"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)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Serra Bowl - Up For Auction, Never Comes Back

Serra Bowl Rally

It’s pretty much the end of Serra Bowl. Instead of ripping out the lanes and moving to another location, or trying to fight back and get the lease renewed, they’ve pretty much made their choice.

They put the last nail in the coffin and will be buried under cement. This Friday, April 27, the alley will be having an auction on everything, including the lanes and machinery.

The preview will start at 9AM and the auction starts at 11AM. This is an opportunity if you want to buy some souvenirs, but it’s mostly the people who have a lot of money to buy the lanes and machinery to hopefully open a new bowling center or get some spare parts.

So this is how the saga of Serra Bowl ends, in total disaster. I’m very disappointed.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

No More Paper Transfers at Daly City BART - Going Clipper Only June 1st

BART Gate & Clipper Card
Some not so great news for those of you who love the yellow paper transfers at the Daly City BART station's paid area...

Effective June 1, 2012, the machines will be taken out of service and those who ride BART and transfer to Muni must use a the same Clipper card they exit BART to get a free Muni ride away from the station (as per Muni updates page).

How it works:
When you exit BART at Daly City (regardless if you pay with e-cash or HVD), you will automatically receive an e-transfer encoded on your card.  When boarding a Muni bus (14L, 28, 28L, and 54) and tagging your card, you will receive a free ride and get your card automatically encoded for a free ride back to the BART station within 24 hours.

[Big secret] perk:
The Clipper system is a little bit dumb.  Let's say you exited BART and took the 28-19th Avenue bus away from the station.  You get off at Geary Blvd. & Park Presidio and you want to transfer to the 38L.  Because the Clipper system (for Muni) does not know what bus route you are riding or which direction, your second ride (on the 38L) is FREE.  This works on all Muni lines, it doesn't have to be the 38L.

This basically means, you get two free rides regardless of whatever line and direction you take, as long as you meet these minimum rules:
  1. You tag your card on a Muni bus within one hour of exiting Daly City BART.
  2. You take your second ride on a Muni bus within 24-hours when you complete the above task.
Unlike the two part paper transfer, you can only use the paper transfer to leave BART and return to BART.  Clipper: Free reign!

One disadvantage is if someone picks you up from the station or you take your car home from the BART lot.  If you take a paper transfer and get an alternate ride home, getting back to BART via Muni is free because you still have a piece of paper giving you the right to a free ride back.  But with going Clipper only, your free ride the next day is void because of the one hour rule when exiting the station.

The second (and WORST) disadvantage is if you ride the SF State shuttle.  This is going to be the biggest headache.  Back in May 2011, I mentioned about this big problem and said the easiest way to beat the problem is with the yellow paper transfer.

Here's the problem: Let's say you exited Daly City BART, earned your e-transfer on your card, and take the free SF State shuttle away from the station.  When you want to return to BART from SF State, you are left with two options:
  1. Take the SF State shuttle back to Daly City BART (free ride, no Clipper required).
  2. Take the 28 or 28L bus back to Daly City BART, and it will cost you $2 because after one hour after you received your e-transfer from leaving the BART station, it becomes VOID on the Muni ride back.
Option two becomes a big issue.  Lots of SF State students take the yellow transfer and can easily decide while waiting in the SF State shuttle line (back to BART) that if they see a 28 bus approaching, they'll take that instead and get their free ride.  But... with going Clipper only on those BART transfers, they'll learn that they lost $2 from their Clipper e-cash because they took the SF State shuttle to campus instead of Muni.

Is there an easy solution?  The answer is no.  You have to remind yourself:
  • "If I take the SF State shuttle to campus, I must take the shuttle back to BART."
  • OR: "If I take the Muni 28/28L to campus, I have the option to take either the SF State shuttle or 28/28L back to BART."
The SF State problem is the most challenging.  I am hopeful that the city, BART, Muni, and SF State officials can work out a deal that allows all SF State affiliates, including the staff and faculty the privilege to have free BART rides extended to Daly City station.  If you want to read more about this possibility, click here.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Serra Bowl - Rest in Peace, My Final Thoughts

Serra Bowl Bowling
Just yesterday (Sunday, April 15th), was Serra Bowl's last day of service to the community. It was a place for people to go bowling, drink beer, sing karaoke, have a meal, celebrate birthdays, and play in a league.

Now, Serra Bowl is permanently closed. Things are silent, the parking lot empty, and now the lanes will have to be taken out and the place emptied in not a lot of time.

I'm going to share some last thoughts about Serra Bowl. Some of it is good memories, and some I have some questions about:

The best memories...
For me, Serra Bowl has been here since I was a little kid, bowling with friends with the air blown bumpers in the gutters. I started bowling again just months ago when SF State started their first staff & faculty league, and while it was just monthly league games, it brought a lot of my co-workers closer together, and allowed me to find a physical activity that was both fun and challenging.

Sure, I hit a bunch of gutter balls and accidentally rolled my ball into the gate, but looking at the environment, it showed a lot of benefits, especially the kids. It's nice to see the kids having so much fun with their families, whether it be playing the latest video games, having a pizza party, or just rolling the ball down the bumper lanes. The alley kept the kids out of trouble, and since it's so easy to access via BART and Samtrans, even people without a car can go bowling.

There was always ample parking all the time (except when the carnival was here), a feature that even the Classic Bowling Center can't replicate. The prices was fair and the staff was always helpful. And I'll always remember getting my first custom drilled bowling ball after getting lessons.

Questions and Doubts
Sometimes, I wonder why the lanes had to close. There's not been much information told to us patrons about what's going on, only a bunch of rumors. What I do know is the 99 year old landlord that lives next door in the brown house, did not want to renew Serra Bowl's 50 year lease. Even the daughter of the landlord stated it's basically time for the alley to go, and there's no clue on what's going to happen next to the piece of land.

Some have said (as rumor) that it's about the money; Serra Bowl was definitely profitable, even with the decline in alleys and bowlers, but some said the landlord wanted double the monthly rent, from $20,000 a month to $40,000. Others have said the landlord and the owners of Serra hated each other and once the lease was up, it was the end of the alley.

Nobody really knows what happened behind the scenes or why the month notice of the closure. It made the organizers of our league scramble to make arrangements for our May [monthly] game, and was fortunate to have the management let us play just last week.

Serra Bowl Rally

The rally that got no attention
Serra hosted a community rally and there was a nice crowd that showed-up to hold signs and chant to save the alley, but we didn't get much attention. Channel 2 was the only station that stayed around for a little while to tape the rally, and just a few local bloggers passed the word around. If we had some more media attention to this, I think it would be a better influence in renewing the lease.

Also, the rally was contained in the parking lot, including the marching. Serra's parking lot is pretty secluded and with that, you don't see a lot of cars pass by to take a look at the rally. A handful of us thought it was better to hold our signs, including my "Honk to Save Serra Bowl" sign at the nearest major intersection (which is also a freeway off-ramp), and nearly every car and truck passing by blew their horns in great support. However, a manager of the alley didn't like the idea, calling it a "liability" and told us to go back to the secluded parking lot for the rally. If they allowed us to stay near the intersection and on the sidewalk, hundreds of cars would have honked in support and spread the word of the bowling center's demise. I've learned that when you want to fight to save something, you rattle the cage as much as you can and gain the support of the people; shunning us for asking people to honk in support was a big downer; it was like hardly anyone knew Serra was to close, other than the regulars of the alley.

I wonder, how many people who attended the carnival at Serra Bowl's parking lot even knew the alley was going to close? I'd bet, not that much; although, I did get a high number of hits on my blog mentioning about the carnival and Serra's upcoming closure because (1) nobody advertised it online, and (2) my blog was the top search result when people searched for the carnival.

Where to bowl now?
Serra's closure means an influx of bowlers going to other alleys, such as Classic and Brentwood. Brentwood is planning to open a new bowling center in the future, but for now, what's is around is what Serra's patrons can use.

I know new alleys just opened in the Mission and across from AT&T Park, but those don't cater to Serra's clientele. For example, the new Lucky Strike alley across from the ballpark has a strict dress code, fancy food, a dozen lanes, and very expensive hourly lane rental rates; Serra doesn't have a dress code (as long as you are not butt naked), has simple food and snacks, 44 lanes, and hourly lane rentals starting at no more than $26 an hour. The Bay Area is an expensive place to live in, we don't have the money to go to these fancy bowling alleys, we just want some place that's simple and casual.

Losing another alley is another red X on our list of surviving bowling alleys. Thanks for all the great memories and smiles you brought to everyone, Serra Bowl. Rest in peace.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sunday Streets Changes Route, Still Forces Muni's 18-46th Avenue to take 51-Block Detour

Sunday Streets in Golden Gate Park and the length of the Upper Great Highway is happening this Sunday, and hopefully the weather will be cooperative.

But once again, Sunday Streets organizers are forcing Muni to waste time and extra gas for one of my favorite lines, the 18-46th Avenue.

Why? The 18 line must cross through Sunday Streets at Great Highway in order to make it to the opposite side of Golden Gate Park. But if the Sunday Streets organizers don’t allow the line to cut through the event’s route, the bus line is forced to take a 51 block (10-15 minute) detour via 25th & Fulton (northern side) and 19th Avenue & Lincoln (southern side).

Regular route of the 18:

Re-route due to Sunday Streets:

When I saw the Sunday Streets map for this Sunday’s event (PDF document), they made an event route modification to not use Great Highway between Lincoln & Fulton, and I felt this was a success from my previous blog entry complaining about the issue with the 18 line. The new route map only cuts through one short city block from Lower Great Highway & Lincoln to Upper Great Highway & Lincoln (less than 500 feet), which would make it possible for the 18 bus to make a minor cut through the event route.

View Larger Map

But the old Sunday Streets route (below) made it impossible for the 18 line to get through because it took a huge chunk (half a mile) of the Great Highway (from JFK drive to Lincoln).

View Larger Map

Muni hasn’t confirmed a re-route for the 18, but Sunday Streets believes the 51 block re-route will be in effect. I ask Sunday Streets and Muni to allow the bus line to briefly cut through the new Sunday Streets route so it doesn’t drastically effect their on-time schedule and wasting the taxpayer’s gasoline for a totally wasteful 51 block reroute.

If the 44 line can cut through the Golden Gate Park road shutdown every Sunday to go north & south, why can’t the 18 also get an exception for this event?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Sendoff for Serra Bowl's Last Days - A Carnival!

Serra Bowl Carnival - April 12-15

Update (4/16/12): Serra Bowl is now closed. Read my blog entry about my last thoughts about the bowling center.

Original blog entry:
In one week, Serra Bowl will close its doors on April 15th, and there's a lot of great memories for everyone that's been there. For me, it's being with my co-workers on the weekend to practice our techniques, and to compete with fellow SF State staff & faculty for the first ever league.

If Serra Bowl closed with no celebration of its existence, everyone would have sad memories and frowns on their faces. But something special is coming on their days of operation...

A carnival will be at Serra Bowl's parking lot from Thursday, April 12th to Sunday, April 15th! Food, games, and rides; a nice way to say goodbye to Serra (and taunt the landlord living right next door).


I'm not exactly sure how big this event will be and how it will have an impact on parking, consider taking BART to Colma and walk to the alley for it's final days. If you want to bowl on Serra's last days of service, I'd suggest making a reservation on their website to guarantee a lane.

KPIX (Channel 5) News did a live report about the alley closing down. You can hear me yell "strike strike!" at 2:48 in the video, but I was watching the TV in the alley and there's always a live vs. TV delay.

Also, I am suspecting the carnival was not Serra Bowl's idea. Someone informed me the folks at the alley doesn't even know the operating hours of it. Also, there's a security guard at the parking lot entrance of the alley asking drivers if they are going bowling or the carnival; if you say carnival, the guard will tell you to park somewhere else.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Baby Stroller Policy on Muni - No Bulky & Unfoldable Strollers

Adelaide wheelchair accessible bus (nice for baby strollers too)

First of all, happy Friday to everyone on this gorgeous day here in San Francisco. I hope your Easter weekend will go well.

A person on Twitter asked for my views on the possible change in the baby stroller policy for Muni:
Currently, drivers have the discretion to allow or not allow strollers on their vehicles, and when a passenger is denied boarding, that has created some frustration.

Current policy requires the child to be removed from the stroller and for the stroller to be folded-up. But with the new bigger, strollers that don't fold, and ones that do but takes up too much space, it seems drivers are booting more families from Muni vehicles on a more frequent basis.

Two city Supervisors believes this problem is discouraging families to ride public transit, therefore the decline in the number of children in our city.

NFTA Bus Sign

What do I think about this?
I don’t agree with a universal city policy that a driver has to enforce, I believe independent judgment by the driver is the best policy because it’s the operators that have the ultimate responsibility to make sure all passengers are safe.

There’s multiple concerns with allowing strollers to ride Muni:
  • Safety of the baby or toddler in the stroller. Strollers may move during motion of the vehicle, therefore if a driver has to slam their brake, the baby could fly out of the stroller.
  • Some of you may be thinking, why not give them the wheelchair space? That’s a bad idea because that space is reserved for a wheelchair passenger, and those wheelchair areas take up three or four seats for passengers; should a stroller get the wheelchair spot? No because it takes up extra seats.
  • Wheelchairs do have a designated spot by federal law, and all buses have straps to secure the wheelchair, but while Muni does not regularly do it, other agencies do as policy to secure both wheels with special hooks attached to the floor, have the wheelchair brakes locked in, and a seat belt around their waist. Strollers don’t have the ability because the seat belt might go around their neck, and the hooks on the ground may not be able to safely secure the stroller.
  • Wheelchair lifts and ramps for streetcars are definitely not for strollers, they are for people who are disabled or have limited mobility.

My biggest concern:
The “SUV” carriages we see with the larger rubber wheels and bigger frames takes up too much space on Muni and removes precious aisle space for those who needs to stand or pass by to board/exit the vehicle. Ones that can’t fold takes up too much space and should be banned, but even the ones that can fold and still take a huge amount of bulk should be banned too.

As a courtesy to passengers, it’s discouraged to bring huge bulky items on Muni (for the exception of medical devices like wheelchairs, and walkers). You know what I’m talking about, garbage bags full of cans, and suitcases. If you want to transport bulky items, call a taxi or drive.

The exception:
I don’t have a concern for strollers that fold and takes a minimal amount of space because they fold up so compactly, similar to carrying a poster tube.

Photo credits:
First photo by Flickr user: Paul Barter, using a Creative Commons License.
Second photo by Flickr user: 'andynash,' using a Creative Commons License.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Would You Support Sunday Meter Enforcement?

BART Agent FAIL - Setting bad example

Parking meters in San Francisco. Yeah, you know those meters, the ones that a quarter only gives you eight measly minutes and you always have to keep a fat roll of quarters in your car. Or for you suckers who parks in downtown or those new “smart” meters, you get much less time for that 25 cents.

But if you are familiar with what’s going on now, this could be the moment when you’ll jump out of your chair and cheer or get really pissed.

Would you support Sunday meter enforcement?

It’s a difficult decision for the city to make. In one point of view, no meter enforcement on Sunday has been a tradition in our city, except around Fisherman’s Wharf where the Port of SF loves tourist pocket change 7-days a week, including holidays. In another point of view, the SFMTA is broke and needs money, and a bunch of churches are against the idea.

A Car Deserving to be Towed Away (License plate: CA WWHDD)

Here’s my thoughts about it. I’m really undecided if I would support it or not:

In support of Sunday meters:
Parking in popular neighborhoods is so bad on Sundays, you literally have to circle the block several times until you get lucky to score a parking space. Have you ever tried parking on Irving Street between 19th and 26th Avenues? It’s pure hell on Sundays; you have to make a choice, either park there before 9AM and do your shopping, or take a risk during the rest of the day to get parking while vultures are double parking just waiting several minutes for some car to back-out. At least with meter enforcement, cars keep going in and out of parking stalls all day long and that means a better shot for people to get their business done; this also means that businesses can get more brisk business on Sundays, instead of cars parked in a stall for more than a few hours.

Not in support:
Why is the SFMTA broke? Because the system is broken and their hairbrained ideas suck. We shouldn’t pay for the meters just to feed the wallets of SFMTA employees. It’s the same as raising parking ticket penalties, the MTA thinks it’s a good way to raise more money to fix their bloody red budget. If the agency stopped wasting money on stupid projects, such as the Rose Pak (Central) Subway, and giving out free Muni rides to all of SF’s youth, maybe this agency can stop leaching off our wallets. The more the SFMTA wants to take more money from our wallets, the citizens will get their revenge on election day with ballot measures to kick the agency’s ass.

It’s really a tough choice to make; break tradition to make more money and keep cars moving, or continue to maintain tradition. I’d support Sunday meters if the SFMTA can make an effort to provide improved public transit choices, like running limited bus lines like the 38L on Sundays.