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or, better yet, give him a job."
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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Youth Clipper Card Applicant Process Streamlined - Photo Requirement Eliminated for AC Transit 31-Day Pass Eligibility

New word from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission is all youth Clipper card users can now obtain their AC Transit 31-day passes without the need to have a specialized Clipper card with their photo on it (only issued by AC Transit).  This also allows all youth card applicants to be able to apply through any transit agency's ticket office, email, or fax.

The Commission stated the AC Transit Board of Directors eliminated the photo on card requirement because it was a hindrance to all youth in the transit service area to get a specialized card to be eligible to purchase the 31-day pass.

In the Past
Before the change in this policy, any youth needing to purchase a 31-day pass for AC Transit must obtain a special Clipper card that's only issued by AC Transit.  The special card requires the youth to have their photo taken by AC Transit staff and put on the card.

For youth without the special AC Transit endorsed Clipper card, the passenger did not have the option to purchase a 31-day pass on their card, but was still eligible to pay the youth single-ride fare with e-cash.

For youth needing the specialized card, this was a frustrating process for them.  No other transit agency required youth card applicants to go through the additional hoops, and that caused massive delays for AC Transit, upset parents who could not get the cards in time for the school year, and youth forced to pay cash fare and spend more money than the price of a pass.

Also, for any youth cardholder that lost their card, the card can only be re-issued by AC Transit, unlike the various and easier methods to obtain a replacement for non-AC Transit youth card users.

Akit's Opinions
It's a great step to streamlining the process, but the question I want to ask AC Transit is: Why did you create a policy to put a photo on each youth card?  They knew the Clipper card program will be reaching millions of Bay Area citizens and the number of applicants was going to explode when the 31-day youth mag stripe pass was to be eliminated and only be sold on Clipper cards, and other transit agencies don't take a photograph at all.

What was really the point?  Prevent parents from stealing the card and riding the buses for cheap?  Like the bus drivers even care to look at one's card or ask questions.  They hear the single beep, and all is well.

The possibility of card abuse is real.  But by not streamlining the youth card applicant process that's universal with other transit agencies, it definitely outweighs the number of adults abusing the youth card's special privileges.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Muni's 10-Ride Ticket Books (Tokens) Finally Gets a Grave

Bothersome thingsQuietly announced this morning, the people at the SFMTA announced the upcoming end of sales of Muni 10-ride ticket books sold for Clipper cards.  The sales will end starting on January 1, 2014 and any person who has in possession a 10-ride on their card must use them no later than July 1, 2014.

Why are the 10-ride ticket books going to extinction?  It's elementary, Watson; you see, the 10-ride books was not sold at a discount, so it's the equivalent as paying in cash or Clipper e-cash.  10 ride books costs $20, but the regular adult Muni fare is $2 a piece, so the ten-ride book basically dug itself its own grave.

A Little History About Multi-Ride Books and Why it's Dying a Horrible Death
Back in the 'good old days' of Muni, they sold tokens in bags of ten.  The little coins was sold in bulks of ten so passengers can save 25 cents per ride.  It wasn't until 2005 when a fare hike from $1.25 adult cash fare went up to $1.50 caused the little coin's demise.

For a yet to be determined project: old sf muni tokens.

Since the regular cash fare and passes was going up, people wanted a fare product that was resistant to the hikes, and that was the Muni token.  People decided to hoard them by buying as much as they can, that Muni was starting to run short of the coins, had to limit customers to how many bags they could buy, and decided to not produce more coins because it costs more to produce them.

Muni transitioned during that time from actual metal tokens to paper token tickets to meet demand.  But with a new policy of no discounts, people who decided to buy them had to spend $15 for a 10-ride ticket book; this meant a very small population of San Franciscans and commuters could use the ticket books because of programs like Commuter Check which had to be spent on physical transit media, like the 10-ride books.  This program continued for a long time until the Clipper card came to life.

Strangely, when the Clipper card debut and the new Muni metro station ticket machines opened-up, Muni stopped selling the actual paper 10-ride tickets in favor of having passengers load them onto Clipper cards.  But since there were no discounts for buying in bulk, the demise of the 10-rides was going down the drain even more.  People who used commuter benefits programs are now able to transfer their benefit funds into Clipper e-cash funds that was universal money good on many transit agencies.

Basically, with Muni's decision to not provide bulk discounts for buying transit rides in advance is the primary reason in my opinion that the ten-ride books are finally being executed by a firing squad.

If you want to learn more about the history of Muni tokens and it's eventual death, read a past blog entry I wrote three years ago.

Akit's Opinions & The Future?
I think it's fine for Muni to finally end the 10-ride books.  The end of the books means that the Clipper card sales options will be one less, therefore simplifying the already complex Clipper card program crammed with various types of passes, transfer rules, and many other transit agency policies.

But how about Muni taking on the lead like AC Transit by offering passengers paying e-cash with Clipper to get a discount?  AC Transit proposed to passengers that if you pay with Clipper, you will save 10 cents from the adult fare, so instead of feeding a cash box $2.10, you just pay $2 with Clipper.  Muni should provide this carrot on a stick to encourage passengers to use Clipper to reduce delays because of passengers paying in cash.

Photo of Muni ticket book by Flickr user: cbcastro using a Creative Commons License.
Photo of Muni tokens in hand by Flickr user: joe.moore using a Creative Commons License.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Look Into Fare Change Proposals for AC Transit

This afternoon, AC Transit is going to have two hearings about their proposed fare changes to let the general public learn about it and give an opportunity to give their opinion about the matters at hand.  The AC Transit board will officially vote on the changes on November 13th, and if approved, will be in effect on July 1, 2014.

Here's their proposed changes:

Local fares:
  1. First ride fare remains the same.
  2. 25 cent fee for transfer eliminated.
  3. Instead of a transfer, a day pass is offered.
  4. The day pass can be purchased at the farebox when boarding first bus, or Clipper card users simply 'earn' their day pass after reaching the fare threshold for that day.
Transbay service:
  1. No day pass to be offered for transbay.
  2. No more paper transfers issued.  Clipper cards will be only way to process transfers.
Bus Passes:
  1. For adults, the price of the 31-day pass will be reduced from $80 to $75.
  2. For youth, the price of a 31-day pass will increase from $20 to $23.
  3. For seniors and disabled, the price of a monthly pass will increase from $20 to $23.
Fare Discount for Paying with Clipper Card:
  1. Adults will pay 10 cents less than cash fare for local rides.
  2. Youth, seniors, and disabled will pay 5 cents less than cash fare for local rides.

Akit's Opinions
What's the results of these changes?  Let's take a deep look into them.

Ending the 25 cent transfers would hurt passengers who ride only the bus a couple of times, but for those who have to transfer multiple times to buses, the day pass is a benefit that saves money.  Having Clipper cards offer the day pass when reaching the threshold is a nice benefit as there's no need to worry if a passenger should just pay cash to the farebox or use their Clipper card instead.

Encouraging passengers to use a Clipper card for transbay service is practical common sense.  If a passenger intends to transfer to/from a local bus, using the Clipper card automatically determines if the transfer is valid or not, and it saves the agency on paper and trash waste.

It's quite unusual to see bus pass fares drop for adults while everyone else pays a little more.  But their explanation that they want to make the pass prices fair for everyone makes sense.  They want to make the pass the price of taking the bus 36 times in a 31 day period, therefore necessitating the need to make it even across the board.

Offering a fare discount for paying with Clipper is one of the best ideas ever.  It's a great incentive to help board passengers faster because it only takes a second to tag your Clipper card, versus the time it takes to feed dollar bills into a fare box.  If AC Transit can run their buses quicker because of Clipper, everyone wins.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What's Worse Than Nail Clipping on Muni? Using Your Speakerphone

The annoying ass perp in pink.
I've blogged in the past about people who have done some annoying stuff on Muni (see questions and thoughts while riding Muni).  Number one was nail clipping because the sound is so irritating, but I think I found my new number one annoyance while riding Muni.

If you've watched the season premiere of South Park, it showed an irritated Kyle who is frustrated at Eric Cartman for having conversations on his cell phone by using his speakerphone everywhere he goes.

But while that happened in the animated television world, it happened on Saturday early afternoon when I was taking the 44 bus going northbound.  When the bus was in Golden Gate Park to stop in front of the Academy of Sciences, I saw a woman pull out her smartphone and was making a phone call.  All seemed normal at that point until I started hearing the automated telephone greeting through her speakerphone.

The entire back half the bus can hear the automated message on her phone and she was able to connect to a telephone operator to ask questions and get responses.  To make matters even more amusing, it was a conversation with the operator that would be confidential or a private matter, such as calling your credit card company or your doctor.  She continued having the conversation back and forth between the operator, and I can hear the conversation while I was listening to music with my headphones.  I snapped a couple of pictures of her so I can humiliate her on my blog, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.

Get off the bus and chat.
The people around me was rolling their eyes at her while the conversation kept going on, and it finally stopped when she exited the bus at 6th Avenue and Geary.  Thank my patience for not outbursting and telling her to shut the hell up or stop using the speakerphone, because I was getting close to doing just that.

Are some people so oblivious these days they'd pull a stunt like that on public transit?  It's a private conversation you fool!  Even the automated message on the bus reminds passengers to refrain from using their cell phones to prevent crime; it should also be a crime to yack on your cell phone with the speaker on.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

No More Negative Clipper Card Balance to Exit BART - Starting October 5th

If you recall from a few years back, the Clipper card allowed BART passengers to enter the system with a minimum value on their card and exit the system with a negative balance.  If the card was unregistered, the card can be easily thrown in the trash and the taxpayer takes the brunt for the lost money.  Thanks to some news reporters exposing this problem, it exploded to the point where tens of thousands of dollars was being lost per month because people could cheat the system.  I tried to help mitigate the problem by encouraging people not to cheat the system.

Back in September 2011, the MTC estimated the loss due to people dumping their Clipper cards with negative balances was $360,000 in lost fare revenue, and when combined with the cost to procure the Clipper cards, the grand total was $700,000 a year.  It wasn't until June 2012 that the MTC had the guts to get the paperwork signed-off to get that loophole closed for the BART system.

The New Official Policy:
Over a year after the MTC approved the funding, BART made an announcement yesterday (September 30th) on their websiteIt basically says that starting October 5, 2013, passengers will not be able to exit the system with a negative balance on their Clipper card.  Passengers with a card balance not enough to exit the system, will need to use an exitfare machine to add funds in order to be able to exit the system.

But there's a few catches with using the exitfare machines:
(1) You can only pay in cash to add additional funding to your card.  No credit or debit cards.
(2) It will only top-off to the amount necessary to exit the system.  That means once you paid the amount to the machine and exit BART, your card balance will be zero.
(3) The maximum amount of change the machine will return is $4.95.  Only have a $20 and you owe BART a dollar?  You just got screwed.

Two easy tips to avoiding the exitfare machines:
(1) If you have autoload (in which I personally do not recommend), you don't have to worry about using an exitfare machine because your card will automatically reload funds at a set tolerance limit.
(2) If you do not use autoload, keep an eye on your Clipper Card balance and make sure you add additional funds as necessary at any BART ticketing machine.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

SF's 10 Cent Restaurant Take-Out Bag Ordinance - Another Stupid Law from Your City Government

The San Francisco city government is going to regret this...

Starting this Tuesday, October 1, 2013, a city ordinance will now require all food establishments to stop giving out plastic bags, and all delivery and take-out bags will cost a minimum of 10 cents each.

Due to the end of plastic bags, food establishments can only give out: paper bags with a minimum 40% post recycled user content (most commonly used), compostable plastic bag, or a washable checkout bag that can be used more than 125 times (e.g. cloth bag).

But there are a few exceptions that has no ten cent charge that I'll highlight: Bags for things like bulk foods, candy, and to serve popcorn are exempt.  A bag used to contain seafood, meat, and frozen items.  A plastic bag is acceptable to seal items to prevent damage, mostly liquid items like soups and curries.  Lastly, there is no fee if you receive a doggy bag for your leftover food.

It Hurts Businesses
What does this mean for our city's restaurant establishments?  For those that has mostly dine-in patrons, the law won't impact them as badly because as I stated before, a doggy bag for leftovers is free.

But for those whose business is a majority of take-out, delivery, owns a bakery, or a fast food establishment, this bag law will be a problem.  It casts a negative aspect that every time a patron comes to order a meal, they will be forced to surrender an extra ten cents, by law, just so they can bring it in their office or bring it home to feed their family.

I'm predicting that if the ten cent bag law casts huge negative attention, people will stop going to establishments that exclusively depends on giving customers a bag to take their food items, baked goods, and their burger.  And what does that mean to everybody?  Businesses will lose their loyal customers, businesses will lose profits, the city and state will have less tax revenue to receive, and with less tax money coming in, less money can be spent by the government for the services used by the public.

Fast Food Restaurants Will Take a Hit
Take a look at McDonalds and Burger King, a majority of their restaurant patrons take it to-go.  I feel a lot of patrons will be grumpy that they are forced with the choice of eating-in (if they have the time), bringing their own bag which will then get all greasy and sticky, or fork over the ten cents in the name of greedy city government stupidvisors.

The 10 Cent Bag Law when comparing a Restaurant versus Grocery Store
When you compare food establishments versus grocery stores, there's a big difference with the 10 cent bag law.  At least when you buy groceries, bringing your own bag is fine because the products you buy are unlikely going to leak or stink up your bag.  But if you buy hot food items from a restaurant, bringing your own bag is a horrible idea because the smell of the food might stay into the fabrics, it might leak and make a greasy or sticky mess, and in the long run, reusable bags means after a small amount of use, people will likely throw it away and not wash it.

Akit's Opinions
I don't like the idea of forcing a 10 cent bag law on food establishments.  Restaurants that heavily depend on deliveries and take-out will get hurt the most.  Some of you might say it's just ten cents, but for someone like me who doesn't always have money to burn, I might as well get my take-out dinners from Daly City since I work not far at SF State.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Being Patient and Being Rude on the Streets of San Francisco

I've mentioned before that driving can be stressful, but it can also be a pleasure when things go right.

I'd like to share with you something that happened yesterday (Monday) while driving from a neighborhood restaurant to a store where I needed to pick-up something.

An instance of being nice:
I've blogged before about the law requiring all drivers to stop behind a Muni metro vehicle while it is accepting and discharging passengers.  On Judah, the street is notorious for stops that would discharge passengers and the possibility of a car would zoom by with total disregard of the people.

While waiting just a block from Sunset Boulevard, I stopped behind a two-car Muni metro N-Judah vehicle and had to wait over a minute for the traffic signal to turn green and the train to start moving.  While waiting behind the second car, I noticed several cars behind me, including a taxicab; but fortunately, none of them honked at me or drive like a fool to get around me.  When the signal changed and the train moved, everyone just drove on.

An instance of being rude:
While driving on Winston on the north side of San Francisco State University, I noticed a pedestrian wearing black standing at a crosswalk.  The crosswalk is not at an intersection, but a dimly lit one that connects one of the university's parking lot to a stairwell leading to the university's corporation yard.

Upon approaching the crosswalk, I slow down and stop.  The car going in the other direction does the same by slowing down and stopping.

I lowered my window because the pedestrian was hesitant to cross the street and I wanted to encourage the person to cross as both directions of traffic has stopped.  But the driver behind me became quickly impatient and started blowing their horn and flashing the high beams multiple times.  I pointed my finger at the pedestrian indicating the reason why I stopped, but the jerk continued to be a prick.

Soon later, the pedestrian crossed the street and thanked the drivers who stopped.

Akit's Opinion
Being calm and polite is the best way to drive.  If you want to be a jerk, just don't.  I wasn't fond of the driver who was blowing their horn and flashing their high beams while I stopped for a pedestrian waiting to cross the street.  I've had some instances where I've stopped behind a metro vehicle, to have another driver get angry that I'm not passing, but I'm not going to risk hitting and killing a Muni passenger.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

How I Almost Got Killed Crossing the Street at 9th & Judah Today

Not long ago I posted a blog entry about bad drivers and pedestrians around 9th Avenue and Judah, and out of coincidence later that day, a pedestrian was hit by a turning N-Judah Muni metro vehicle at the same intersection (via SFist).

Just an hour ago, I left my house and stopped over at Sunset Bakery to pick-up some baked goods, and I waited at the intersection of 9th Avenue and Judah for the pedestrian signal to cross.  Once I received the okay from the signal, I crossed the street.  At about halfway through the crosswalk, I saw a fast moving SUV making a left turn to go eastbound, and had to slam his brakes because I was still crossing in the middle of the crosswalk.

I yelled "FUCK!" loud when the SUV was approaching and the driver was able to stop with only a few feet between me and death (the bumper).

I was both ticked and really freaked out that this jackass in a red SUV was about to run my ass down and send me on a one-way trip to UCSF or the morgue.  He apologized with barely any sincerity, and I gave my last choice words to the fucker.

After handling some other business in the neighborhood, I waited at the 9th Avenue and Judah bus stop to wait for my bus coming in five minutes.  I took some time to note down the following violations that was happening in just FIVE MINUTES:
  1. Three cars violating pedestrian right of way, including one when a woman was pushing a stroller and a car making a right turn right in front of the stroller.
  2. Six pedestrians starting to cross the street while the red hand was flashing and less than six seconds left on the clock.  Two of the six started crossing the street with less than two seconds.
  3. Several pedestrians crossing against a solid lit red hand during a priority signal for the N-Judah; all pedestrian signals are ordered to stay at no-crossing when the metro has the special signal to turn.
  4. A pedestrian blatantly crossing street against the red while there's incoming traffic; the incoming car with the green light had to blow their horn to warn the idiot.
What a great way to start the weekend.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Nasty Revenge on Neighbor's House in Inner Sunset

Living in the Inner Sunset district has its perks, including the easy access to great restaurants, the N-Judah metro line, and the friendly neighbors.

But this incident I noticed was quite the opposite of "friendly."  Last week, I was told by a source that someone's house had graffiti on the walls and the F-word sprayed multiple times.

Seeing that it sparked my interest, I went down to the house and snapped a photo and enlarged them for you to see.

Someone decided to spray paint this green house in the Inner Sunset with the words "FUCK U" three different times.  The photo shown only shows it sprayed twice, but it was also sprayed on the far right side of the house.

What I've been told about this particular property is the homeowner is notorious for calling the police on a regular basis because someone parks their vehicle too close to the edge of their driveway.

In some cases the car is determined to be within the legal limits, while other times the car is ordered to be towed by the city's contracted towing company and the fee to retrieve the car is well over $400.00 right next door to the Hall of Justice.

The parking stall is not that large, but not too small.  It can comfortably take a sub-compact car and likely a compact, but not a full size.

The homeowner really drives the point home that he/she doesn't like anyone overlapping their driveway by just even an inch by installing the yellow sign on the utility pole (as seen in the photo).  Unfortunately, what the owner has done is not a legal parking sign on public property, and does not meet the criteria for posting bills on utility poles.

A legal parking sign is something the city owns and approves, such as a street sweeping sign or temporary tow-away sign.  The criteria for private citizens to post items on utility poles is it must conform to the pole (a piece of paper wraps around the pole, a sign doesn't), and it must be no larger than a letter size sheet of paper (which the sign doesn't).

Akit's opinion:
While it's illegal for any person to graffiti someone's house; but frankly, I believe the homeowner deserved it.  From asking around, the homeowner loves calling the city to ticket and tow cars on a regular basis, making the person a marked man.

If I was a property owner,  I'd be frustrated if someone deliberately blocked my driveway to the point where I can't leave my garage; but if it's a vehicle that encroaches just a tiny bit over, but doesn't cause me turmoil that I'm unable to exit my driveway, likely I'd just leave a courtesy note.  The courtesy note would simply just remind the person to not block the driveway in the future.

If I wrote a threatening note or constantly called the cops for the smallest issue, I might as well pray my house won't get spray painted, shot with paintballs, have a rock thrown into the window, or my car getting keyed.

If that green house property owner wants to take some real action without pissing-off the neighbors, do the right thing and pay the $348 fee for the city to paint driveway red tips so people are warned ahead of time to not park within the red zone.  If the guy paints his own red tips, that's illegal.

Lastly, if the property owner doesn't want to look like an asshole, please take down the yellow sign.  It's like painting a big target on your chest.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Ten Annoyances Akit Experiences Almost Daily

I haven't blogged in weeks!  Things have been quite busy at my job and now I have a little relief to blog again.

Being a native San Franciscan has its perks, you always know the fastest way on Muni and alternate routes to get to where you need to go, you know the restaurants that are good and pure crap, and you have a bullshit alarm.  I'm quite an observant person and that bullshit alarm goes off a ton of times for people doing some stupid crap on the streets of my city; so I want to highlight them:

(1) Idiot Pedestrians - There's nothing worse than the entitled pricks who thinks it's absolutely okay to cross a street against a red signal or jaywalk; and then there are those super entitled pricks who cross in front of an approaching car, as shown in the video above.

(2) Nail Clipping - Nail clipping ain't cool in public.  Just yesterday while riding the 6-Parnassus, a lady sitting behind me was clipping her nails during for about 10 minutes.  After she finished clipping her nails, I could hear her feet shuffle and her hands sweeping from her clothing; SHE WAS LITTERING HER CLIPPINGS ON THE FLOOR!

(3) Hogging a Muni seat, WITH YOUR FEET - Come on people, don't put your feet on the seat, especially when the vehicle is standing room only.  You look like an asshole, and if it was legal, I'd slap you in the face.

(4) Parking #FAIL - It's something I always take with my cell phone when I'm walking the streets.  People think it's absolutely fine to park illegally where ever they want.  There might be that lucky chance the fine folks at the SFMTA will be around to give a nice fat ticket to the car, but likely car owners will get away with it; and even if they get a ticket, they'll say it's well worth that fine.  In the photo above, I caught this car on Saturday parked on 9th Avenue in front of Kiki's restaurant; having a disabled placard is not an excuse to park like an idiot.

(5) Bad bicycle riders - There are some good bicycle riders, then there are the ones who deserve to get hit by a car.  On Saturday, I was waiting my turn to cross the street directly across from the Exploratorium at Pier 15 and I see two bicyclists decide to go through the intersection while an incoming car was approaching and had the green light to proceed through the intersection.  If it wasn't for the actions of the driver to slam his brakes, swerve, and blow the horn, the two helmet-less bicyclists would have been likely dead.  Just yesterday, I can't believe how many people blow the stop signs on the bike route known as "the wiggle."

(6) Illegal U-Turns - Ever since I moved into the Inner Sunset district, I'm not too far away from the 9th Avenue business district.  I see tons of drivers making u-turns in the middle of the block, and most of the time, do it unsuccessfully in the first attempt.  It turns up to be more like a nine point turn.  But as you see in the video, making a u-turn in a business district is a traffic violation, and especially since 9th Avenue has metro rail tracks, those who u-turn might as well be lucky a train hasn't slammed into their car, because in the battle of Muni metro versus a car, Muni metro wins with a flawless victory.

(7) Bad neighbors - I hate my next door neighbors because they don't shut the hell up.  They like to talk loud with their window open at 3AM.  One night, the idiots decided to crank the music so loud, I can feel my walls vibrate.  At least when I yelled at them that I would threaten to call the cops, that's when they stopped.

(8) Stopping at intersections - Driving my car is stressful, especially when approaching an intersection.  I always follow the rules, such as stopping completely before the limit line, and at an all-way stop, making sure to go when it's supposed to be my turn.  But you always see those who pull a "California stop" by only slowing down at the limit line, but then hits the gas and goes through.  There's also those who go out-of-turn at the all-way stop intersections, which frustrates me because they know the basic rule: First come, first served, and if two vehicles stops at the same time, the right vehicle goes first.

(9) Last minute lane changes - Another instance of why I hate driving.  People try to make a last second lane change because they don't want to be in the turn lane they are in.  Here's a bad one I was nearly a victim of: Three lanes, a Muni bus in the far left lane, and I'm in the middle lane.  At the green light, the Muni bus speeds forward to cut me off and cut from the #1 lane to the #3 lane to reach the curb for the bus stop.  Not cool.

(10) - I'm leaving this one blank for you, my blog fans.  What would you suggest for number ten?  Leave a comment.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

DPW Gives No Citations and Inspects TWO DAYS AFTER Tow-Away Permit Expires for Champion Cleaning

Before you start reading this blog entry: If you haven't read the entire saga, start with the initial story, the laws I reference, and a first update.

Calling 311 for a Case Update
After I filed a report with 311, and was forwarded to the Department of Public Works for an inspection to be completed, I didn't hear a peep until I called 311 for an update this evening.

The update I was given by the 311 operator about my case, the DPW inspector went to the location on JULY 29TH.  That's TWO DAYS after the construction signs expired and the construction crew finished the job; this meant the DPW inspector could not site Champion Cleaning for breaking multiple laws, including the Transportation and Public Works Codes (click here to review the laws I cite for this particular incident).

Also, didn't the inspector notice the traffic cones with the signs on them too?  The cones with the signs are still on the streets today (July 30th).  The laws explicitly states it must be posted on wood, metal, a construction fence, and a wood/metal pole (e.g. telephone pole and parking meter pole).  Putting it on a traffic cone is unacceptable.

The watch says 7/28. It's an atomic watch. Click to enlarge.
I should also note, as the tow-away signs are still on the streets and was not removed after the tow-away period ended (July 27th), Champion Cleaning also broke another law, Public Works Code 724.3 (a) states: "...and shall remove it immediately upon termination of the permit."  The signs, a-frames and cones are still on my street on July 30th, and the inspector missed that one too when inspecting the location on July 29th.  See photo with the watch.
It begs to ask the question, why did DPW take so long to investigate this?

Here's an example of a situation where DPW fails at their job:
Today is Friday, and a construction company wants to do some underground work on my street. The project is going to happen on Saturday and Sunday, and I witnessed the tow away signs are being posted this morning, and the signs states the tow-away is effective on the upcoming weekend.

I call 311 at 8AM and complain to the city that the construction company placed the signs with less than the mandatory minimum of 72 hours notice, and they forward my case to DPW. However, the DPW inspector doesn't go on Friday, they go on Monday when the construction project is already completed and the tow-away permit has already expired; therefore DPW cannot cite the construction company for violating the law.

It's the same exact situation to me.  I complained to the city on Thursday morning, and they don't send an inspector until Monday when Champion Cleaning is long gone and the permit for the tow-away is expired.

If DPW doesn't quickly investigate citizen complaints of construction companies posting tow-away signs giving less than 72 hours notice, any construction project that lasts 3 days or less can easily get away with breaking the law multiple times and not get caught; this is because the agency won't send an investigator for a few days.  By the time DPW investigates, there's nothing to find, therefore no citations issued.

When I called DPW on Friday morning, the lady said it's likely an investigator won't show-up until Monday; I even told her that by Monday, the construction crew will be LONG GONE.

A Horrible Conversation with the 311 Operator
When I was having a conversation late this evening with the 311 operator, he said that if someone's car was towed away, the person could argue at a hearing that 72 hours notice was not provided, and the car should be released at no charge.

Does this 311 operator know how annoying it is to get your car towed all the way across the city to a lot next to the Hall of Justice, and hassle with getting a hearing at the SFMTA office on Van Ness & Market?  There is the possibility the city may say the tow was valid when you know it isn't, and you'll be paying over $400.00 for the tow fee, plus any possible storage fees at the lot.  But don't forget, if you have a job, taking time-off to go to the tow lot and get that tow hearing means lost pay or losing your vacation time you've saved.

If one of my neighbor's car was towed the same day they plopped that sign on my street, you might expect the the owner of the car to have a fistfight with the constriction workers the next day for calling the tow truck.

If Champion Cleaning gave the required 72 hours notice, this means none of my neighbors' cars would be towed (unless if they can't read).

Note: I do not know if any cars was towed on my block or not.  I have to assume it didn't happen.


Hello, Police?
I also have to ask the question.  As I was present when an infraction was committed (watching Champion Cleaning crews placing the signs), why did the police refuse to help me by telling me to call a different city department?  Why didn't the officer at the Taraval station let me file a police report, or why didn't an officer drop by and talk to me so I can sign a citizen's arrest card?

A crime was committed, and if I read the state laws about citizen's arrest correctly, a citizen can sign a citizen's arrest card if the citizen personally witnessed an infraction, misdemeanor, or felony was committed.

Yeah, it makes me look like an asshole by calling the cops and if they arrived to give them a ticket, but at least Champion Cleaning would know that you don't mess with the neighborhood residents, especially those who left their car on the street and took Muni to work.

Don't mess with Akit, you'll get nailed on my blog.
The Lesson?
So what should the city government and construction workers learn from this?
  1. Champion Cleaning must respect the laws regarding 72 hours minimum notice.
  2. Do not put signs on cones.
  3. DPW needs to respond to these allegations much sooner.
  4. The police needs to respond if a person witnesses a crime.
  5. Stop making citizens call in circles to get the proper people to respond to this problem.  I shouldn't have to call three city agencies and be told it's "somebody else's problem."
  6. Don't fuck with Akit and his neighbors.  If Champion Cleaning continues to do the same practice they've done on my block and others nearby, expect another angry blog entry and a phone call to the Mayor.
Lastly, a commentator said I'm "a pain in the ass," in a good way!  Thanks Mike!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The War Against Illegal Tow-Away Construction Zone Signs (Champion Cleaning)

Hello assholes!
The saga continues.  Get yourself up to speed by reading my first blog entry about this, and the second one.

On Friday morning, I decided to make a call to San Francisco 311 for an update.  The answer I got back was the same old thing: They took my report, passed it on to Department of Public Works, and that was it.  I asked the operator to transfer me to the DPW and I spoke with a female staff member on the phone.  I explained the situation to her, provided my 311 case number, and said an inspector will be investigating it three days.

Three days?  I told the lady the construction signs and crew will be long gone within 48 hours.  I tried to put some pressure on her to get the shit done, I also asked her what DPW will do if Champion Cleaning calls for a tow truck when they failed to provide a minimum of 72 hours notice of posting the signs.  She couldn't answer.

It seems every time I call the city, many either don't give a damn, don't want to be helpful, or just pass the buck onto some other department.  I work for the State of California, but I don't treat people like crap; I treat them nicely as best as I can, and make sure if they contacted me by accident, I put them back on the right path to the right people who can answer their questions.

On Saturday (today), I went out in the morning and on the ride back on the 6-Parnassus, I noticed a white van parked in the middle of the block on 9th Avenue.  I decided to hop-off the bus and take a look around.  Other than the van in the middle accessing the sewer opening, I saw one of their employees sitting on someone's property and having a smoke break.

Now I'm wondering if any cars got towed or not.  Since it's after 5PM and the signs are now expired, parking is now restored.  But if they try to pull another fast one and throw some more tow signs without advance notice, I'll be hounding DPW again.

As for DPW, I'll be calling them again on Monday for an update.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

In-Depth Research: The Illegal Tow-Away Construction Zone Signs in the Inner Sunset

Since I had to quickly write the blog entry about the illegally posted tow-away signs in front of my house, I decided to spend this evening doing some further research about this matter.

My late grandmother taught me to raise hell and advocate for what I believe in.  She sure did that by demanding redress for all Japanese Americans forced into the Japanese internment camps during World War II, and after many years of working hard and being a leader, all survivors received a $20,000 check and an apology from the President of the United States.  Now it's my time to raise hell against Champion Cleaning, the people who thinks it's totally okay to put tow-away signs and blatantly violate several laws in the process.

Here's what I did after filing a complaint with the city:

I gave a call to SF 311 for an update about my complaint and was told the message was passed-on to the Department of Public Works' street use department, but didn't receive a response back.  The next time I can get in contact would be as early as 8AM on Friday.

I decided to call the SFPD Taraval Station and spoke with a desk sergeant.  I explained the situation and he told me to get in touch with DPT (SFMTA Parking) about the matter.  I asked if I had the right to file a police report for a company violating traffic code 33.1, and he said I can't.  I also asked him if the station had a copy of any paperwork regarding any temporary tow away zones in their jurisdiction and he said they don't have materials about that; unlike what the officer at the SFPD Richmond station told me.

Seeing no purpose of trying to call in circles, it was time to look around the city law books online.

First stop: San Francisco 311's FAQ section about construction zones

Quoted directly from the website:
How far in advance should I apply for a tow-away zone permit? 
Tow-Away No Stopping signs must first be registered at least 72 hours in advance of the effective date and time. Once registered, the signs shall be posted at least 72 hours in advance of the effective date and time in order to give the public sufficient notice.
Since the construction workers placed the signs LESS THAN 72 HOURS, it's illegal.  If you recall, the construction workers placed the sign on Thursday, July 25th at 8AM; the posted sign said: 7AM-5PM and is effective from 7/23/13 to 7/27/13.  The construction contractors should have placed the sign no later than 7AM on July 20, 2013; therefore it's a violation of numerous city laws.

But there's more from the 311 site:
What do I need to know about posting tow-away zone signs?
Tow-away signs for construction zones shall be posted in accordance with the provisions set forth in Section 33.1 of the San Francisco Traffic Code and in accordance with the following criteria:

1. Signs shall be posted only within the limits of construction.
2. Signs shall be posted every 20 linear feet of occupied space with at least one sign at each end of the occupied space.
3. Place signs on wood or aluminum backing or approved equal.
4. Mount the signs securely to existing poles, posts, on Type II barricades per Caltrans specifications, or on construction fences.
5. The Contractor shall maintain the signs on a continuous basis and shall replace damaged or missing signs daily.
6. Contractor shall remove the signs and mounting materials immediately after construction has been completed.
Okay, let's do a little in depth about this one.  They followed #1, #2, and #5 correctly.

And the rest?  #3 #4 is in violation because while they did post the signs on A-frames, they broke the law by posting some of them on traffic cones.  #6 can't be determined until the project is done.


Second stop: San Francisco's codes and laws posted online
As per San Francisco Transportation Code, Article 1, Division 3, Section 3.4, Subsection (b) it states:
"Building Construction, Maintenance or Repair. Any temporary Parking restriction or prohibition related to building construction, maintenance, or repair in the public right-of-way shall be posted in compliance with Article 15, Section 724.3 of the Public Works Code."
This basically means the construction signage under the Transportation Code must comply with the Public Works Code or it is a violation of Section 3.4(b) of the Transportation Code.

Let's go to Article 15, Section 724.3 of the Public Works Code.
Subsection (a) basically states 72 hours advance notice must be provided when placing the construction signs.  It also mentions:
"The placard shall contain the following information: name of the permittee, a telephone number where the permittee can be reached during the hours of the permit, the duration of the permit including start and stop dates and hours of use, a geographic description of the street space occupied under the permit, the permit number, and the Department's street space hotline telephone number. The Department shall provide a placard to each permittee."
Subsection (b) basically states the proper posting of signage, such as on a-frames and poles.

Let's do a little analysis about the posted laws I'm referring to on the "second stop." Champion Cleaning who posted the signs have broken numerous codes under the Transportation and Public Works Codes:
  1. They DID NOT provide 72 hours notice.
  2. DID NOT provide further information on the placards (items failed to mention: geographic description of street space occupied, permit number, and street space hotline number).
  3. POSTED SIGNAGE on non-approved items (traffic cones).

Last stop: SFMTA's "Blue Book."
Since so many of these construction zone parking laws cross between Public Works, Transportation Codes, and many others, the SFMTA published a "Blue Book" as an easier way for people to understand all laws and regulations.  It basically sums up everything I've mentioned above.  If you would like to read it, click here and review section 4.


My last words:
I've done my research, which means I have the ammo (the laws) to unleash hell.  If the city officials don't want to do their job to enforce and place a $1,000 fine against Champion Cleaning (a subcontractor of PG&E), I'll start making the round of phone calls, starting with the supervisor of my district.

If ANY CAR in my neighborhood gets either a ticket or towed in the next few days, I will fight back hard because you bastards NEVER gave minimum 72 hour notice.

Construction Tow-Away Signs Posted Without 72 Hours Notice in Inner Sunset District

UPDATE: I've referenced all applicable laws about this matter.  Click here to read.

Just this morning just before 8AM (on July 25, 2013), I left my home in the Inner Sunset District and noticed a white van in my neighborhood blocking my neighbor's driveway.

What I saw was shocking.  These two guys wearing bright yellow vests started putting up these tow-away signs on portions of my block (see photo).

When I read the signs in detail, it said construction zone is effective from July 23rd to July 27th, and during the hours of 7AM to 5PM.  The company is Champion Cleaning and their plates are definitely out-of-state.

A few things seemed very wrong about this:
(1) It's 8AM, and I know my neighbors park their car on the street and take the bus to work.  Therefore, there is the possibility their car may be towed.
(2) Today is July 25th, and the signs says the construction zone is effective two days prior.

Being overly concerned, and my morals and ethics kicking into high gear, I started making phone calls.  Here's how inefficient and stupid the process went:

(1) Called SFPD Taraval station.  The officer on the phone really didn't give a damn and told me to call SFMTA Enforcement (formerly known as Department of Parking and Traffic).
(2) Called SFMTA/DPT Enforcement, said I was referred by SFPD Taraval, and person also didn't want to be helpful and referred me to the Department of Public Works.
(3) Called Department of Public Works three times and all I got was a generic voicemail line.
(4) Called San Francisco 311, explained the circle of phone calls I've made, and the lady took down my information, the full story of the situation, and forwarded it immediately to DPW for follow-up.

While I'm currently waiting for DPW to investigate and call me about this problem.  I decided to contact a different SFPD station for more information.

Calling the SFPD Richmond station, the officer on the phone told me the following details about the laws regarding construction zone signage and enforcement:
(1) The signs must be posted at least 72 hours prior to the start of the construction zone.  In this case, it should have been posted on my street no later than July 20th.
(2) It can only be towed if the construction company requests for it.
(3) No private towing company can tow the car.  Only an authorized SFMTA tow company can do it.
(4) Permits must be on file with various agencies, including the local neighborhood police station.

So while it seems that only the construction company can request to have a vehicle towed; if they decide to go the very ugly route of calling to tow cars, there would be some very angry neighbors because there was NO ADVANCE NOTICE of 72 HOURS as per city law.  It was important for me to notify the city of the blatant violation of the law so that if a tow happens, it's on public records that I registered an official complaint against the company in question.

If you see these signs in your neighborhood and 72 hours notice was not given, please dial 311 and file a report.  If you notice cars being towed or the construction workers threatening drivers about possibility of being towed, please call SFPD dispatch at: (415) 553-0123.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

BREAKING: BART Strike is OVER, Service Resumes Friday 3PM

Great news: The BART strike is OVER!

BART workers are back on the job, but trains won't be able to operate until 3PM on Friday as it takes about 18 hours to get everything back in operation.

I can't embed the video clip from the state mediator, so you can review it here: http://instagram.com/p/bX4Y5rP7wI/#

and here: http://instagram.com/p/bX52IFP7x9/#

I'm happy, but I know that people may swear BART off and take alternative ways for the rest of their life.

I also just forgot to mention, while watching KTVU, it mentioned BART management spent $400,000 on a labor negotiator.  Where did they get this kind of cash to do this?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

UPDATE: Clipper Refunding Passengers Who Experienced Failed Pass Load

If you are a victim of a failed automatic loading of your monthly pass to your Clipper card and you were forced to pay e-cash for your Caltrain ride, the folks at Clipper just released this announcement:

Thank you for the good gesture Clipper.

If you want to prevent this type of mess from happening again, learn about other great options to load your passes here.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

BART Strike Day Three - Ferry Fare Discounts & Tips for Stress Relief

While I am typing this blog entry, day three of the BART strike is highly likely.

Assuming if both sides can hash out a deal very soon, BART won't be able to run at full force for at least a full 24 hours, which means whatever day they restart service, only some trains are going to run.

So while most of you have been hassling through alternatives like AC Transit, ferry boats, and casual carpool, I feel the need to provide just a few tips to get you some relief:

Discounts for Oakland, Alameda, and Harbor Bay Ferries
If you are paying cash for the ferry boats listed above, you are paying more than you should.  Instead, pay with a Clipper card and pay discount prices.  Here's what you will pay:

Oakland/Alameda: $4.75 paid with Clipper.  You'll pay $6.25 with cash.
Harbor Bay: $5 paid with Clipper.  You'll pay $6.50 with cash.

Also, if by using your Clipper card, you'll also get a 50 cent discount to take Muni.  Simply use the same Clipper card and you'll pay $1.50 for the Muni ride.  When you take your return trip on Muni back to the Ferry Building, you'll also save 50 cents.

Discount for Larkspur Ferry
Similar to the discount with the above ferry services, if you take the Larkspur ferry, you'll also get a discount.  You'll pay $6.25 on Clipper, versus paying $9.50 in cash.

You also receive a 50 cent discount for Muni as well.  Take Muni away from the Ferry Building with the same Clipper card and pay $1.50.  When you return on Muni, you pay full fare ($2), but you'll get a 50 cent fare discount (on top of the $6.25 discount fare) upon entry to the Golden Gate Ferry system.

Stress Relief from Commute Hell
I got some positive Twitter reactions from these suggestions.  Why not try them out?

Talk like a pirate, dress like a pirate, and be a pirate on the ferries!

Sing some simple classic songs to ease that anger!  Hopefully others can sing along too!

Monday, July 1, 2013

[UPDATED] Clipper Card Failed to Load WageWorks Benefits

New Update: Clipper to refund passengers.  Read story here.

A BART strike is plenty frustrating for a lot of commuters and that means people will need to depend on alternate public transportation to get themselves around.

This isn't a great notice from the folks at the Clipper card program:
Due to a processing error, some Clipper cards will not load WageWork benefits until tomorrow, July 2nd. Please be sure to tag on/off today and tomorrow. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience.
This is a huge problem.

People who uses their Clipper card didn't get their new monthly transit pass loaded or their loading of e-cash, which could have meant people either had denied rides, or had to pay e-cash instead of getting their new pass.

Akit's Opinions
Clipper should be reimbursing any passenger who had to pay out-of-pocket or e-cash if their pass did not arrive in a timely manner.  This would include people who use Caltrain's monthly passes.

I've warned people all the time about this.  If you can skip automatic loading of your transit passes, tickets, and e-cash, do it.  There are many alternatives that gives you the control, such as a commuter debit card or paper voucher.  For more information about this, click here.

Bravo Clipper.  Bravo. [Slow clap]

UPDATE: Clipper is considering refunds for those victims of this snafu.

Dear BART Management and its Unions...

This is the front page from four years ago.

Dear BART Management and its Unions:

You all suck.  That's right, you all suck.  How do you screw up this badly and now there's a transit strike?

Every four years, we the public go though this BART union contract emotional drama.

I'm going to say it right now: I'm tired of this crap.  Get your ass back to that bargaining table and I'll personally chain and padlock the damn doors until it's finished.

A few hundred strikers and some management folks versus 400,000+ daily BART passengers.  Guess who is going to kick your ass.

As one twitter user suggested: Let's mail our gas receipts to the SEIU, ATU, and BART Management and demand reimbursement for their poor judgment.

Akit and a hell of a lot of angry transit passengers

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

From an Angry Citizen: Don't Threaten Us with a BART Strike

Today should be a great day for everyone in the Bay Area.  The Defense of Marriage Act has been ruled unconstitutional, and Proposition 8 has been struck down by making same sex marriage legal in California.

But someone had to leave a huge sour note in our mouths today, and that's the BART employee unions.

As a result of the authorization to strike votes, over 98% of employees have given their authorization to leadership to call a strike, which may happen as early as Monday, July 1st when their contracts expire at 12:01AM on Monday.

If a strike happens, this transit agency who carries more than 400,000 people a day will make the entire Bay Area transportation system of roads, highways, and other transit agencies go into submission.  The MTC has worked out a war plan for such a worst case scenario, but with a possible AC Transit strike also looming, it could also turn into the perfect storm.

Governor Brown has the ability to call a 60 day cooling off period, and other resources such as mediators are at the disposal of BART management and the unions if something doesn't work out.

Akit's Opinions
Every four years, there's always a threat of a strike from the BART unions.  Those employees know, with a strike, they can cripple the entire Bay Area, and they will always win what they want, every single time.

On this round, they want a 23.2% raise over three years, and that's because they have the leverage to screw the public.  I'm a public employee making much less than the average BART worker and I haven't received a raise in five and a half years.  If I had a shot at a raise by reclassification of my job, I'd likely get a five percent bump.  If we were to strike, we wouldn't cripple the entire Bay Area, we'd just make a handful of people upset and frustrated.

It's time for us, the people of the Bay Area to finally stand-up to BART's strike threats with threats of our own:
  1. Stop using us as bargaining chips.
  2. Stop making threats of a strike every four years.
  3. We will perservere if you strike.
  4. You will never be forgiven if you strike.
  5. Jerry Brown, you have the power to order that 60 day cooling-off period, DO IT.

Friday, June 14, 2013

You Can Now Pay for Parking with a Clipper Card at Five SF Garages

There's a new and exciting development from the folks at the Clipper card program and the SFMTA.

You can now pay for parking with your Clipper card at five San Francisco/SFMTA operated public parking garages.*

But did you notice asterisk above?  There's some things you need to know before you go joy riding to the garage and using your card:

(1) The participating garages are: Japan Center, North Beach, Performing Arts, Moscone Center, and Mission Bartlett.

(2) When you enter the garage, retrieve your mag stripe parking ticket as usual.  When exiting the garage, there's no need to go to visit a pay station or attendant behind a bulletproof window; just drive to the exit gate, insert the ticket, and tag your Clipper card on the exit gate reader.

(3) In order for the Clipper card to pay for the parking, YOU MUST load Clipper's new cash fund to your card called "parking value."  From this point on, I'll nickname it "p-cash."  No p-cash on the card, you'll be stuck at the gate.

(4) You must have enough p-cash value on your card to pay the parking fee.  Unlike paying for transit rides, the system will not allow your p-cash value go negative.

(5) This parking program can only be used for pay-as-you-go parking.  You cannot use this to pay for monthly parking fees.

(6) You can load your p-cash by logging into your account on Clipper's website, calling customer service, or setting-up autoload.

So why the need for p-cash and not e-cash to pay for parking?
Since Clipper's e-cash fund (that is used to pay for public transit fares) can be funded from both pure cash loading and pre-tax commuter benefits (e.g. Commuter Check), the e-cash fund on your card cannot pay for any use of parking because it is illegal to pay for parking with commuter benefits.  Clipper has to assume that due to multiple ways to load your Clipper e-cash, the e-cash fund is toxic and unacceptable to use for other uses like parking, or in the future, to pay for groceries or snacks.

If you have a Commuter Check Card for parking, it may be possible to load p-cash onto your Clipper card.  You may face a hurdle because while that pre-tax benefit is dedicated to parking, Commuter Check may demand proof; how do you prove that your expenses for p-cash is actually going towards paying for parking to your job?  I don't know the answer to that.

Some advice...
  • If you get your ticket validated, sometimes the special devices they use to rubber stamp your ticket also includes a method to alter the magnetic stripe; this helps the self-service pay machines recognize the validated ticket, but sometimes the alteration to the magstripe doesn't work, such as Japantown's Sundance Kabuki Theater's.  Whenever you validate it, I suggest you should pay the parking fee at the cashier's booth instead of attempting to pay with Clipper.
  • If you are using the parking lot for a special discount for motorcycles, you should be paying at the cashier's window.  The exit gate and Clipper card reader can't identify if it's a car or motorcycle.
  • If you are to receive a special rate for early bird or something similar, the Clipper parking FAQ doesn't say if it will be properly applied or not.  It's better to pay at the cashier's window so at least you can ask questions and if necessary, argue/appeal to the attendant if the price you are to pay is wrong.
  • For the three I listed above, that's for special parking discounts.  If you are just paying for hourly parking with no discounts, then it's okay to pay for parking with the Clipper card.
  • If you need to get reimbursed for parking and need proof of payment, you shouldn't use Clipper.  I don't want to share my entire Clipper card history report to my employer to prove my parking costs.  In this case, pay at a self-service machine or cashier's booth and ask for a receipt. 
  • While I'm usually against autoload for Clipper, with the rules stating you can't let your p-cash go negative, thereby not being able to exit and have pissed-off drivers honking at you for backing out of the exit gate, this time, you should establish autoload for p-cash.

Akit's Opinions
Sounds like a smart idea to have Clipper accepted for parking, but how about FasTrak?  I've used it to pay for parking at the Long Term Lot at SFO, and it worked smoothly.  I didn't have to take a ticket from the entry gate, and when I was at the exit gate, it read my transceiver, spit out a receipt, and let me out of the lot.  Plus, it's voluntary; you just go on your FasTrak account online and opt-in or out for the program.  While FasTrack has a stored value, if the parking exceeds a certain established limit, it's charged directly to your credit card and doesn't deduct from you pre-funded pool.

Is it really that convenient to pay with my Clipper card for only five garages?  The only garage out of the five I use is the Japantown lot, and that's not very often.  At least with FasTrak, it's always mounted on my windshield and no need to yank my blue Clipper card from my wallet to pay.

I'm also wary of establishing a p-cash fund.  Why have a pool of p-cash on the card at all?  Why not have users just link a credit or debit card to the Clipper card, so when they tag their card at the gate, the parking fee will be charged directly to their personal credit card as one transaction?  Companies like Square and LevelUp doesn't ask users to load $30 in credit to buy food; they pay with their smartphone and their credit card is charged for that particular transaction.  Anyway, you can't load dollar bills onto the Clipper card's p-cash fund because the only methods are via online or telephone.

Even then, why doesn't the city garages get upgraded for people to pay for parking at the gate by inserting their parking ticket, then their credit card?  People can do this at some private garages like Pier 39 and at SFO garages.

I seriously question if I want to sign-up for the parking program on Clipper.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

New Caltrain Conductor Clipper Card Readers Will be Able to Deduct Fares

Clipper on Caltrain... it's way out of control.  I've mentioned in the past of my proposal to kill 8-rides, in favor of giving all passengers an equivalent 15% fare discount to all Clipper users by simply paying with e-cash stored on their card.  If Golden Gate Transit and Ferry can eliminate paper discount ticket books and give the same discount by using their Clipper card with e-cash, so can Caltrain.

Frustrations with Caltrain
For you Caltrain passengers, ever had that frustration with a broken card reader or you just forgot to scan your card?  I know that some of you have been issued a fare evasion citation and you've had to face a court hearing, and that can be really annoying.  That's because the Caltrain conductor's portable Clipper card reader can only read cards, and cannot deduct fares or activate passes/8-rides.

Our friends at the defacto Clipper card Board of Directors (MTC's Operations Committee) is about to make Caltrain passengers just a little more happy.  They plan to meet on Friday, June 14th (agenda) to approve a bunch of contract actions costing a ton of cash, but the one for Caltrain is the most exciting.

Ooooh, ahhhh!
On the first page of agenda item 4c (PDF), the Board intends to spend up to $575,000 on new portable Clipper card readers for Caltrain.  These new card readers for conductors and fare inspectors will also have the ability to deduct fare from a customer who forgot to tag their card in the morning.  The document also mentions that the new devices could also be used for those passengers with disabilities who are unable to reach a platform Clipper card reader as they are not always easily accessible.

Akit's Opinions
So if the MTC approves this expense and Caltrain gets these new devices, will that mean the number of fare evasion citations will go down for those with Clipper cards?  I think it's a great idea to help passengers, instead of kicking them off trains, or writing an expensive citation and being forced to visit a Superior Court judge.

I'm hoping passengers will still tag their card at the station platform card readers, instead of making the conductor do it, or riders take a risk for a free ride by not tagging the card and hoping the conductor doesn't do a sweep.  But even if the conductor does a sweep, the fare would be deducted.

There is the possibility that someday Caltrain may charge a higher fare for those whose Caltrain fares are deducted from the conductor's reader in order to discourage cheaters.  The Long Island Railroad does this to their passengers who pays the conductor, instead of a station's ticketing machine.

UPDATE: SFMTA (Muni) Response to Title VI E-Mail Problems

Click on image above to enlarge
Here's an update from a blog post I did a few days ago about the SFMTA/Muni having some issues with their e-mail telling people about the Title VI document and the e-mail address that didn't go anywhere.

After contacting Paul Rose, spokesperson for the SFMTA, he stated:
This was a mistake on our part.

We are having some technical difficulties and will reissue the email with revised information in the next day or so. In the meantime, if anyone has comments, they can call us directly at 415.701.4740.
I'll post a copy of the new e-mail when it gets sent out to the public.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Akit's Top 10 List - San Francisco's "Official" Ice Cream Flavor?

What if San Francisco had its own ice cream flavor, what would that be?

SFGate asked that question to their readers, and while many said the flavor should be urine, I wanted to think of some fun flavors too, including the last one on this list to make fun of our incredibly stupid city laws.

Here's a list of flavors I would have declared as the "official" San Francisco ice cream:
  1. Rainbow.  It's both a symbol of our diverse city, but also represents our LGBT community.
  2. Any ice cream mixed with crumbles of locally made chocolates like TCHO.
  3. Green tea.  If you like tea, that's a simple one.
  4. Vanilla ice cream mixed with crumbled fortune cookies.  Did you know the fortune cookie was born at Benkyodo, a San Francisco Japanese confectionery and made for the Japanese Tea Garden?
  5. Sriracha.  Who doesn't love this spicy kick sauce?  Make your mouth have a sweet and hot orgy.
  6. Coffee ice cream, but the coffee must be sourced from a local company like Blue Bottle.
  7. Ex-Supervisor Ed Jew flavor.  Contains tapioca balls because he tried to scam tapioca drink businesses, and has a peach flavor because he's having canned peaches for breakfast every single day at the federal prison.
  8. Board of Supervisors flavor.  When you taste it, it tastes good, but slowly turns horrible (similar to passing laws that seems to be 'good,' but goes bad after people realizes how stupid, wasteful, or horrible it is).
  9. Muni flavor.  Put it in your mouth, the flavor might show up right away, but usually the flavor shows up 10 minutes late or doesn't show up at all.
  10. "Nothing" meaning absolutely nothing at all.  Reason?  The city supervisors banned the flavor (just like plastic bags and fast food toys), and there would also be a 2% Healthy San Francisco surcharge to that empty cup of ice cream just served to you.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

SFMTA (Muni) Invites Public to Meetings - But We Cannot Review Documents & Comments Email Address Doesn't Work

On late Friday afternoon around 5:20PM, I received an e-mail from the SFMTA inviting members of the public to review their draft document which could affect Muni with major service changes and fares.  Under federal law, public transit agencies must do a review under Title VI requirements of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

I've mentioned about Title VI before, when the Clipper card program wanted to impose a change to include a fee for obtaining a new card.  Read the story here.

Here's the e-mail message for you to read:

When you look at the letter, it mentioned that the agency created a draft of new or revised policies due to a change in the Title VI requirements by the FTA.  It gives a link to the FTA document to review the federal changes, and the SFMTA will be presenting their "draft policy" at upcoming meetings on June 22nd and June 25th.

I was interested in reviewing what the SFMTA drafted regarding possible changes for Muni, so I went to the bottom of the message and clicked on the link, but it referred me to the SFMTA search results page and not the website.  I even hand typed the address, including the "titleVIcomments" and still received the search page and no actual SFMTA Title VI website.

Thinking that this must be a mistake, I used their email address: TitleVIcomments@SFMTA.com.  I wrote that there's no SFMTA draft document to review, suggested a new e-mail be sent to the correct SFMTA website, and asked for a response within a week

Here's the response from the SFMTA, and it was a really quick response:
Click on image above to enlarge.

Yep... EMAIL ADDRESS DOESN'T EXIST.  That's pretty disappointing.

This has three huge issues:
  1. Why is the website link to the SFMTA website not going to the location of the document?
  2. If people just attend these public meetings without spending some time prior to review the document online so they can give proper comments to the SFMTA representatives and the Board of Directors, isn't that a violation of public hearing/meeting laws, or something like that?
  3. If people cannot e-mail comments because the e-mail address doesn't exist, is that also a violation of public hearing laws because the public cannot write to the agency?
I'm going to contact SFMTA's press department for further information.  I'll post an update when I get a reply.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Parked Car Sticking Out Like a Thorn in Street - My Awkward Encounter with the Driver

This was the worst I've ever witnessed, but not any more.
If you follow me on Instagram or stare at my Twitter feed, I sometimes take photos of the most awkward parking fails I find.  Normally, it's those who takes more than one parking space at the local shopping mall by parking crooked, but this one I encountered sure beats the rest.

Sticking Out Like a Thorn
On my way home from work today (Monday), I was approaching my block to find a parking space, and noticed an older Toyota Carolla with its front end sticking out and blocking half of the traffic lane and its rear right tire into the curb.  When I saw it from a distance, I thought the person was just trying to parallel park the car, but after looking at it for several seconds, it didn't move.  Other vehicles had to turn wide just to avoid the car.

When I passed by the car, I saw two people in it, just sitting there doing nothing.  There was no hazard lights flashing and the engine was off.

Luckily, there was a parking space about 100 feet ahead and I parked my car.  When I was unloading my trunk, the car was still sticking out like a thorn in the roadway as I saw more cars having to swerve out of the way.

The Conversations
A lady with her baby carriage was walking down the sidewalk and looked at the car and the drivers.  As I walked up the hill, I spoke to the lady and she thought it was awkward that the two occupants are doing practically nothing with the car sticking out.

I walked towards the car and noticed a male driver and female passenger sitting shotgun; they looked like college age students around 18 or 19 years old.  Fearing the couple may be having some trouble, I asked them:  "Are you okay?  Is your car working?"

They looked at me with no answer.  I explained to them that they are sticking far out into traffic and said, "I pray to god you don't get hit or cause an accident by having other cars swerve into oncoming traffic."

As I walked into my house, I heard their car engine turn on, therefore the car wasn't in any trouble, and they just drove away like nothing ever happened.

That was just totally odd.  Were they high or stupid?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

I am a Terrible Human Being - I Paid for Paper Grocery Bags

Remember that time I said I hated San Francisco's new paper bag law that banned plastic bags, and forces all customers to pay ten cents for each paper bag when checking-out?

Since October 1, 2012, I've been a good puppy, obeying my government masters by bringing my own reusable grocery bags to the store.

Bad Akit!  Bad!
Now it's June 2nd, 2013 (eight months later) and I've been a bad dog; I pooped on the Mayor Ed Lee's carpet and got hit with a newspaper.

I finally had to cave in and purchase not just one... but three paper grocery bags at ten cents a piece.  I usually have tons of bags in my trunk, but I emptied my trunk so I can pick-up my co-workers from the airport, and they have a lot of luggage.

Mother Nature is pissed and it looks like I'm going to hell.

Hello, Board of Supervisors? I think your 10 cent bag fee is stupid.

Now that I have three paper bags that I can't return to get back my 30 cents, what am I going to do with them?  I could punch a few holes and put a frowny face on it... perfect!  I'll wear it at the next Board of Supervisors meeting.

Paper bag head photo by Mark Sebastian, using a Creative Commons License.