"Akit is the man. He knows Clipper." (spenta)
"It’s a fantastic blog for any San Franciscan."
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"Everyone's favorite volunteer public policy consultant..." (Eve Batey, SF Appeal)
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(Greg Dewar, N Judah Chronicles)
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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)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Free Muni on December 28th? SFMTA Board Votes Tuesday

I was looking around the SFMTA/Muni website and reviewed the agenda documents for the SFMTA Board of Directors meeting that will be happening this Tuesday, December 4th.

Other than the controversial free passes for youth proposal (at $1.6 million) on Tuesday's program, agenda item 10.8 sparked some interest...

The SFMTA Board of Directors are going to vote on a proposal for free Muni rides on Friday, December 28th, 2012.  You heard that right, free rides on all Muni lines, including the $5 $6 per ride Cable Cars.

Why the free rides?  It's Muni's birthday, but not just any usual birthday, it's their 100th.  Back in 1912, the city's Muni service was born and after 100 years, now provides over 200 million passenger trips a year.

The SFMTA considered an alternative to have the fare at five cents, but are not recommending as it is more difficult to execute.

If all goes well, the SFMTA Board will approve this and you'll be able to enjoy going around the city fare free!

Akit's Opinions:
I personally think this is a great idea to give free rides for a day to celebrate the agency's 100th anniversary.  It's great for those who are enjoying their time-off, but also gives thanks to those still needing to take public transit to work on the last Friday of the year.

While it may be free, if the city has learned a lesson from the Spare the Air free transit rides, it could possibly slow down bus lines as more people would just take a bus and just get off at the next stop simply because it's free.  Others complained it turns into a moving homeless shelter.  But since it's very late into the year, Muni's passenger loads should be lower.

Five cents or not?  I believe charging five cents has its logistics and cost issues, including the need to print thousands of paper transfers and making sure the Clipper card equipment is modified for that one day.  At least when it's free, you won't have fare inspectors writing $100 citations for failure to pay a nickel fare.

Monday, November 26, 2012

9th Avenue and Judah (N-Judah Outbound) is Dangerous for Passengers

Seasons greetings to all my readers and I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  As some of you may know, I've moved into the Inner Sunset district and have been here for the past few months.  It's always great that I'm just a short walk from all the merchants and restaurants along 9th Avenue and on Irving, especially some places I haven't patronized since I was a little kid eating Sunday breakfast with my parents.

One of the greatest perks is the ample access to public transit.  On 9th Avenue and Judah, you can practically go any direction with the 6, 43, 44, and 66 lines.  But the fastest way to downtown is on the N-Judah.

I love the N-Judah for its air conditioning and quick rides to downtown, but I'm really concerned about the 9th Avenue and Judah outbound stop.  If you have a driver's license, you are aware of the "Do Not Pass" law which requires drivers to stop behind the last metro car door when the train is embarking and disembarking passengers.  It's a matter of safety that passengers can exit the train without getting hit by an incoming vehicle.

While the city does put an effort to put stickers on the back of metro vehicles, police sting enforcement, and those big signs saying "Do Not Pass" (not everywhere in the city), this gets largely ignored at the 9th and Judah stop for the outbound trains.  Every time I exit the metro, there's always a car that buzzes through; even though there's an island between the tracks and the roadway, drivers still ignore the law.

Some of you may be saying, if there's a boarding island, I can pass a metro car that's embarking/disembarking passengers?  The answer is mixed.  State vehicle code, section 27156 makes it clear that only a car can pass a light rail vehicle only if there's specific signage, ("safety zone") traffic officer, or police officer telling the driver to pass, but only at 10MPH.  When there's no specific signage permitting passing or a cop directing traffic, then the Do Not Pass law applies.

9th Avenue and Judah at the N-Judah's outbound stop does not have any signage permitting passing a metro train, therefore it is a violation to pass it.  But one big problem that I have is there isn't even a "Do Not Pass" sign at the stop.  If you see the Google Streetview on the top of this blog entry, there is absolutely no signs anywhere reminding drivers about the law.

For me, I'm quite worried when I exit the metro at a surface stop.  I fear that a driver will just decide to pass and I'll be the next person going to the hospital.  Back in January, I had a close encounter and two other passengers exiting almost got hit too.

For passengers: Always remember to look before you take the final step off the metro.
For drivers: Respect the law.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Clipper Card Readers Beeping Too Loud?

Now that everyone is used to using their Clipper card to ride public transportation, one annoying issue I've been noticing more often since I moved to the Inner Sunset where public transit options are more available to me, is how loud the card readers are.

For those who tags their card on the Clipper card readers (except those at BART and Muni metro stations), that little card reader can sure screech a loud sound to confirm your proper card tag.  Depending on other background sounds being generated, I can typically hear a card reader beep from a Muni bus a half a block away (roughly 500 feet) or even a block from the bus stop.

Back when the TransLink program was in their pilot program (nearly a decade ago), the card readers didn't make the loud beep, it was a lot more quieter and a lower tone ("boop!").  Worked fine for those tagging their cards and even the error tone sounded more like a buzzer than a screeching three rapid beeps.

It is truly necessary for today's Clipper card readers to be so loud that it can be heard from a decent distance?  That sound should only be loud enough for the passenger to confirm the card has been tagged.  There are no safety reasons that warrants the use of a loud Clipper card beep (e.g. buses with kneeling features must make a loud beep when kneeling and raising).  I believe the tone much quieter so it isn't as bothersome and annoying.

Thoughts?  Suggestions?  Leave a comment.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Don't Freak Out: Don't Pay the Meters on Sundays (For Now)

The city is already starting to update the parking meters with new signage stating Sunday parking will be enforced in the city from 12 Noon to 6PM.

But wait... before you start feeding coins into that meter, you should read the other side of the meter that says Sunday enforcement is effective January 1, 2012.

I took a picture of this meter on Portola, nearby the Round Table Pizza.

Why 12-4PM enforcement on Sundays?  Local church leaders asked the city not to enforce prior to 12 so their members can attend church without fear of being ticketed.  As for me, I can still score free parking before noon to get a haircut.

Also, the meter I looked at says the maximum amount of time you can feed a meter is double the time of the regular Monday-Friday maximum.  I'm not sure if this 2X policy will be effective in neighborhoods with major parking problems (e.g. Noriega, Irving, and Clement).

Also, be aware that meters within the jurisdiction of the Port of San Francisco, including near Fisherman's Wharf operate 7 days a week, including holidays; so if it's Sunday and you are parked nearby the Famous Bushman, make sure to feed the meter.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Support the Victims of the West Portal & Ulloa Fire

As Thanksgiving approaches and everyone is planning to meet up with family and friends to share a turkey and tasty pumpkin pie, we should always be thankful for what we have.  Yet, we sometimes forget about those in need or are struggling during this holiday season.

Many of you have known about the big fire that happened at the corner of West Portal and Ulloa, right near the West Portal Muni Metro Station.  The early morning fire was so huge it required over 180 firefighters with multiple ladder trucks, and the Fire Chief and Mayor was there.  It took nearly 12 hours to fully extinguish the blaze, and made major delays on Muni metro.  Just yesterday, a small bulldozer went to the corner property to knock it down.

While I was having lunch with my dad in Parkmerced yesterday, I was reading the West Portal Monthly.  The newspaper stated the fire damaged an estimated 7.35 million dollars.  But what's more sad is all the employees, especially those at Squat and Gobble who can't go back to the West Portal location.  While I'm not sure if those employees were able to work at their sister locations, this is still a burdon on them.

Let's all be generous this holiday season.  If you would like to make a donation to help those employees displaced by the fire, please visit any San Francisco Bank of America branch and ask for your deposit to be sent to the "West Portal Fire Account."

Even though Thanksgiving is a week away, I wish to all my loyal readers a great and safe Thanksgiving weekend.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Akit's Thoughts on the Most Recent Election

I'm not all too fond with politics.  I get tired of watching the morning news and a good portion is covering the everything from ballot measures to candidates trying to get into office.  Whatever political junk mail I get, it  goes straight into the recycling bin, phone calls gets immediately hung up, and doorbell ringers will get no answer because I turned off the power to the doorbell.

I'm personally happy its all over.  Can life get back to normal?

Here's my thoughts on some of the political candidates and propositions that was on the most recent ballot:

City Supervisors: As I recently moved from the Outer Richmond to the Inner Sunset, there was no supervisor candidate to vote for.  I personally don't have any favorites as I think most of the board is a bunch of idiots and clowns for passing legislation such as the Happy Meal toy ban.  As for the supervisor candidate volunteers on election day standing in the medians at the St. Francis Circle intersection during rush hour, they were just inches from a car making a wrong last minute lane change and killing the volunteers.

State Assembly: Really?  Phil Ting won?  Never was a fan of him since he used city public funding for a failed bid for becoming mayor of San Francisco; some say he used his failed candidacy as leverage to take a punch at going for the State Assembly seat.  He can shove that "reset" button up his ass.

Proposition A for City College: Okay, so it passed.  As City College is in fiscal shambles and is on the verge of losing their accreditation, if I see another ballot measure in the next few years asking for more money, don't expect my support.  Manage your money and regain the trust of the citizens first.

Proposition F for the research to consider to drain out Hetch Hetchy: Good this lost with 77.4% saying no.  Losing Hetch Hetchy's water would be devastating to San Francisco, especially when we have some of the best tap water in the nation and the hydro power generates electricity for Muni's trolley buses and light rail.

Proposition 30 for tax money for schools: I work for the higher education sector and this is needed to keep our public education running and open for our students.

Proposition 37 for genetically modified labels: I had to compare labeling food as GMO to California's gasoline.  The state's gasoline is a one of a kind blend (pollution control bla bla bla); this means we can't import gasoline from other states that don't comply with standards, and therefore our gasoline costs more to purchase at the pump with limited competition.  If we were the only state requiring GMO labeling, we'd be in the same situation as manufacturers of food would have to produce special items just to comply with California law, and that means passing the cost to the consumer.

That's my thoughts on these ballot measures.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Clipper Card Glitch Screws Passengers Again - When Will it Stop?

Broken readers is just one of many problems.
If you have a Clipper card, you may have been a victim of glitches or problems that are not your fault.  Throughout the years that I've been blogging about Clipper, I've written my fair share of issues and try to get MTC, and Cubic Transportation Systems (the contractor running the Clipper card) to get it fixed.

And while they do admit to their errors and fixes them as soon as they can, the problems continue to persist, like this most recent issue:
Starting on June 1st, Muni decided to end the paper version of the free ride transfers for those who exit Daly City BART and switches to the Clipper card handling the transactions.  This matter was concerning to commuters who used the SF State free shuttle as the transfer policy requires the passenger to ride the 28/28L line bus away from the station within the first hour of exiting the station; by taking the SF State shuttle, the transfer on the Clipper card is void and a return trip from SF State to BART will be charged at regular price.

Muni and SF State worked out a plan, effective August 1, 2012, instead of the one hour policy, it was extended to 23 hours for the first Muni ride.  The reason behind this is students that take the campus shuttle away from the campus, and can still ride the 28/28L line going back to BART with no fear of being charged a $2 fare (as long as it's within 23 hours of exiting BART).  Read story about the change in transfer policy.

But things didn't work out as planned.  As reported by the Golden Gate Xpress, the supposed reprogrammed transfer policy had a glitch and students who took the campus shuttle away from Daly City, was charged a $2 fare for their return to BART when taking a Muni bus.  Muni admitted the error and promised to have a fix by October 26th and Clipper will refund any passenger affected by the glitch.

The problem I have with this is, why do these glitches keep cropping up, and why isn't the contractor (Cubic Transportation Systems) not making sure it works perfectly the first time, every time?

It's not an isolated problem for Cubic, it's a chain of failures due to idiots programming the stuff without testing it.  Here's a list of their failures for the past few years:
  1. In August 2012, there was a discovery that happened in 2010 when their cards enrolled with autoload funded their cards, but didn't charge their credit card at the time of the reloading of funds. Passengers were finally charged in August 2012 on their credit cards for the reloaded funds.
  2. Back in May 2012, AC Transit passengers complained that when they rode an AC bus, transferred to BART, and took another AC bus, they were overcharged on their fare.  This glitch was the same problem Muni passengers faced before (see below).
  3. At the same time, passengers who rode Muni, took BART, and transferred to Muni was also overcharged.  I originally reported on the problem back in June 2011 and while Clipper promised to get it fixed, people were still getting screwed until May 2012.
  4. A software glitch delays the implementation of Clipper on Samtrans.  MTC fails to notify public until I broke the news.
  5. In October 2010, I reported on the Clipper card readers beeping like crazy and it wasn't fixed until February 2011.
  6. In early August 2010, those who linked their Clipper card with Wageworks was very angry when a glitch in the system resulted in pre-tax transit benefit users not getting their passes or funds loaded to their card in a timely manner. (Via my blog and SF Appeal)
  7. On one day in July 2010, a software update to Clipper card readers on Muni failed to work properly resulting in disabled Clipper card readers.
  8. April 2010, software update disables TransLink (pre-Clipper era) card readers.

I think I've made my point clear.  MTC needs to force Cubic to wise up and make sure that whenever there's a software or firmware update, that everything is throughly tested BEFORE the public uses it.  For every mistake or problem, people lose money from their Clipper card from errors or overcharges, transit agencies don't generate the correct revenue, and the time wasted for fixing the errors and issuing refunds to those affected.