CultureBus FAIL

Not that we like to take credit for foreseeing transit-related mishaps. And, you know, not like we enjoy saying we told you so.

But, god dammit, we told you so. How right were we?

As feared in an October Muni Diaries post, then complained about in a December Muni Diaries post, the Muni CultureBus turned out to be a colossal waste of time and money. Though Muni has announced that they have no plans to abandon the concept entirely, they are going to be paring down service significantly for the five people who continue to ride it.

One tourist quoted in the story said he was willing to pay more money for services like the CultureBus. Tourists, myself included when I’m on vacation, are generally willing to pay more money for most things, as I mentioned in my bus tourism post from December. But, in that same post, I wax indignant on the additional $3 fee to ride the ill-fated CultureBus when other major cities wouldn’t dream of charging extra for their own, better transit systems. I again wax indignant after this little tidbit in today’s SFGate story:

As for Muni, agency officials say the 74X-CultureBus line, with exceptionally clean coaches and drivers who went through extra customer service training, can be a model for the rest of the city’s transit system. It also could be used as an argument that people – tourists and Muni regulars – may be willing to pay a higher fare for better service. (emphasis mine)

I’m appalled by the suggestion that there should be premium service for something as simple and standard as public transit. We don’t expect to be able to eat off the damned floor, nor do we expect the bus drivers to always be peppy little rays of sunshine. What we do expect is efficient and comfortable public transit, a basic right for everyone who lives, works and visits San Francisco.

CultureBus can be used as a model for the rest of the city’s transit system, but it’s a sad day when clean buses and friendly drivers potentially become VIP-only services.

For what it’s worth, the N-Judah and 5-Fulton, which even us non-VIPs are welcome to use without the Clean Bus-Friendly Driver Tax, will (if it shows up) get you from Union Square to the Academy of Sciences in about 40 minutes, according to 511 Trip Planner. The N-Judah route in particular includes a nice walk through beautiful Golden Gate Park, too.

-Tara



  1. njudah

    this is what happens when MUNI is governed by showboat-y things the Mayor comes up with in his “bullpen” with all those plasma tvs.

    sure it sounded great on paper but no one really spent the time to figure out how to make this work. And using a giant bus like they did was just ridiculous. Plus they did so little promotion it was doomed from the start.

    the N is a fine way to get to the park. Plus you can enjoy all the Inner Sunset has to offer!

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  2. tara

    I’m still not sure which idea was a bigger, showboat-y waste of time: the CultureBus or the Connected Bus.

    Let’s hope for some better focus, and fewer distractions by big, shiny objects.

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  3. jenny

    i live off the panhandle and see the culturebus completely empty several times a day. i also see the double-decker tour bus completely full. there’s a need, and tourists are willing to pay extra for easy transport. muni just didn’t execute the plan properly; like njudah said, muni did very little promotion for the service. what a waste.

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  4. Brendon

    Seriously, I see it driving around the Civic Center area all the time, usually completely empty… the most people I’ve ever seen in one was 2.

    I’d ride it if they’d let me with my Fast Pass… but not if they’re gonna charge me an extra $3.

    I’m with Tara, fix the real problems before you try out all these fancy gimmicks. If/when we have a thorough, efficient and ON TIME transit system, THEN, and only then can you try out these lame-brained ideas.

    What ever happened to the Connected Bus anyway?

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  5. Tara

    @Brendon: I have never seen the Connected Bus! I picture it to look like something out of Weird Science. Only then will it become even marginally acceptable. If it still exists, and I’m not sure that it does.

    I’ve actually laughed out loud when I’ve seen that shiny new CultureBus puttering around Fulton with not a damn thing to do.

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