I feel a little conflicted here. Let's examine the pros and cons.
Pro: The N waited quite a while for me as I made my way from Trouble Coffee down to the 46th Ave stop.
Con: That's because the operator was getting a sandwich at 7-11 across the street.
Pro: He said, "You ain't got to show me nothin'," as I got onto the train in front of him. I said he needed my token, but then noticed that he had helpfully strapped a stack of serve-yourself transfers onto the coin box with a rubber band.
Con: Same as the "pro."
Pro: The driver asked (as this photo was taking place), "Is that a camera?" I said, yes, it's a Tessina, actually a very small 35mm camera. He said "I've got a camera at home that takes 620 film. Now that's old!".
Con: As I got off at 22nd thinking how cool it was that an operator knew what 620 film was, the train took off with a piece of passenger's luggage still sticking out of the wide-open rear door.
Goes to show, you can be a nice, smart guy, and a lousy operator.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
I've had a horrible cold, or something like a cold but worse, for the past 4 days, and finally ventured out onto the N today.
So I'm riding in the front car next to the middle door, and suddenly somewhere around 22nd street, when the door opens, I'm blasted with this horrible gust from above that not only freaks out my entire olfactory system, but makes me feel like if I don't move, I'm going to die. Not the odor of pee or poo or vomit, or something rotting, or a paper mill, or one of the traditional awful smells. Instead, imagine a mixture of overly scented laundry detergent, and pesticide. Something like that. Imagine the mixture very strong, and warm.
I don't know what it was about it but immediately I felt disoriented and unhealthy. The door closed, and wherever the blast was coming from (the ventilation system? I don't know), it stopped. I could still smell it but from where, I couldn't tell. Then three streets down, the door opened again, and I was blasted by it again, felt instantly dizzy, claustrophobic, and nauseated, and I had to get out of the seat. I felt like I was being gassed! I left by the back door and got into the rear car. But I couldn't get it out of my head, and so I left the train entirely and waited for the next one.
I can tolerate quite a variety of less than ideal smells, or at least endure them while I get away, and I am one of the last people to complain that my environment is unhealthy, but this was freaky. Maybe it was someone's detergent or (horrible) perfume, and my nose was messed up from the cold. Later I was in the elevator standing next to someone who had been smoking and rather than smelling stale, the odor of his clothes was acrid and piercing. Maybe it's a new body spray from Axe. ("Here at Axe, our products make you so irresistible that we had to invent a spray to keep women away.")
But, of course, maybe someone sprayed Fresh Scent Nerve Gas into the ventilation system to kill some critters there, and used 50 times the recommended amount, or didn't let it air out afterward.
Either way, once was enough.
And the obligatory postscript: As the car I had exited took off uphill away from me, the rear door stayed open. I looked at a guy standing on the other side of it and shrugged, and he shrugged back. Then it closed.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Every once in a while there's someone engaged in a troubling distraction in the close confines of public transit. For example, last year, I'd been riding the N Judah from downtown out to the Sunset, and suddenly there was this middle aged Asian guy (balding, stocky, but not fat), running back and forth between the front and back of the car going, in a baritone:
AAAAAAHH! AAAAHHHHHH!! AAAIIIIAAAHHHGHHGGGGG!!!He was yelling plenty loudly enough to make it obvious that every single person in the bus (iPod or not) was actively ignoring him, in the hope that the screaming would be the worst of it. The yelling and running kept up for a little while, then suddenly, a guy in his 20s yelled:
SHUT UP!Then something wonderful happened. The crazy Asian guy actually shut up. He sat down and spent the rest of his ride nodding and mumbling busily to himself.
Maybe I'll try this yelling shut up thing sometime.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Last night, after a little weirdness (see below), I got off a very slow N Judah in the Outer Sunset at around 11pm ... with 4 more trains right behind it. (Call it 3-1/2, because one was a 1-car train.)
Maybe it's just me, but this seems a little ... inefficient.
Where No One Has (Typically) Gone Before
Meanwhile, all this got started when I got off Caltrain at 10:00 and, to my delight, a couple of minutes after I started waiting on the N Judah platform, an N showed up. Everyone got off, we all waited a little while to see if the train was turning around at the platform, and when it apparently was, we boarded. I guess the operator wasn't paying attention to the dozen people getting onto his train, because shortly thereafter the train didn't turn and continued southbound. So there we were, sitting in the parking area and looking at the employees wandering outside, who really didn't pay much attention to us.
The operator never said a word, probably because he was embarrassed at dragging a load of passengers into the parking/switching area. Or maybe because he just doesn't talk.
Aside from That
Two women, who sounded questionably sober, engaged in a brief screaming match while the train was in the subway.
"Oh you bet, you're going to pay."
"I'll pay when I want to." [unintelligible]
"You just committed a felony by threatening me!"
"Driver! This woman is threatening me!"
Me, I would have pushed them both onto the tracks at that point.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I really thought I had seen the last of this. But apparently not.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Joseph N. Hall
Date: Tue, Nov 11, 2008 at 10:31 AM
Subject: Short turns on the N Judah again
To: Rachel Gordon, Chronicle Staff Writer
Cc: Greg Dewar
, Carmen Chu , Fiona Ma , "De Leon, Elvira"
(Greg, feel free to post an excerpt from this on the N Judah Chronicles. In fact I encourage you to. You can edit it as necessary.)
Dear Ms. Gordon,
If you recall your article of August 6:
Muni operators who shorten runs given warning
I was on an outbound N Judah last night (Nov 10) that made a short turn at Arguello, and it was *25 MINUTES* before another train arrived to pick up my fellow passengers on me. We were left IN THE DARK LATE AT NIGHT ON THE SIDEWALK FOR A HALF HOUR by the operator who said he was "ordered to" do this by control. This is probably complete bullshit; if it isn't then someone in control is equally responsible for this inexcusable action - and the operator should have ignored the instruction anyway. The train was labeled "Ocean Beach" when I boarded it at 4th & King and the roller did not change to Arguello until the operator exited the Market St. subway.
There were plenty of trains returning inbound (no shortage, in fact one passed us while the operator was switching back), and few outbound trains, so this train was needed outbound. Ahead of us some outbound passengers would have been waiting over 30 minutes for a train.
This is totally, spectacularly inexcusable and is the kind of unnecessary stupidity and callousness that creates such a negative perception of Muni customer service - when in reality it is only a small percentage of operators and managers who are responsible.
I've filed a complaint with Muni, and will contact Fiona Ma, Carmen Chu, and at least Sarita Britt (Green Division Supervisor), possibly Ken McDonald, today, to find out precisely why this turn occurred, and whether or not some kind of disciplinary action will in fact be taken.
Thank you very much. If you have a little time to continue pursuing this story I would very much appreciate it.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Thank you for your report regarding an incident with a MUNI transit operator on the N-Judah line, which occurred on September 26, 2008. Your report helps the Municipal Railway provide better service by allowing us to focus on areas of concern.
I have asked Sarita Britt, Green Division Superintendent to investigate this situation, and to implement corrective measures to prevent a reoccurrence of this type of behavior.
I appreciate your taking the time to inform MUNI of your concerns. We are earning a new reputation at MUNI, and riders’ feedback is crucial in achieving this goal.
If you need additional information regarding this report, please contact the MUNI Passenger Service Department at (415) 923-6275.
Maria M. Williams
Manager, Passenger Service
SF Municipal Railway
Friday, October 31, 2008
I've been photographing my commute on Muni, Caltrain, and BART almost all of 2008. Hopefully my project will be a Blurb book by the end of the year. In the meanwhile I've posted some of the photos on Flickr.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Alarmingly, around one half of the N Judahs I've taken eastbound from the Outer Sunset these past two weeks have had non working interlocks, or have had them disengaged. When I say this I mean that I've seen the trains move with doors open and/or see the doors open automatically while the train is moving. This used to be a rarity and now it seems to be de rigeur. Today the right rear door of the car I was riding in closed after the train started moving, the obstruction beep sounded, and the door reopened ... train kept on moving. What's the deal with this? Even scarier was when I used that door to exit and the operator shut it on me before the alighting passengers had even gotten in. Fortunately I didn't wind up riding down Judah half in, half out of the train.
I'll write Ken MacDonald and see what happens.
Photography is Allowed
While I was doing my usual thing of moderately discreetly taking photographs a little earlier today (this time at Montgomery station), I passed another photographer, this one a woman who was carrying a more conspicuous camera and a small metal folding ladder. (!) She was taking photos of handrails or something like that, from outside the paid area, in the corridor away from almost all foot traffic. But after a while, someone in the BART booth announced on the PA that "Photography is not allowed on BART property without permission."
Well, that would be wrong for any number of reasons, the most obvious of which is the actual BART policy:
WHEN A PERMIT IS NOT REQUIRED:Permission, which required, involves a time-consuming and relatively expensive ($250) permit process, but a woman taking photographs of nothing in particular is not a security threat, not harassing riders, and not doing anything commercial (if she was taking salable photographs, I'd like to know what kind of nut is buying them).
BART is a Bay Area icon. As such, it attracts more than a few amateur photographers. If you are a paying passenger making your way from point A to point B, then there is no specific prohibition to taking photographs in areas that are accessible to the public provided you do not appear to be a security threat, involved in a commercial activity or harassing other riders. If, however, you appear to be taking photographs of potentially sensitive areas or is obviously involved in some commercial enterprise like an advertising agency, BART employees, especially BART Police Officers, may approach you and ask you to identify yourself and possibly take further action against you.
I use less conspicuous gear (I never use a camera on a neck strap, and don't shoot with a huge pro body) and keep my camera out of sight when I'm not using it. But her mistake was carrying the damn ladder (one of those white kitchen type step things about four feet high) around with her.
Maybe you guys in the booths could just chill out a little. Anyway, I've shot around 1500 photographs on Muni and BART this year, for a Blurb book project and possibly an exhibit, and no one bugs me about it.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
As a friend of mine has observed, a few people like to sit on the bus or train with their knees two feet apart. Normally these are guys. Maybe they think their units need extra room.
This is fine by me as long as you aren't sitting next to me getting into my personal space. I can do without feeling your warm thigh pressed up against mine, you know?
Anyway, this morning, I had a wide stancer to my left, and the corresponding unwelcome warm thigh. (This person turned out to be a she, but this wasn't apparent until she got up and, um, walked away from me.) Then my left side was rejoined by another wide stancer, this one a hippie, and definitely a guy. I rode another 15 minutes with a warm hippie pressing against me.
Can I just say, ick?
Also: If you need a belt, and have a large, hairy, pasty white, extremely unpresentable man ass, please don't get up out of the seat next to me and stick nine inches of your immense nasty cheek cleft in my face. I may just bitch slap your lobe. (Then cut off my hand.)
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Today's ride on the N westbound from the beach featured (multiple) doors that were open while the train was moving. This was actually a new thing for me!
Dear Operator: Can you please make sure your interlock is enabled, and whether it is or not, before you move the train, please look to see if the doors are actually closed. The moms whose kids don't fall out into traffic will appreciate it.
I was horrified a couple of weeks ago when this happened on the 4th and King platform. This time I guess I'm dulled. On the other hand, this time no one was stuck in the door as the train started moving.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
To Smoove B who stopped and turned around to flirt with the sly-looking girl eating a banana, before I could snap her photo, I hate you. All I needed was another couple tenths of a second.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Apparently Fleet Week came as a big surprise to Muni this weekend. That's the only ready explanation I have for my experiences Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday: I was headed downtown (not to North Beach); I started waiting for an N at 43rd & Judah at around 1:45. There was no N in sight, however - none at the turnaround and none on the tracks to the east. NextMuni said "29 minutes." Um, seriously, folks. When the train did arrive (about 29 minutes later), it had a broken door. After a while the operator put the door out of service, but it took at least 20 minutes spread out over several stops to get things "working." Unfortunately the door wasn't in shape to enter the Market St. Subway anyway, so when we finally got there, I got off at Church and walked down to Church station. Elapsed time to get downtown: 1:15. There were a bunch of people on the train who apparently thought they would get to see the Blue Angels from the beach. Um, on a normal transit system, maybe you could go 7 miles in 1-1/4 hours, but on Muni, think again.
Sunday: This time I really did want to get to the beach for the Blue Angels. So I got to the 43 & Judah stop at a little after 1:00. Again, no N in sight. (Why would anyone from the Sunset want to get into town for Fleet Week anyway?) So I walked down to Trouble Coffee for a mocha. An N did show up and it worked out; I got onto the N with a fresh mocha. (Haven't spilled food or drink on Muni yet, don't worry.) This time the trip downtown to Van Ness was relatively uneventful although the train (late) was packed by the time we got to the subway.
So I got off at Van Ness and started waiting for a 49/47. Oooeee, a 49 showed up after about 10 minutes, totally packed, and began the crawl north toward the Maritime Museum. Traffic was, of course, nightmarish (wouldn't want cops helping keep parking trollers away or keeping a lane clear for buses, or anything like that). So with Muni fully "functional" it still took me over 1-1/2 hours to find a decent viewing spot. That's less than 5 mph, by the way. (It really is less than 7.5 miles.)
Is there even a point in talking about the 30 Stockton back at 7PM?
It's not as if it should come as a surprise to Muni that when the Blue Angels are flying in an area of the city that is difficult to access and basically has no parking (except for garages charging a $40 "event" rate), people will be trying to ride mass transit in. So, maybe we could make that mass transit work?
I'm obliged to mention: If San Francisco city is allowed to take over the electric utility infrastructure in SF under the aegis of "green public power," how do you think SF Power will react to "this weekend is predicted to be hot"? By browning out every A/C in the city, of course.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
You know those weird things that happen that have no particular context?
Some evening a while ago, I was riding the 44 O'Shaugnessy from Glen Park to 9th and Judah. Shortly after I boarded, two 20-30 year old women came on and sat on a front bench, opened their cellphones, and started talking a little loudly. Kind of: yap yap yap riiiiiight oh my god sure sure yap yap yap oooo really? ....
After a minute or so, the driver abruptly stopped the bus and turned around to face the two of them. He said: "If you ol' bitches don't shut up and stop makin' this an unpleasant environment for everybody I'm goin' throw you off this bus."
You haven't seen two women on cellphones taken more aback in your life, I bet.
The one in front piped up semi-assertively, "Excuse me, did you just call me a bitch?"
"Yeah, bitch," he said. "Now you shut up or get off my bus."
They folded up their phones and sat quietly, making unhappy faces, and the driver resumed his route. I have to admit, one less person talking audibly into a cellphone anywhere near me is one more person I don't mind being around.
Seeing someone get caught in the door of an N Judah and then immediately ripped in half - while you sit a few yards away with a camera ready to go - is an opportunity that hardly ever presents itself.
I got off Caltrain around 10PM on Friday evening and headed toward the N platform where an outbound train was waiting. As a group of about a dozen Caltrain passengers and I crossed in front of the lead car, walk light on, the operator pulled up toward us. I gave him an exasperated "what the Hell?" gesture, because he had just blocked the lead car doors with the railing at the north end of the platform. And of course because he was piloting the huge Breda person-grinding machine that had just lurched toward me. Normally when an operator pulls up like this, he keeps the doors closed and then heads on down King St. while the passengers beat on the sides and flip him the bird. Anyway, the entire front car was blocked by the railing, which extended to within a few feet of the front door of the rear car. The railing stands close to the train - about one foot away.
Unexpectedly, the operator waited, opened the doors, and let us in the rear car while he was out of position on the platform. There was a guy excitedly darting back and forth on the platform asking people at random, "Is this Broadway? Does this go to Broadway?" "There's no Broadway here," offered one passenger semi-helpfully, as she hurried inside. The guy seemed entirely unable to decide whether to be inside or outside the train, and so he temporarily resolved the dilemma by standing in the front doorway, half inside the car, half on the platform. And at that moment, with the door wide open and starting to close, the train moved forward quickly.
The guy, with an expression of complete shock on his face, the kind of expression someone has only when he realizes he is just about to die, leaped backwards out of the door. (This is an expression I had actually never seen before, and even by itself, it was kind of cool to watch.) Almost immediately the railing whizzed by the still-closing door as we headed up King Street.
Of course, had the guy stayed in the door for a fraction of a second longer, he would have been bisected by the railing, and absolutely, without question, torn mostly or completely in half and been dead within 2 seconds of an untimely moment of vacillation.
And I would have been there with my camera!
Well, okay, though I would have been Weegee-on-the-spot until the police ushered me away from the grisly scene, I actually found this horrifying. An LRV is required (by State and Federal law) to have interlocks that prevent the vehicle from moving forward until all doors are closed, and that brake the vehicle if doors are opened while it is in motion. This is not an optional "nice to have" feature; it is a "must have otherwise people will die in ways that can't be shown on CSI" feature. To wit, the guy who was ground to bits beneath the N Judah between 31st and 33rd earlier this year (as in, he was distributed all the way from 31st to 33rd) may have been caught in the door, at least initially. And this confused young gentleman came within arm's length of a similar fate.
Several other passengers were left gaping as we pulled away. After a couple of stops I moved to the lead car and told the operator as we waited at the Embarcadero portal, "Hey, dude, your interlock is totally not working. There was a guy in the door when you pulled away back there at 4th and King." He looked a little my way and said nonchalantly, "Really?".
Yes, really, dude.
I got off at Embarcadero and headed up to the Muni booth where I told the lady inside, "That N I just got off of, the interlock isn't working at all, and the operator pulled away from the Caltrain platform with a door wide open and someone jumping out of it." She looked surprised and got on the phone.
From there I don't know what happened, but apparently no one was dragged to a grisly demise. I got on the next N and rode uneventfully back to the Sunset.
For those of you who care about such things, the rear car was 1550 and the lead was 1545. For the time being, you might want to step lively through the doors of 1550.
I have to point out that the fact that the LRV almost killed someone is not the fault of the equipment. (The equipment sucks, but that's a different story.) It's first the fault of the operator, who was obviously not looking to see if the train was clear down the right side. Checking both sides of the immense metal death hulk to see if they're clear of soft, squishy people is not optional. It's also the fault of whoever failed to find, report, and fix the problem with the interlock or allowed the LRV to be operated without the interlock on.
I got on the 29 this morning in plenty of time to make my work shuttle to Palo Alto. The bus was full and we passed up the usual dozen or so people on Sunset, but all was well until we turned around at Crespi and Varela (Park Merced), where the driver began to say things like: "What's she doing?" and "Well we may not be going anywhere with this bus today." We crossed 19th and our driver stopped, got out, had a quick word with an inspector who had apparently flagged her down, then pulled around the corner and stopped again. The inspector (an efficient-sounding, slender 50-ish woman) and the driver started talking about the outside right mirror on the bus. "I know, I was just trying to get everyone where they want to go this morning," she said.
But the inspector pulled the bus out of service and the driver offloaded us. I guess the reasoning was that we would run over fewer people, on average, if the mirror was set properly. Doing the arithmetic, I figured my shuttle would be 1-2 minutes gone (at least) by the time I got to Balboa Park, so I crossed to the M platform ....
So I'm in our downtown office today, which is fine, except that my management gets annoyed with me if I spend more than one day a week here, and Monday isn't the day I wanted to spend here this week.
Plus I really, really, really need coffee now. At least I can go take care of that in a few minutes.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
So Saturday I was planning to take some photos of the Maltese Falcon crossing under the Golden Gate Bridge at low tide, 2:00 PM. It took me a while to get my incredibly disorganized gear together but eventually I set out at around 12:30 to catch a 29. NextMuni told me the bus would pick me up at my Sunset stop a little before 1. I figured, most of 45 minutes to get to some spot toward the east end of Chrissy Field, I'd have 15-30 minutes to spare, no big deal.
1PM passed and no 29. I asked a girl waiting on the bench next to me, "Have you been here a while?" 20 minutes she said. Eventually two 29s arrived together. The first was a 25th and Geary and the second, according to the driver of the first, was "going allllll the way." Sounded like my bus! So I got on, lugging over 30 pounds of camera gear, and a tripod, and got set for a scenic ride through the park and around Baker Beach.
Little did I know that on this Saturday morning, there had already been an accident on Lincoln. Then there was this:
Mile-long line for Academy of Sciences opening
The California Academy of Sciences finally opened its revolutionary, eco-friendly, glass-enclosed iconic building in Golden Gate Park on Saturday, and welcomed an enthusiastic invasion by tens of thousands of visitors waiting in line for five hours or more.
It took us at least 10 minutes to get into the park from about 22nd and Lincoln, and traffic was still inching along northbound on 19th. The reason for that became clear a few minutes later when we inched by a couple of cop cars behind a rear-end accident in the left lane. But at that point the road was wide open and it was clear sailing to Baker Beach.
After that, we continued to the Golden Gate Bridge, squeezed our way through some confused tourists, and started to enter the dubiously small bridge underpass. A 28 was coming the other way, though, and almost immediately our driver was window-to-window with the other driver saying things like "It won't work!" What definitely would not work was either bus continuing forward. Now the underpass is a very popular route for Muni, tourbuses, cyclists, pedestrians, and of course disoriented tourists in rental cars. Immediately vehicles stacked up behind both buses. It took two cops (who fortunately are easy to find there) and about 10 minutes to get our bus backed up and out of the way and then back into the tunnel, without the 28 in the way this time. At this point it was probably about 1:40, not good, but not panic mode, because Chrissy field was less than 5 minutes away.
Our driver was one of the most cheerful and good-humored drivers I've ever encountered on Muni, which was great up until this point, but I began to lose confidence when he started to say repeatedly, "I don't know my way around here. I've never driven this route all the way up here. I'm not supposed to be here." (Dude, step outside and look at the letters above your windshield.) Just out of the tunnel he stops next to an outbound 29 and asks "Have you got the lefts and rights for this route?"
Yes, we had a driver who had never driven the route and was asking another driver for his route sheet.
Good humor, it turns out, won't actually steer a bus. But the driver, cheat sheet in hand, did manage to find Chrissy Field by about 10 till. Hoping to get a little farther east to get a slightly better vantage point (I wanted to be farther from the bridge so I could get a larger variety of photos), I stayed on.
Unfortunately, after that, we proceeded to take a route that no 29 had ever taken before, and probably never will again - wandering aimlessly through the Presidio until somehow we wound up on California, then on Geary around 4th, and then of course he drove all the way to 25th and Geary and let us off. By then it was about 2:30 and a once-in-a-lifetime photo had already sailed away, so to speak. Clearly, my gambit to save a little less than a mile of walking with my gear had been a foolish one.
So, fuming at this point, I rode a 38 to Park Presidio and waited for a 28, along with about 50 other people (!!) who had apparently been there as long as an hour. Three or four 28s came by in a row and I got on the last one and around 3:00, ta-da!, I was back at the bridge. I wondered, could I get a photo of the yacht? Could it somehow be late? I hurried to the railing at the overlook, to see three huge sails disappearing behind Angel Island at least 5 miles away. The sight lasted maybe 10 seconds. Oh well. I sat at the inbound 29 stop and out of boredom took photos of tourists with a 300mm lens. Tourists are boring subjects, though, so I got back on an inbound 29 (you're thinking, do I have a hole in my head?). Figuring I would wind up taking some photos of sailboats or something I did get off at Chrissy Field this time, then hoofed it to the beach and set up a tripod. (I really dislike carrying tripods and I was determined to get at least a little use out of it.) Turns out, most of the sailboats had left the Golden Gate for parts more interesting. The alternative of taking telephoto photos of couples walking in wind jackets on the icy beach was even more boring than just standing around being bored.
A group of people in their 20s came by and asked, as groups of carefree happy people in their 20s often do upon seeing a tired looking 40 year old guy set up with a tripod and an impressively large white lens, "Would you take our picture with the bridge in the background?" Sure, no problem, I took three okay photos with their point and shoot, and then one of them asked was I there photographing the big ship? No, I missed it, grumble, my bus driver got lost, grumble, et cetera. "Well I think it's still out there; it sailed around Angel Island and then came back."
I really couldn't see a thing - Belvedere (where the yacht was to be moored) was 4-5 miles away, and although it was a reasonably clear day there was still some haze. Even an immense ship with sails over 190 feet high looks pretty small at that distance. Not obvious to the naked eye unless you know what you're looking for. But after some searching ... I thought I saw something ... and even though they look like photos from a beached spy satellite, I did get a few snaps of the Maltese Falcon.
But wait ... that's not the end ...
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
So on the day when I met Greg Dewar a couple of weekends ago, we were both riding the N inbound on a sunny Saturday. It was a fairly busy day and the N was about 20 minutes late (I called 311 to complain while I was waiting). By the time we got into Cole Valley we had stopped for a couple of wheelchairs and had also no doubt picked up a number of cash passengers (being a sunny weekend day and all). Greg and I were in the second car, however, and although there were a few standees it was nothing approaching full.
To my surprise, the operator closed the doors pulled away leaving a dozen or so people standing. He announced, "There's another train right behind us," which means only, "There's another train. Today." And from that point he passed up most of the passengers who would have paid cash, between Cole Valley and the Market Street tunnel - all the while with room for 50-100 passengers in his second car. So I called 311 again.
I was on an inbound N this past Saturday around 11AM - during Outside Lands - and we had the same situation, but with a huge number of cash fares. So when we got to Cole Valley, I started hearing "didididididi shing BEEP! dididididi BEEP! didididid shing BEEP!" faintly over the PA. Apparently the mike was open and I was hearing zillions of cash passengers boarding. Then, after a little delay, people bearing transfers began to trickle into the rear car. Yes, the operator was letting people board and pay, and then asking them to move to the rear car. This repeated for the rest of the surface stops until we entered the tunnel with a full load and hadn't passed up a single passenger.
Almost like he was trying to get everyone where they wanted to go.
Monday, August 25, 2008
How is it that regular riders on a half dozen consecutive stops today couldn't manage to operate the rear doors on an Orion hybrid?
Stupid passenger: "Back door!" Bangs on door. Door doesn't open.
Adjacent passenger: "Just hold your hand there." Door opens.
Stupid passenger #2: "Back door! The back door won't open!" Bangs on door. Door doesn't open.
Adjacent passenger: "Put your hand on it." Door opens.
Stupid passenger #3: "Back door! Open the back door!" Bangs on door. Door doesn't open.
Adjacent passenger: "It won't open if you bang on it. Hold your hand there."
And so on.
Muni was, of course, foolish in calculating that Muni riders would be intelligent enough to operate an assortment of door opening mechanisms. But then again, a rat would have no difficulty learning to operate two different types of doors as long as it received a sufficient stimulation of its reward center upon success. So what is it going to take to straighten out these otherwise high-functioning* passengers? Do we need to install hoppers of food pellets at bus stops?
Good news: Today's driver filled up the bus.
*Remember, what "high-functioning" means to psychologists and behavioralists is more along the lines of "generally does not drop trou in meetings" than "got Ph.D. at age of 16."
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Another fine morning of pass-ups on the 29 - we didn't stop for or pick up a single passenger, again, between 19th & Holloway and Ocean & Plymouth. At least today the bus was mostly full.
In fact you don't see this every year. (Click on the photo to see it larger and more clearly.)
Can someone explain to me what exactly is wrong with bringing a bicycle onto an empty train?
The operator, by the way, was "Major Transfer Point Guy." I don't know if he saw the bike come on or not but regardless he's still one of my most favorite N Judah operators.
If you're curious, the photo was taken with my new Horizon Perfekt.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Now that City College is back in session, the 29 Sunset can start passing up passengers again. Today our driver passed up about 20 people between 19th and Ocean. Not so much a shock except that not only was there room for at least 10 standees in the back of the bus (the aisle was empty) but there were even empty seats in the back.
As I was getting off at Ocean I stopped to tell him: Hey, there were empty seats in the back and you had room for at least 10 more standees. His response:
"I couldn't see."
Well, pardon me, but he never said a word during the whole 35 minute trip, except for "Exit to the front," once, when a passenger was having difficulty opening the rear door. (The door was refusing to open the whole time.) When his bus was filling up he didn't say "Move to the rear." Does he think there's something special about his bus, that his passengers automatically pack the rear of the bus first? And what excuse does he have for not getting up to check that his bus is full before he calls in saying he is full?
The passengers who alight on the hill between 19th and Ocean are about fifty percent elderly. No doubt they enjoyed watching the bus go by, and their subsequent ten minute wait for the next chance to get a ride. It's no big shock to them though; it happens all the time.
Yup, the Grouch is back.
Monday, July 7, 2008
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Balboa Park is a busy beehive of Muni activity, and yet, if you're a passenger new to the station, you probably have no idea what's going on there or what to do or where to do it. Unless of course you're taking BART, where confusion and chaos is thought of negatively. As a regular at Balboa Park, I have a few questions. Let's start with:
Why isn't there a NextMuni board anywhere at Balboa Park?
Or any kind of arrivals board?
I forget whether Balboa Park is busier than any of the downtown stations, but it is the busiest terminal that isn't underground. (It must be considerably busier than Van Ness when you combine the bus and LRV traffic.) All the downtown stations have some kind of arrivals board, whether based on the ATC (Automated Track Control) system or on NextMuni. (Remember the NextMuni displays that keep coming and going in the subway?) So why doesn't Balboa Park?
Balboa Park doesn't have anything.
What's up with that, anyway?
Thursday, April 3, 2008
From the driving-is-hard-let's-go-shopping dept.
A flawless double performance by today's morning driver on the 29 Sunset:
- The bus was an old one with no annunciator. This allowed the driver to strive for complete perfection, by saying not a single word between Irving and Ocean. Not a single stop was announced audibly or visibly in any way. Score: 10.0 / 10.0.
- And evidently as a Muni driver, when the mood strikes, you no longer need to pick up passengers - even if your bus isn't full. Although the bus had room for 10-20 more passengers, the driver didn't make even one stop between 19th and Ocean - same as yesterday. Score: 10.0 / 10.0.
With regard to 2), Muni counts a refused boarding as a pass-up only if there is no bus with room following within 3 minutes. But what about when the first bus isn't full? Why should a passenger have to watch a bus go by when it still has space, even if the wait for the next one is "less than 3 minutes."
Anyway, I've been on the 29 3 out of 4 mornings this week, and we've blown by 30-40 (would-be) passengers so far. Nice work, Muni!
Oh my God, this is funny. I thought it was only in South America that people ride on trains. I wonder, is or isn't fare evasion one of the things you could be charged with for doing this? You're not inside a paid area when you're clinging to the outside of a vehicle, are you?
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
From the see-ya dept.
The kids are back in school and the 29 is full again in the morning. The bus ran 5-10 minutes late and it was almost standing room when it arrived at Irving. We blew past Noriega, completely full, leaving about 10 people standing there. We passed up every single stop between 19th and Ocean.
The cool thing is, this time, I have pictures! With any luck you'll be able to see the sad faces of people holding out bus passes as we drove by.
Yesterday the bus also ran late and was full when it arrived at Irving. However, there was another bus right behind it, as in, right behind it.
My back-of-the-envelope calculation is that if you board the 29 somewhere between Judah and Wawona, between 8 and 9 in the morning, you will be passed up by at least one out of every 10 buses. Probably closer to one out of 5. If you live on the hill between 19th and Ocean, maybe one out of every 20?
Hey, it's only $1.50; what do you expect?
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
By the looks of it, Muni has got the power switch problem solved. The prominent labels are gone, and the doors are now screwed down. (Riveted, actually.) Of course, the lower left hand side of every door has been bent up in an unsuccessful attempt to pry it open. Old habits die hard.
[Photos to come.]
I seriously doubt it's pry bar resistant though, and I'm guessing that on a normal day there are more than a few pry bars being carried in pockets in Hunter's Point.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Heard over the radio on the 29 today:
Attention all operators. Federal law requires that all mass transit operators announce all transfer point stops.Huh. I'd always wondered why two or three N Judah drivers announced "transfer points," particularly the driver who we all know as MAJOR TRANSFER POINT Guy. Personally, I like the guy on the L Taraval who announces "Safeway" and "Walgreens."
Through the wonders of the internet I came upon the source for this. It's a product of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990:
The U. S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) contain two requirements that are meant to assist persons with vision impairments and other disabilities to use fixed route transportation services. Section 37.167, subsection (b), which applies to public and private entities that operate fixed route systems, requires that:I think that the signs and voice announcements on buses would satisfy these requirements, mostly. But of course the signs aren't working about a quarter of the time. I hear and see just fine and I can't tell what street I'm passing on Sunset if I'm on a bus where the sign is out, the windows are scratched, and the driver hasn't said a word in 20 minutes. At least when I'm getting off at Irving, I can make a panic pull if the bus turns off to the right and only have an extra block to walk.
...The entity shall announce stops as follows:
(1) ... at least at transfer points with other fixed routes, other major intersections and destination points, and intervals along the route sufficient to permit individuals with visual impairments or other disabilities to be oriented to their location.
(2) ... stops on request of an individual with a disability.
Section 37.167 (c) requires that:
Where vehicles or other conveyances for more than one route serve the same stop, the entity shall provide a means by which an individual with a visual impairment or other disability can identify the proper vehicle to enter or be identified to the vehicle operator as a person seeking a ride on a particular route.
The N Judah, forget it. Without an announcement, the only way you can tell where you are on that train is by looking out the north side windows for street signs. Carefully.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
It's always the same. I get off Caltrain at 4th and King and there's an outbound N Judah waiting on the platform with its doors open. People are getting in. Good for them; it's 50 degrees and windy, or raining, or midnight. Or 50 degrees and windy and raining and midnight.
My fellow Caltrain riders and I wait for the traffic light to change. As we cross the street, the driver looks at us, closes the doors, and moves forward on the platform a few feet to the red light. The very long red light. Or waits until we have reached the platform then closes the doors and pulls forward. Sometimes someone outside pushes a door button and says to the driver, "Hey, the door's not opening." Regardless, the driver doesn't make eye contact. The train continues to wait at the platform while the people who haven't experienced this regularly suddenly understand the reality:
The weather sucks ass, and the driver's not going to let me on.
A quick glance at the NextMUNI sign shows that the runs-every-few-minutes N isn't going to be along for 20 or 30 minutes. The driver knows the next train is late, and that he or she is about to leave people standing out in the cold/rain/dark/wind until it shows up. The driver contemplates this in self-satisfaction, and the people on the platform look through the windows into the warm train and tighten their coats. Time passes and the light changes, and the train slowly recedes down the street. Would-be passengers mill about, powerless and humiliated.
Admit it: If you could inflict misery and outrage on complete strangers, every day, with total impunity, you'd do it too, right? If your answer is actually "yes," then the San Francisco Muni Metro has a job for you.
Monday, March 17, 2008
So Saturday around noon it was beautiful out here in the Sunset. I had such plans for photography. I was going to shoot some street candids then in mid afternoon walk from Sloat to Judah up the beach, and take more candids and some IR photos. Part A worked out well; I took the N to Noe, then walked down to Castro Station, and took the L or K or something through the tunnel. I'd never been to Forest Hill station so I got off there and actually walked the 120 or so steps up, then back down. (Damn, that's a lot of stairs. They're complaining about the proposed Chinatown station being 100 feet underground? Forest Hill is already 75 or 80. Like, big deal.)
Then I rode the Taraval to the end of the line. Still, from inside the train, it looked like a beautiful day! I got out and was instantly disabused of that notion. It was only about 3PM but the weather had changed .... It was about 50 degrees and the wind was blowing. Blowing. So much, in fact, that sand had drifted partially across the parking lot opposite Sloat. I tried to walk down to the water but my hair, pockets, and eyes were filling up with sand. I turned around, and so much for that. Problem was, now I was stuck down near Sloat and I needed to be on Judah, and it was just no fun anymore. I needed a bus. I'm embarrassed to admit that I forgot that the 18 runs on 46th; I began my search for it at 45th and kept walking uphill. "Where is the bus stop?" I wondered. I zigzagged my way to Taraval and finally thought, okay, I will just walk up to Sunset and take the 29.
What all this very very long story is coming to is that when I got to the 29 stop, the nextmuni banner read 33 minutes. On Saturday afternoon. In godawful weather.
That's service for ya.
I had lost interest in freezing to death so I took the L back to Van Ness and then the N home. Sooo sloooow. Oh well. I had a nice conversation on the way back, which was unusual, and cool.
Oh. I thought it was kind of neat that the Taraval bus stop faced away from the water, to shield passengers from the weather. But then again, if you're shielding yourself from the weather, how do you see the bus, and vice versa? The striped glass isn't all that transparent from a distance. A well intentioned, but fundamentally stupid, design.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
So this was what the inside of the N Judah looked like early St Patrick's Day afternoon:
Into this mayhem comes a young couple at Stanyan and Cole. Both are wearing small packs. The girl says to her guy, "We couldn't get on in the front to pay so one of us needs to go," in a pleasant tone of voice. "Here, I'll hold your backpack." To my amazement, the guy started working his way forward. I had my doubts he would ever make it. Maybe if he was on fire, as in, literally on fire.
I couldn't help it - I said to her, "You realize, you are probably the only person who ever got on an N Judah this crowded who tried to pay."
She said, "I know but they are probably checking tickets downtown."
Probably not, was my theory.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
If you blow past the doors of a stopped Muni train just as I'm getting out, I'm going to give you the bird. It's that simple.
I wish I were allowed to kill you instead. Unfortunately the fact that you are callously trying to run me and a half dozen other pedestrians down with two tons of hurtling metal, because you can't wait to get to the damn stop sign, isn't grounds for lethal force. As far as I know.
(But I'll keep checking, believe me.)
What's even more amazing is that I've now twice seen two white yuppie looking dudes get out of their cars to confront the people they nearly ran over. Once some other guy, once me. Dude, what in the world are you thinking? For the five seconds out of your life it will take to apply the brakes before you reach the back of a train full of people, you're going to get so bent out of shape that you're prepared to go to jail?
Are you kidding me?
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Visualize with me the expressions held by the group of about 10 mothers, children, and middle-aged women we passed at a single stop near Ocean this morning. You might expect frustration, annoyance, even outrage. But they're resigned, some chatting, some standing silently. Muni crushed their spirit long ago.
Only a lone woman, a blonde in her 50s, reaches out with her arm - as if she were on a lifeboat watching her rescuers leave without her.
Here's one from the archives c. June 2007. It probably doesn't make any sense to someone from out of town, but on the other hand if you've ridden the N every day for a while ....
It's not always Muni's fault.
I don't know if you've seen the southbound entry to the J Church tracks at San Jose and Randall, but if you tried to drive a car onto those tracks, you'd probably leave both axles behind. There are six inch deep, one foot wide trenches in the pavement to let you know "you are totally not on the road any longer dude."
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
or: Step to the rear of the bus. Like, seriously.
Today, a quiet morning on the 29. Yesterday, fairly busy. We passed up around 3 stations on Sunset, but in reality, the bus was not full. People got on through the front door, a few people squeezed in through the back, and the driver asked, "Move to the back of the bus, please. Move to the back of the bus." Then after there was no more room behind the yellow line, he ceased picking up passengers.
Just so you know the secret code, when the driver says, "Move to the back of the bus," what he really means is, move to the back of the bus.
You three losers standing three feet apart in the back of the bus while there's major frotteurism going on in the front, what's your problem? Being deafened by your iPods and texting your homies is no excuse.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Out of curiosity, I've started taking a look at some of the Transit Effectiveness Program's proposed changes, and the very first one is a headscratcher.
According to the summary for the 29 Sunset, there will be "slightly less frequent AM peak service."
I guess I need to post some photos for those of you (apparently including the authors of the TEP) who haven't been on the 29 during the "AM peak."
Friday, March 7, 2008
There's a very specific prohibition on bringing bikes onto Muni light rail. Apparently, though, rules are looser for bathroom sinks.
This is actually from last year, but what the heck.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Some of the city's less reputable citizens down Hunter's Point way seem to have discovered that you can turn off an Orion VII bus by flipping a switch that's easily accessible from outside the vehicle.
So what is this switch? I hate it when the bad guys know something I don't. The actual service manual doesn't seem to be online, but you can check out this emergency training manual for the location of "The Switch," (Page 13) as well as various breakers and other doodads around the bus.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
If you are waiting for a bus, and when it arrives it is full, and you watch helplessly as the driver leaves without opening the door, you have just experienced a pass-up. Your misery is magnified because the usual reason for a pass-up is that a previous bus (or three) was missing. So not only did you wait for a late bus, but when it got there, it left without you.
SFMTA counts a bus too full to pick up passengers as a pass-up when there is no bus 3 minutes or less behind it that can pick up passengers. But as far as I know, SFMTA does very little counting of pass-ups at all.
The 2008 FY Q1 service service standards report lists pass-up statistics for only a handful of lines, among them my favorites the 29 Sunset and N Judah. When I rode the N regularly into town in the morning I would occasionally, but only rarely, ride trains that were too full to accept passengers at some point. Let's say, one or two mornings out of 20. If the N was 10-20 minutes late it was pretty much a given that some people at Carl and Cole wouldn't make it on.
But the 29 is a different story. I ride it southbound from Judah most every morning around 8:30, and 1-2 days out of 5 the bus is too full for passengers on Sunset starting somewhere around Noriega. During yesterday's cluster fuck, the bus passed or was unable to pick up all the passengers at about 2/3 of the stops on Sunset, cleared out partially at SF State, and then (this was something new for me) filled up again. We blew by about half the stops from 19th to Ocean. And this morning we would have passed by about half of Sunset except that the driver had a half dozen people standing ahead of the yellow line ... and this was a diesel bus without the interlock on the back door steps, which allowed a few people to stand in the stairwell.
Oddly, the pass-up statistics are for the northbound/inbound 29. If the point is to find the pass-ups, the southbound route is the one to study. By my reckoning, 80% of the riders on the bus between Lincoln and Ocean are students headed to either City or State, mostly City. Morning rush hour is always busier than evening rush hour, and southbound is the route in demand in the morning. (You can walk from Balboa Park to City in a few minutes, and there are a zillion ways to get to Balboa Park, so who cares about northbound.) Someone may well have measured 0.0% pass-ups on the inbound 29, but that's not the busy route.
0.0% pass-ups sounds pretty good though.
Would you refuse to stop a empty bus for an elderly Chinese woman trying to get on about 50 feet past the bus shelter? Apparently, if you are the driver of the 26 Valencia that left Balboa Park northbound around 8:08 this evening, you would.
Un fucking believable.
This 26 was waiting for 5-10 minutes in the northbound bus lane, completely empty. As the 26 pulled away ... slowly ... and stopped about 50 feet away from where it had been waiting, a frail, elderly Asian woman walked up to the door and waited to get on. The bus, I should mention, was still very much in service.
Unlike a normal human being who hadn't been raised by wolves, the driver kept the door shut and honked repeatedly at the old woman while the bus was still motionless. After a short wait, the bus entered traffic, then drove to the light at Geneva. The light was red so she stopped. Slowly, the woman walked up the sidewalk toward the light. After what seemed like an impossibly long time (the light was red forever) she once again approached the door of the bus. For the second time, the driver refused to let her on and drove off, leaving her standing all alone in the bus lane.
This is an old woman who can't walk at a normal pace, and who looks so thin and frail that one assumes that if caught in a breeze, she would be snapped like a twig.
And this stuck up twat won't let her on?
Me, I would fire her and ban her from ever working for Muni again. I can't imagine a scenario where she should ever work for the public, or in a service capacity, let alone public service. I can't even imagine a scenario where she should be part of the human race, but maybe that's an overreaction. Maybe.
Monday, March 3, 2008
I'm sitting on the steps at Millbrae station now, fuming. I know I'm not supposed to rely on Muni to arrive at a particular time, or to arrive at all, but, geez, when the 29 doesn't run for 25-30 minutes between 8 and 9 AM, how is that reasonable? I need to catch at 29 at 8:30-8:40 to get to Balboa Park, to catch a work shuttle that runs to Palo Alto. So, this morning, I checked Nextmuni before I left to see how I was doing timewise, and it said "33 minutes." What? The map showed a bus a little ways north of the park, so I figured it was just some kind of craziness and the bus would be along in about 10 minutes. When I got to the stop there were already a half dozen people waiting, so, obviously a previous bus was either late or missing. Then another 15-20 minutes passed and a hybrid showed up, standing room only. So I got to my shuttle pickup 10 minutes late.
In what way is it even vaguely excusable for what must have been at least two 29s to just not show up during the busiest time of the morning?
Anyway, I took BART to Millbrae, and then jogged up and down the stairs as a southbound train arrived, and departed, while I was buying my ticket.
So that brings me to another question. If Millbrae is an intermodal station, and the Caltrain personnel can clearly see people running up and down the stairs from BART, buying tickets as fast as they can, why does the "other mode" leave people on the platform?
Anyway here I am, steali, er, borrowing some wi-fi, slowly working my way toward Palo Alto and being 1-1/2 hours late for work. At least the weather's nice.
Friday, February 29, 2008
So I called Muni this morning to report the problem with the ventilation in that car. As usual the 311 staff was polite (one of the few bright spots in Muni). I have a tracking number ... and I'll see what happens.
This is awful. My nose and face and eyes and most everything from my shoulders up is still itching, and there's no antihistamine in the office first aid cabinets.
You know that part in Drivers Ed where they teach you to ease off the brake as you come to a stop? And if you don't, even though the deceleration of the car remains constant, your passengers feel like they're about to go through the window? Sudden changes in acceleration are called jerk. It's an actual physics term. You feel a jerk because the car was decelerating until it stopped, but once it was stopped, the brakes couldn't make it go any slower. (D'oh.) So the deceleration went from some more or less constant value, to zero, almost instantly. The result: jerk. If you have braced yourself against the deceleration of braking, and then the braking stops abruptly, you are tossed in the opposite direction.
Or, to put it in simpler terms:
Jerk throws things around. It makes them spill. It makes them fall over. When you carry a hot cup of coffee with no lid on it, you move smoothly; otherwise you shower everything in the vicinity with steaming liquid. Coffee is precious. Move smoothly. But as precious as coffee is, I think people are even more precious.
So, now to the point, if you have a bus full of standing passengers, is there a good reason, dear Muni driver, why you can't brake like they are precious cargo? It may be crazy talk but let's pretend, or even presume that drivers realize they are being paid to deliver passengers to their destinations unbruised and right side up.
Most drivers, I think, do. But some, I swear, they are fucking with us. A few mornings ago on the 29, the driver claimed a couple of spry teenagers and a little old lady with her "jerk." She was either lunging forward, lurching while driving (gas on, gas off, gas on, etc.), or braking suddenly as if each stop sign was a complete surprise. All three passengers went down into the arms of other standing passengers, all at different times. I've had rides on N Judah trains with bad brakes (and spaced out drivers) that were smoother.
If you or I drove like that while taking a driving test, we'd flunk before getting out of the parking lot. In that scenario we have one passenger and both of us are belted in behind airbags.
Maybe every morning drivers could take a couple moments to imagine that they're driving a busload of people they give a shit about. They don't have to actually care, of course, but why not pretend.
And this leads up to How to Waste Your Hybrid's Diesel, but that's another post.
Every so often when I get on the N Judah and take my usual seat on one of the benches near the center, my nose and face starts to itch. I'm seriously allergic to, as an allergist put it way back in my childhood, "insect exoskeletons." That crap in the bottom of an old time storm window, the dried up bugs that have turned into dust, it's like breathing fiberglass to me. Same with anything where dead bugs have turned into powder. It only takes a couple of whiffs and then an incredibly intense itching starts.
So this is how I know that car 1543A, the one I rode home today, has a ventilation system that's just full of that shit. 4 hours later, and my nose is still raw and itchy.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Greetings from the Muni Grouch.
I've made a few comments on Greg Dewar's N Judah Chronicles recently, and frankly they're almost always complaints. Rather than continue to contaminate his thoughtful blog with my annoyances, I thought I'd start posting them somewhere else.