"Akit is the man. He knows Clipper." (spenta)
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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)

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Muni Metro Exiting Passenger Hit By Car - Will SFPD Finally Enforce the Law?

Many of who takes Muni metro have experienced at least one close call when exiting a surface stop and a car decides to blow past the train.  Those moments put chills in your bones, and maybe the feeling you want to slash the tires of that moron.

For you loyal fans, I've written about this a couple of times: An incident where I had a close encounter with a speeding SUV while I was exiting the metro, and a popular stop along the N-Judah line where cars pass by a stopped metro vehicle on a regular basis.

As we are aware, state law forbids drivers to pass a stopped light rail vehicle that is boarding and discharging passengers, or basically whenever the train doors are open.  We call this the "Do Not Pass" law.  Drivers are only permitted to drive past a light rail vehicle once it goes into motion, and not when just the doors close (there's the assumption passengers may still exit the train), or can legally pass a vehicle if it is in a designated "safety zone" at 10 MPH if it is marked with signage saying so.

Just yesterday morning at Taraval and 19th Avenue, a passenger exiting the L-Taraval train was struck by a car, and while it's not life threatening injuries, it delayed the entire line for 45 minutes.  (News article from SF Appeal).

You would think education would work, well it seems the answer is no [facepalm].  People continuously disobey the law and puts passengers entering and exiting the trains in danger.  When will the SFPD conduct enforcement and teach violators a serious lesson in driving?

Citizens constantly complain about laws being broken in their neighborhood, but the cops just don't do anything or say there's more serious things they need to do.  There are tons of occasions that the police or even the city will finally make changes or stronger enforcement when someone GETS KILLED because of it.  For example, a former two-way stop at 47th Avenue and Fulton was so extremely dangerous the city kept it a two way (stop signs for north & south) and extended the red no parking zone for better visibility, but only turned it into a 4-way when a pedestrian was hit and killed by a speeding driver going on west on Fulton.  The SFMTA tried stalling citizens complaints by responding it would "delay Muni," but from the many who called to complain, we all knew it was total bullshit.

When I drive on streets like Judah and Taraval, I always respect the law and wait behind the metro vehicle to let it do its job to embark and disembark passengers.  I've had assholes honk at me, including a taxicab, demanding me to pass the vehicle; all I do is keep my foot on the brake, roll down my window, point my finger at the yellow sticker on the back of the train saying not to pass, and pull my middle finger up to flick them off.

I don't have hundreds of dollars to pay the fine and court costs.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Clothing Donation Bins Blocking City Parking Space & Meter - SF 311 & DPW Doesn't Care

For the past month, I've been noticing these white donation bins at the corner of Portola and Evelyn.  There used to be just one bin dropped off, but a second one showed-up just a couple of weeks ago.

What's unusual about this is the bins are dumped in a city parking space and in front of a city operated meter.  Since both bins take over a majority of the width of the parking stall, no vehicle can park there, therefore the city cannot generate any money on the meter.

My basic knowledge about these donation bins is they are supposed to be on private property with the permission of the land owner.  But this is on public property and I know the city would not welcome this, especially if its blocking a parking meter that makes money for the SFMTA.  If this bin was in a public metered parking space on Irving Street, you'd get a lot of ticked off people.

Contacting 311
I sent a tweet to San Francisco's 311 with the same photo you see on this blog entry.  I was expecting the city to give a proper response to get those bins removed as soon as they can... But here's the response I got back:

Seriously?  DPW wants me to call the bins in?  Wouldn't it be more effective for the city, SFMTA or DPW to make the phone call and demand it to be removed from public property?  The city's voice is much more powerful than a citizen making such a request.

311 got on my nerves.  Here's my response to those lazy pricks at 311 and DPW:

It looks like I got the city's attention real fast:

Akit's Opinion
I'm very disappointed at 311 for their laziness and DPW for making me do the job of calling them.  I reported the problem, and they should make the effort to remove it.  For all I care, get a forklift and remove it if the company who dumped it there in the first place doesn't take it away in 24 hours.

I don't know what kind of people the city hires to respond to 311 requests, but I've had my share of idiots responding back.  Here's one idiot who can't read where exactly the problem is:

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Top 10 of Muni's Best & Greatest Ideas Throughout the Decades

I've lived in San Francisco my entire life, and Muni is my way to get around the city when I don't want to use my car.  Surely we all make jokes and tease the agency for its faults and problems, but have we ever considered the best moments and brightest ideas of Muni?

(This list is in no particular order)
  1. NextBus/NextMuni: Probably one of the best investments Muni made into this technology that provides real time predictions of when a vehicle will arrive.  Did you know the first buses to try the technology was the trolleybuses for the 22-Fillmore line?  Now it's a normal fixture at many Muni vehicle stops, integrated into the 511 system, and even on smartphone applications.  I'd say it's pretty accurate, give or take a few minutes.
  2. Automated announcements on buses: Prior to Muni having automated bus stop announcements in their vehicles, drivers were reminded regularly via radio to always make announcements for major stops.  But now with the GPS linked equipment, the announcement system makes announcements for all stops with relative accuracy.  While now the announcements are flooded with annoying announcements about not eating, drinking, and graffiti phone numbers, the announcement system makes it easier for passengers to know where they are.
  3. Free transfers: It's old school, but still works!  Pay the fare and get a paper transfer to ride as many lines as you can before it expires.  About 20 years ago, Muni decided to kill the transfers and so many people hated paying the cash fare every time they rode, the agency quickly returned the transfers to appease the passengers.  Today, transfers are still going strong, with a 90 minute time limit on those using Clipper cards, and paper transfers sometimes having up to two hours.
  4. Air conditioning on Muni Metro: Prior to the grey Breda cars, Muni had the Boeing cars that only had windows providing ventilation for the trains.  During the infamous meltdown, the Boeing cars were getting very warm while they were stuck in the tunnels.  The new fleet of grey Breda cars didn't have windows that can open, but did have a very powerful air conditioning unit on each half of the train.  Riding Muni metro on a very warm day in the city is one cheap way to stay cool.  I've learned that standing next to the door is the best way to get direct ice cold air on your face.
  5. The Connected Bus: While it may be considered one of Muni's biggest flops, the technology had a great purpose for passengers.  The hybrid bus was wrapped in green color and was regularly operated on the 18-46th Avenue line.  The bus included free wireless internet and touch screens throughout the bus for passengers to interact with.  One of the best parts was the screens kept in touch with the NextBus technology so it told passengers at upcoming transfer points, how long the wait will be when you got off at that stop.  It worked like a charm when I had to transfer at one point on the route.
  6. Muni passes with BART access: The agreement Muni has with BART allows anyone with an "A" monthly pass ride BART for free within the city.  BART service within San Francisco is faster than the surface buses and makes the ride to get around to certain districts in the city much easier.  Without that agreement in the books, everyone would have to pay extra out of pocket money.
  7. Automatic Train Control: While the initial public usage of the ATC system on the metro caused a huge meltdown, once it was resolved, it helped Muni regulate the flow of train traffic and stop the risk of human error with train collisions.  It also allows trains running in ATC mode to operate at the fastest speeds possible based on conditions, while trains that are overridden to operate manually must operate much slower to prevent accidents.
  8. The Farebox: Seems a little odd I'd be giving appreciation to Muni's current farebox.  The old farebox used to be just coins only, but when the agency introduced the new farebox, it was a huge jump for the agency with a system that can accurately keep track of the money being fed, and was able to accept dollar bills.  When the fareboxes was switched, the fare was just 85 cents, but when it rose to $1, the dollar bill feeder was a lifesaver for us folk who forgot to break that $1 bill.
  9. The F-Market Expansion: The F-Market was originally just for the agency's trolley festivals running from the Castro to the Transbay Terminal, but when it expanded to include Fisherman's Wharf, that's when things got much better.  I remember back in the day, the only way to access the Wharf area was only taking the old 42-Downtown Loop route or walking from Chinatown/North Beach.  When the F-Market ran along the Embarcadero, it helped bring more tourism to the Wharf area and provided a nice look to the area, instead of loud diesel buses going around the area.
  10. Cable Car Running Boards: The true way to ride a Cable Car in San Francisco is to ride on the running board.  For some, it's the thrill of hanging on tight on that pole while traffic passes by on your side, and for others, it's just the normal way of life in the city.  Every time I ride the Cable Car, I always want the running board and not a seat or standing in the inside.  Luckily, the city hasn't banned this policy and I hope it continues forever.
If I had to continue the list with the 11th to 20th, I would have considered:
11: Low floor hybrid buses
12: Clipper card
13: Muni visitor passport
14: Muni transportation info hotline (prior to 311 takeover)
15: Trolleybuses
16: Kneel feature on buses
17: Muni metro expansion into Mission Bay & AT&T Park
18: Passenger stop bulbs (sidewalk widening for passengers to board)
19: Platform Muni metro stops (Stonestown & SF State stops, and all T-Third stops)
20: Muni Fare Token

If you had to generate a list of the best things Muni has done, what would you say?  Leave a comment.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Muni's All-Door Boarding - Rear Door Button Doesn't Always Work

Since July 1, 2012, Muni has been operating with the all-door boarding policy.  It's pretty nice that I don't have to wait in a long line for the front door by simply boarding the rear door and tagging my Clipper card.

If you are familiar with Muni Metro, all-door boarding has been going on with the light rail system for much longer ever since they brought in the grey Breda cars.  When the metro arrives at a surface stop and doesn't open the doors, you reach for the button on the left or right side that is illuminated to open the doors.

When the operators of the buses stop to pickup/discharge passengers, it's a luck of the draw if the operator will open the rear doors for you, a passenger exits the bus, or the rear door entry button works.

On the Muni buses, for the exception of the oldest ones in the fleet, all the rear doors have buttons on the exterior, one on the left and another on the right of the doors (see photo on this blog entry).  But having that button lit and available for use has been quite inconsistent since the agency allowed all-door boarding.

I've been riding Muni more frequently on the weekends and I ride a variety of vehicles to get to where I want to go.  I'd say about 30 to 50% of the time, the button does work to open the doors, but there are moments when the button doesn't respond and I have to hurry to the front door just to board the bus.  In one instance, the bus drove off because the button failed to work.

I feel Muni needs to make an effort to check all their buses to make sure the rear door entry button can light up and work properly.  They ordered their buses to intentionally have those buttons, and for just over six months, not all the vehicles allow entry due to the failure of the button.

This is a project Muni needs to work on.  If they gain the trust of their passengers to be allowed to enter the door with reliable working equipment (the buttons), more will board the rear to allow a more efficient transit agency.  All the metro trains have their door buttons work perfectly every time, now it's time to make sure they work on the rest of the fleet.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Strange Observation About the SF Parking Meters - 25 Cents an Hour?

Parking in San Francisco can be a challenge, and those pesky parking meters can empty your pockets of quarters in no time.

Even the city owned garages have odd prices.  Now they charge more for times when parking is in high demand, but gives a nice lower price during less demand.

I've had an interesting experience today when I had to go to a dental appointment this morning in Japantown:

Since my appointment was at 9AM, I arrived too early in the neighborhood, so I parked in a parking space just across the street from the dental office.  The meter said starting at 9AM, the parking fee would be $2 per hour.

Since I had some time to burn, I got back in my car since it was cold and played around with the SFpark iPhone application.  It was correct that the parking would be $2 an hour, so I toyed around with the application to see how much it would cost to park somewhere further.

Around the corner from where I parked, the 9AM price was $1.50 an hour.  Not bad for a small 50 cent savings, but how about on Geary Boulevard?  I found out the parking on Geary Boulevard is just 25 CENTS PER HOUR from 9AM to noon.  What a heck of a bargain and it was just an extra couple of minutes walk from where I was currently parked.

Really?  Just 25 cents?  That's a huge difference than on Post Street where it would have cost me $2 a hour.

Also, one of the perks of parking at one of those smart looking meters is I can pre-pay the meter.  Since my appointment was at 9AM, I put 50 cents in the meter for two hours at 8:45AM, and the meter won't deduct the money until 9AM, therefore the meter would expire at 11AM.

The SFpark app sure did help me save some money on parking.  It's good when you are looking for cheap parking in the morning when there are few cars, but if it's a busy day and parking is pretty bad, the app won't help you because you'll take any parking space you'll find and pay whatever price it says. (Disclaimer: Don't use the app while driving)

I highly suggest purchasing a SFMTA Parking Card.  It's accepted at all city parking meters, and it's better than a credit card because not all city meters accepts Visa or MasterCard.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Check your 2013 SF Giants Pre-Sale Tickets for Overcharges

Did you buy any Giants tickets for the 2013 season during the period from Black Friday (day after Thanksgiving) to December 31, 2012?  You might want to check your tickets if you were overcharged.

The SF Giants offered a pre-sale of their tickets to be sold for all games from March to the end of June 2012 (except the first series for home opening).  I was one of the lucky ones to go to the Giants Dugout at AT&T Park on Black Friday at 10AM to purchase tickets at the first opportunity available and not pay the surcharges versus buying online or at satellite Dugout Store locations.

While my father and I was able to get the game tickets we wanted, a week later, I wanted to compare the tickets we paid for to the updated dynamic pricing list.  As you may be aware, Giants tickets are sold on a marketing system where high demand tickets will be sold at higher prices, and in 98% of cases, buying a ticket at first availability will be the cheapest and the cost will rise until the day of game.

It turned-out, while the ticket prices rose on a handful of them, I noticed an unusual anomaly on one of our game tickets.  On the day we bought our tickets, I printed the dynamic pricing list and was supposed to pay $62 per ticket in the Lower Box section.  Instead, the ticket printed out at $80 each, an $18 difference.  On the day I discovered the problem, the correct price was raised by $1, from $62 to $63.

Since the dynamic pricing doesn't change the same day you print-off the list, I had the price list in hand as evidence we got ripped-off, and especially since the price only was raised by a dollar within a week.

After making some calls to the Giants to get this problem fixed, they acknowledge something went wrong when we purchased the tickets and refunded my father and I the difference.

I suggest to everyone to inspect your tickets.  If the price you printed looks too suspiciously high, you should contact the Giants ticketing services office.  But before you start accusing them of bad business, be aware that you may have been charged extra for any of the following: Ticket service surcharges, paid for a ticket that includes a special ticket to an event or promotional item (e.g. Cinco De Mayo), or included "Splash Ticket" funds which gives fans extra ballpark spending money (such as: Give them $10, get $12 in funds on game day).