consider having official ticket sellers at major stops during peak periods (weekends, Fleet Week, holidays, summer time) to encourage faster boarding. Lastly, Muni could consider bringing back the conductors that used to be on the streetcar lines many decades ago to check tickets and force new passengers to pay their fare.

All these suggestions for the F-Market are expensive, but it reduces the risk of fare evasion. If it was up to me, I'd stick with front door boarding only as a cost effective measure. Plus, doing fare inspections on tourists would be torment on the inspectors, from people with various language barriers, and international visitors won't even pay-off the citation because will Muni really chase them for a $100 ticket if they are in France?

If Akit Ran Muni...
If I was the king of Muni, here's what I'd do about this topic:
  1. Only implement on the major and most heavily used bus lines.
  2. Implement at all major stops, even for less popular routes where there's a lot of passengers waiting to board (e.g. SF State curb stops on 19th/Holloway).
  3. Do not allow all-door on smaller bus lines and the F-Market.
  4. Add pre-purchase ticketing machines at popular stops to encourage faster boarding.
  5. Educate passengers early on about the rules and courtesy to other passengers.
  6. Change the attitude of passengers about all-door boarding by discouraging fare evasion (does hypnosis work?).
  7. Change the penalty structure; instead of a $100 fine, add an incentive to pay within three weeks and it's cut to $50; youth who violate are still remanded to the juvenile court system as I strongly believe youth crime is the path towards future crimes (even the city says so).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Top 30 Ways You Know You're a Real San Franciscan

SFSU Commencement 2008 - Gavin Newsom Speaking 11

SFGate did a list with their staffers of their ways people know if they area a "real San Franciscan." Some of them are lame, like Chinese New Year is not a federal holiday (DUH!); so I thought it's time to generate my own list.

You know you're a real San Franciscan if you...
  1. Hate the 30 MPH speed limit on 19th Avenue, and prefers to drive the older, faster speed limit.
  2. Move all the way to the back of the F-Market where there's ample standing room, and the tourists stay in the front half of the train.
  3. Board Muni like a boss and tag that Clipper card, while others pay in cash.
  4. Didn't give a damn about the Occupy encampment, and the daily Falun Gong protests at Portsmouth Square and the Chinese embassy.
  5. Opened a window on a Muni bus on a cold day because the operator blasted the heat.
  6. Used the city's public self-cleaning bathrooms once, and never again.
  7. Hate local politicians, especially those who robocall you on random occasions (e.g. PHIL TING).
  8. Had to drive around the block five times to get a parking space on Irving Street on a mid-Sunday afternoon.
  9. Still remember the good ol' days of KFRC on 99.7.
  10. (For guys) Taking a piss in the trough urinal at Candlestick.
  11. Had to go to the inconvenient criminal courthouse on Bryant for jury duty.
  12. Attended either City College or SF State.
  13. Patronize in Daly City as a middle finger gesture to SF for high sales taxes, plastic and styrofoam ban, and outrageous gas prices.
  14. Willing to go all the way across the city for your favorite food/snack, even though there's a similar place not far from your home.
  15. Knows how to score two hours of free parking at Pier 39.
  16. Can catch the Cable Car without waiting in the long line at the Powell turnaround.
  17. Earned a 'Croix de Candlestick' button for surviving the ass freezing cold at Candlestick.
  18. Survived attending an entire Board of Supervisors meeting.
  19. Nearly got hit by a car when crossing the street.
  20. Seen Frank Chu (San Francisco's favorite protester) at a major event.
  21. Never want to leave SF, no matter what the newspaper statistics say.
  22. You know when free days are at the museums. (from my friend Brandi)
  23. Willing to shop outside the city borders because they have all the big box stores.
  24. Know which bums to avoid and the ones that are not so bad (from my friend Lena).
  25. Hate anyone that says "San Fran" (from Lena). My frustration is towards "Frisco."
  26. An earthquake awakens you, then you go right back to sleep.
  27. Remember watching movies at the defunct Coronet and Alexandria.
  28. Got caught in a traffic jam due to Critical Mass.
  29. Slammed the brakes at a red light camera intersection.
  30. You blame the mayor for everything.

I welcome your suggestions, just leave a comment!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Free Muni Rides for SF's Youth is a Terrible Idea

In an editorial from the SF Chronicle, they are supporting the proposal to allow San Francisco's youth to be allowed to ride Muni for free. They feel it will make it easier for students to get to school, reduce congestion, and saves money for the parents who dishes out the $22 monthly pass.

I personally think it's a horrible idea.

There's a lot of problems that underlines the notion of being "free" to our city's youth:

One of the major problems is just the cost of running such a program. The Chronicle estimates the cost to be at least $4 million to as high as $7.9 million (let's just say eight). That's a lot of money for an agency that's been bleeding in the red ever since Nat Ford ruined the agency and took a nice 300K+ "up yours" package when he was fired. Four million, if properly spent, can be used for something better for EVERYONE, and not just for the kids.

A second problem is about Clipper cards. A lot of you know about my expertise in the Clipper program, and I can tell you, this will be a big problem to give out free passes on cards. Here's three key problems:
  1. If the pass is implemented and they impose time restrictions or can't be used on certain days, the Clipper system cannot handle these types of restrictions. I forgot where I found that information, but I know that the pass system has to work 24-7, or the MTC and/or Muni will have to fork over a ton of money to modify the Clipper card software to handle that.
  2. If Muni is permitted to do time restrictions, there will be a lot of time dedicated to being flexible to those students who have school sanctioned activities; say if the pass is invalid after 4PM and their football team practice goes until 6PM, there will be a lot of paperwork and exceptions made for the changes to happen. If a student goes to night school, then what's the restrictions for that? When the pass get's shut off, they'll argue with the driver about validity, and that they can't afford to pay the fare or add e-cash to their card; this means more phone calls with Clipper customer service.
  3. One existing problem that will turn worse is the youth Clipper cards looks exactly like an adult Clipper card. Without a fare inspector's card reader, a bus driver cannot identify if the card is for a youth or adult. This means if a parent regularly drives their student to school or the student can easily walk to school, an adult family member could use the youth's card to score free rides on Muni until an inspector catches them. Muni's inspectors regularly targets the metro lines, so odds of getting caught on a bus is a long shot. The ways Muni can fix that is to make the card reader emit a different sound for youth cards, integrate their school ID with Clipper, or put a photo on the card. These are all expensive options, especially adding a photo because if AC Transit learned a lesson, it took a long time to get all the area's youth to get all their photos taken and make custom cards.

One bigger concern I have is conduct. Here's my two big issues:
  1. Remember the "Spare the Air" program gave out free transit rides for everyone? It was a success for keeping the air cleaner and more people taking public transit, but it caused a bunch of other problems from transit agencies. People decided to take public transit to just get off at the next stop just because it was "free," this meant delays on transit lines because people are too lazy to just walk to the next stop. For BART, they hated it; youth passengers caused mayhem on the system and turned into a roving hangout (including homeless folks); it reached such a boiling point that BART decided at the next future "Spare the Air" to make people pay for their rides.
  2. If Muni gives rides for "free" to the youth, it just lets them barge through the back door of buses and steal the seats from the rest of the honest people who boards through the front door.

Lastly, San Francisco's youth should be lucky they are paying drastically less for public transit. Here's a comparison of single ride fares for major agencies in the Bay Area:
  • Muni: $2 adult, $0.75 youth (62.5% discount) with free transfer.
  • Samtrans: $2 adult, $1.25 youth (37.5% discount) with no transfer.
  • VTA: $2 adult, $1.75 youth (12.5% discount) with no transfer.
  • AC Transit: $2.10 adult, $1.05 youth (50% discount) with additional $0.25 for one ride transfer.
The city has no obligation to give discounts to youth, but in the name of tradition, they do. The law states that only seniors, people with disabilities, or medicare card are eligible for a discount fare.
For you youth advocates, be lucky Muni gives the steepest discount AND a free 90 minute transfer. Nothing is free; especially when Muni is already broke.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Serra Bowl Closes its Doors on April 15th (Confirmed)

Bowling Score

It is with sad news that I mention this to my readership and the general public:

Serra Bowl has confirmed late yesterday evening, they will close its doors on April 15, 2012.

For the last 48 hours, it was more of a rumor than fact, until the alley confirmed it on their Facebook page late last night. The posting received a high number of passionate responses from people, those whom have fond memories, others worried about what their bowling league will do, and others wondering what to do next.

From what they have said, they have lost their lease to the facility and due to that, is forced to close its doors on April 15th. For 51 years, the lanes of Serra has provided fun and activity to people of all ages, and will be sadly missed. It has been an icon of Daly City ever since I was a kid having fun with bumper bowling and having birthday parties there.

Bowling Brunswick Air Command Brace - Medium

For me, bowling has been a brand new hobby, but I've only started bowling more frequently in the past month in preparation for the SF State faculty & staff league (a private, monthly league). I've invested my time and money into getting great lessons, playing with my co-workers for a few hours at a time, getting a new custom drilled ball, and buying other essential items. It's sad to see the alley go, and the organizers of the league will have to find an alternate location for our final game of the season in May (especially when my team is up against our ultimate rivals).

Serra Bowl has allowed me to have some more fun and get some much needed physical activity; for every hour I play, I burn off about 225 calories; and with their great bowling rates on Sunday mornings, I'm worried of where else am I going to play for a good price.

When Japantown Bowl closed down, it was a sad day for the Japantown community and its regular bowlers; instead, it's replaced with a controversial condominium facility. The community wanted to buy the lanes, but sadly could not succeed. I'm hopeful a person or a group of people can buy the lease and revive Serra Bowl for future generations to come.


I want to suggest something for all bowling lovers: On its last day of service at Serra, everyone should come for one big farewell celebration; bowl with friends, take up every lane, buy drinks, food, play video games, just everything.

Just like those "cash mobs" where people organize a certain time to go and shop to help a fellow small business, Serra and their employees should leave in style and with a smile on their face knowing that a lot of people appreciate what they've contributed to the community.