The 31 diaries

I’m generally pretty complimentary about the 31-Balboa because it generally deserves it. At best, this means it’s somewhat innocuous, boring and quiet, which can be a good thing when you’re riding clear across town.

Today’s ride home on the 31 was actually above-average, if you can believe it, and it had nothing to do with how punctual the bus was.

First, let’s discuss the “BACK DOOR!! BACK DOOR!” phenomenon. The back doors open when you step into the stairwell. Sometimes, you have to touch the door handles to make them open, which, on the 49-Van Ness, for example, is akin to licking your fingers after using a public bathroom. However, do not stand in the stairwell when the bus is trying to move from a stop, because it pretty much won’t if someone is still standing in the stairwell. This is complex exiting protocol for some, but I find it uniquely Muni, in its own irritating way.

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Excuse me, fellow passenger

Question: Do you really have to cut your fingernails on the bus? Are you really that strapped for time at home that you grab your nail clipper and say to yourself, “Well, I can always finish clipping my nails on the bus”? I know the bus or train can be boring, and one of the benefits of public transportation is that you don’t have to concentrate on driving, so you can read the paper or a book, listen to music on headphones, eat your Popeye’s and drink your coffee, oh, and/or cut your nails. Don’t you think some people might be grossed out by that? Thankfully, I’ve never seen anyone cut their toenails on Muni, but I don’t doubt I will someday. First the fingernails, then the toes, what’s next? Don’t you see? It’s only a matter of time before someone brings a bucket of water and some shampoo and washes their hair just so they can use their Muni time “productively.” Fingernail clippings have a tendency to shoot in all directions, too. Don’t you know that? I don’t know, it just bugs me. Clip your nails at home, or go to a nail salon.

Rob Nagle is a designer and copy editor at the San Francisco Examiner. He clips his nails at home, in his bathroom, over a waist basket, in private.

Loud and Proud

Even though we all know well and good that NextMuni is kind of a joke (as is txtmuni, which completely ignored my cries for help this morning and refused to tell me when my 2-Clement was coming until a half-hour later), I spied this nifty item at the 38/38L stop at Geary and Divisadero Friday, for buses headed downtown. I didn’t push the button, but somebody did, because it kept rattling off arrival times every few minutes and even told us when the bus was actually arriving.

Considering that one of my top gripes about Muni is how many buses don’t play the audio signals telling people what the next stop is, this is definitely a step in the right direction.

— Beth W.

Not Your Papa’s 511.org

While I’m talking about potentially nifty things, I went to 511’s trip planner Friday and discovered it’s been completely revamped. Now, rather than telling you one route it thinks might suit your needs, it gives you several (it listed four for the trip I needed to make this morning), with descriptions on how long each one will take, how much walking it involves, whether it’s all buses, buses and trolleys, buses and BART, or whatever other combination might work. Of course, it still has the flaw that it’s not connect to NextMuni and has zero clue whether each mode of transit is going to show up on time, but at least someone at 511 figured out that riders might want options — say, to avoid certain routes or certain parts of the city. About time.

— Beth W.

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