Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Hybrid Power Switch: Updated

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

Most Ignored Federal Law #1

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:

...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.
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 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.

Quiet on the 29 This Week

With school out, the 29 is empty in the morning. It's a good time to do those pass-up stats!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Little Tyrants at 4th and King

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

Freezing to Death at Taraval (Where were the 29s? Part 2)

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

Honesty ... and Unrealistic Expectations

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

Surfin' Bird on the N Judah

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

The Adventures of Officer Duh and the Bus Lane

Of all the places to pull someone over, why choose the westbound Balboa Park bus stop at 9:30 in the morning?

Muni Crushed Their Spirit

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.

Stupid Drivers Part 1: The Little EnginePrius That Couldn't

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

Pass-ups: Part 2

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

Slightly Less Frequent AM Peak Service ...

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

Plumbing Yes, Bikes No

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

The Hybrid Power Switch

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

Jargon Part 1: The Pass-up

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.

F You, Old Chinese Lady, Take the Next Bus

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

Where Were the 29s?

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.