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Three Things You Should Know Before You Bitch About Muni

should_know

We love your creative, hilarious ways of talking about all things good or bad on Muni. But as responsible transit riders, what can we actually do? Our city is facing new transit alternatives (like these new ride-share buses) that can really change what life on Muni looks like. So we talked to some transit experts about what every rider can do to improve our public transportation system.

1. Why is my bus crowded and not on-time?
“One reason buses are overcrowded and not on time is because San Francisco has the oldest fleet in the country. When we should have replaced our buses, we passed, which put us in the position of holding buses together with duct tape and garbage bags,” says Ilyse Magy at the San Francisco Transit Rider Union. She says that old buses mean broken-down buses, which lead to a loss of reliability and overcrowding. San Francisco is growing faster than expected, and Muni ridership is expected to grow, too. SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose says that it takes $1 million to operate and maintain each bus every year.

2. What are we doing about crowded buses?
The passage of Prop A and Prop B means that the city has more funds for Muni. SFMTA says that 112 new buses have already been added, and 121 new buses are being added this spring. In April, the SFMTA will be providing more service for over 100,000 customers on the 5L, 8X, 30X and 38L lines, according to Rose. This includes areas serviced by ride-share buses like Leap and Chariot. See our post about Muni service increases and route name changes.

But that may not be enough. Magy says that even with the passage of the $500 million bond (Prop A), “we are BILLIONS of dollars shy of the funds we need to have a truly excellent Muni.”

3. What should responsible Muni riders do to help make sure we have a public transit system that meets our needs?
Ride the bus (yay, you!). Educate yourself on transit-related issues when you vote. Geek out at Streetsblog SF‘s Muni page, our news section, or read everything Joe Eskenazi wrote about Muni. Or take a step further and join the San Francisco Transit Riders Union.

Transit issues are complicated enough to write a tome, and sometimes just bitching about it is not enough. We can all help make Muni better!

Photo by Sonny Abesamis

New private bus wants you to avoid the crowded 30-Stockton, Blue Bottle coffee optional

leap bus

Taking Muni used to be an equalizing experience in San Francisco, but new ride-share apps are making public transit optional for people who’d rather not stand with the masses. A new pay-per-ride service is launching in the city today, with Blue Bottle iced coffee and hipster-appropriate wood paneling as the backdrop for morning selfies. For $6 a ride, Leap buses will take commuters from the Marina to the Financial District during peak hours. The company bills itself as the “Virgin America of buses.”

The area served by Leap’s bus line has “a high concentration of people who work downtown and a high concentration smartphone users. We’re particularly interested in serving areas where it’s tough to get a seat on public transit, and surge pricing is too high for daily use,” says Kyle Kirchhoff, founder and CEO of Leap.

The launch is not Leap’s first go-around in San Francisco. The company is launching the same proposed service today, more than a year after a scathing editorial in 2013 that called Leap a “selfish disruptor.” San Francisco also has seen other private bus apps like Loup or Chariot, which has four lines and offers a $93 monthly pass.

To be fair, private jitneys like Leap, Loup, or Chariot have sometimes been the basis of our current public transit system. SFist put it best: “While this all may seem ugly and capitalist in an era when Muni needs all the help and financial support it can get, it should be noted that many of Muni’s routes were, at one time (pre-1912), run by private entrepreneurs and were only later absorbed under a single system.” So this may not be all bad news in the long run, right?

With the proliferation of these private buses, life on Muni could start to look really different, and that scares me. When we started Muni Diaries seven years ago, public transportation felt like the great equalizer. We all had to get from point A to point B, and Muni was the only viable way for most people. Taxis were unreliable, parking was inconvenient and expensive, and bicycling wasn’t always an option. As a daily commuter, I saw a cross section of San Francisco whenever I got on the bus, and I loved it. Interactions on Muni helped us learn about one another and added layers to our experience of living here.

Sure, you might complain about WTF behaviors on Muni (hello, dude gulping Franzia), but you also see moments that restore your faith in humanity. Who wouldn’t want an impromptu Happy Birthday serenade on the bus?

There were always people in San Francisco who never rode the bus because they can afford to take cabs or drive to work and pay for parking every day. But that used to be an option only for the very rich. Now there are a lot of alternatives for people who make enough money to forgo public transit altogether. With life in San Francisco looking more and more segmented, who will be left to advocate for public transportation?

Our transit problems don’t come with a simple tech solution, but I’ve seen some creative attempts like the BART Twitter forum, the SFMTA Hackathon, and of course, this year’s TransportationCamp (maybe it should be a requirement for VC’s and business school grads?).

There’s no denying that it sucks when the bus is crowded and uncomfortable. It’s highly unrealistic to say that you should ride Muni just so you can learn about humanity. There’s a market for better public transit, but does the solution have to be a smart phone app for a private bus with bar stools and Blue Bottle coffee? I should hope not.

Mark your calendars: Muni Diaries Live is back on April 18!

muni-diaries-live-elbo-room-2014

Mark your calendars: Muni Diaries Live is back on Saturday, April 18, for an evening of laughter and drinks to celebrate everything that can happen on your commute. For our spring show, we’re bringing together riders, bus drivers, and even a band who sings about whiskey and transit, our two favorite topics ever. We’re also bringing in a new Muni haiku challenger for a new show-down!

Check out the full lineup, and grab your tickets soon!

Muni Diaries Live
Advanced Tickets
Saturday, April 18, Door: 6 p.m. Show: 7 p.m.
Elbo Room
647 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Take Muni there: J-Church, 12, 14, 22, 33, 49, or BART: 16th or 24th St stations

Our stellar storytellers:
Yayne Abeba is a native San Franciscan. As a child, you could find her dancing and singing her way around San Francisco with the San Francisco Children’s Opera. In 1995, she began studying with Jean Shelton at the Jean Shelton actor’s lab. She was bitten by the comedy bug in 1999 at Tony Spark’s Luggage Store. “…It’s like I have no control over it…whether it’s an open mike, a showcase, or a soap box, I just want to be a part of it.”

Doug Meriwether has been a transit operator for the SFMTA for 16 years and has withstood the test of time: He still has his “day” job by working nights on the Mission Street buses! Step up and step in to follow Doug and find your Zen in a trolley. His guidebook (or rule book) covers everything from how to pay at the fare box to where to stand while waiting for the bus. Plus, he adds some philosophy on how to maintain dignity and peace when the going gets tough.

Kate Willett is a San Francisco-based comedian and actress. She’s appeared in SF Sketchfest, the San Francisco Comedy Competition, and at clubs, theaters, and dive bars all over. San Francisco Magazine says she’s a comedian you should know about, and SF Weeklysays she’s one of the “strongest female figures in Bay Area Comedy.” As an actress, she has performed throughout the U.S. with groups such as Shakespeare and Company, Word for Word, Woman’s Will, and the Samuel Beckett Theater in Dublin, Ireland. She’s also the co-producer of the weekly show The Mission Position in Lost Weekend Video’s popular CineCave and Live at Deluxe at Club Deluxe.

Tarin Towers has been riding Muni since 1995, when she used to ride the 22 to her first job working the graveyard shift at the Denny’s in Japantown. She has performed her work nationwide, including on tour with Sister Spit. Her book is called, Sorry, We’re Close. She’s a big fan of manners and also a realist. Please don’t block the aisle with your enthusiasm.

Jesse James is the reigning champion of the Muni Haiku Battle. When not administering tours of the Golden Gate Bridge to Australian tourists, Jesse spends way too much money on art school and a slightly smaller amount on comic books. He didn’t drink until he was 21 and has been trying to make up for lost time ever since. Jesse was the winner of the TOHS Class of 2000’s Most Extraordinarily Unique Male Senior Award.

Mesquite and Mustard is a three-piece musical act from San Francisco. Simply put, they play songs about whiskey, trains, biscuits, and mamas.

Ronn Vigh‘s brash attitude and acerbic wit have earned him a comparison to a young Joan Rivers by SF Weekly. It’s a fitting comparison, since he later became a writer for E! Television’s Fashion Police, which was co-hosted by Rivers. For 13 years, Ronn has been a proud San Francisco resident and not-so-proud Muni rider. It just further reminds him that his car was repossessed when he first moved here. On the bright side, he’s also a yoga teacher and has found that regularly riding Muni is an excellent way to put all the teachings of compassion and letting go into practice. It’s also great for working on your core strength when there’s no dirty hand strap in reach as you’re being tossed around a careening L train at rush hour.

Photo by Right Angle Images

Adorable ad from Taiwan wants you to stop ‘newspaper-spreading’

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This sweet poster found on the Taipei Metro Rapid Transit train asks you to consider other passengers when you read a newspaper or a book on the train. The little emoji are truly from The Land Of Cute, aka Taiwan. For a edgy version of mind-your-newspaper, this Tokyo subway “space evader” ad gets the point across. Methinks BART’s new etiquette poster has some catching up to do in terms of cuteness, no?

Among the list of things we would really like to see on Muni or BART: a beer tram, a feline etiquette mascot, and a smackdown from Robocop.

A thrilling (but totally un-recommended) way to ride Muni

j riders by ikleytman

Yes, the Muni fare has hiked up to $2.25, but is it really worth it to hitch a ride this way, or am I just engaging in old-person-talk? Wait, don’t answer that. Below are two more thrillseekers we’ve posted in the past, but totally worth revisiting.

Photo above by @ikleytman

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Photo by K L

This is a scene right out of Collateral, minus creepy bleached-blonde Tom Cruise:


Photo by Wiggly Giggle

New map plots hotels to BART stations for transit-minded visitors

hotels near bart

A new map plots hotels by price next to BART stations to help out-of-towners take advantage of our oh-so-colorful public transit system during their visit. The creator of the map, Jeff Howard, says that it isn’t so easy to find out all the information you need near a public transit system, so he’s created a few of these maps for some metropolitan cities for transit-minded travelers. You can peek a larger version of the map on his website.

Howard has also created maps for cities including Hotels Near DC metro, NJ Hotels Near NYC, and Hotels Outside Boston. So now you know where to stay should your travels take you to DC, New York, Boston or Dublin … California.

P.S. For a fantasy trip, we recommend that Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road BART map. Power up.