Twirlwind on the 21

From the Muni Diaries submissions inbox:

I used to ride the 5-Fulton every morning and afternoon to and from work. I’d hop on the bus either at Clayton or Masonic, hang on for dear life, and thirty minutes later, arrive (slightly windblown and disheveled) at either my fantastic place of employment or within a half-block of my abode. From June through early August, San Francisco Ballet’s summer school students take the 5 to and from USF. The good thing is these students are very well behaved. They keep an eye out for the elderly and parents with young children, move their large dance bags filled with pointe shoes, iPods, and breakfast (bagels and bananas), stay mostly quiet in the early mornings, and travel in small groups.

And I stress this last part because a few years ago, two new dance summer programs started housing their students at USF, and they traveled in packs. And by packs, I mean 30+ students at a time, on their cell phones constantly, and heaving their bags to and fro like boulders. These new kids made riding Muni during rush hour a living nightmare. And it’s not just the sheer mass of them now 60 dance students at a bus stop is just crazy in and of itself… But that combined with the attitude of the newbies is a lot to handle at 8AM.

So what’s an intelligent, city-minded girl to do? Switch bus lines, right? Oh, wrong. Two years ago, I switched to the 21-Hayes bus line. It’s an extra few blocks walk south from the Fulton line. It’s a quieter, more local bus line. Neighbors are friendly, most people are pleasant, and the drivers, if they see a regular hobbling in three inch heels and frantically waving her bus pass while dragging her gym bag behind her, will hold the bus and say, “It’s good to see you!” as she climbs aboard. Who can’t heart the 21-line? Well, right now, me!

LINES Ballet now sends its students on both the 5 and the 21 buses, but I’ve seen way more of them on the Hayes line than on the other. They march down Clayton in droves (I counted 28 yesterday morning, two of which didn’t have pants on, only tank tops over a leotard and tights), fill up a good portion of the space, and chat, squeal, and yap loudly the whole way to 7th street. The same thing happens on what should be a full bus outbound. Around Civic Center, they push onto the full bus, mainly through the back door, like it’s their right to overcrowd it, and yell and scream loudly, either at each other or into their cell phone.

I checked out LINES Ballet’s summer program materials, and they say that daily bus rides “will be chaperoned.” Really? I didn’t see one adult or anyone monitoring these students as they waited, loudly, under an apartment window for five minutes the other morning. Nor any other morning or afternoon for that matter for the past few years. In fact, I emailed them two years ago inquiring about ways to better oversee their daily transportation issues, and the reply was they’d try but most solutions cost money.

It’s annoying not just because of the added commuter stress and the noise, but also because here are programs (minus the San Francisco Ballet one to a degree) that COULD better monitor their transportation usage. Chaperones, for one. Or limiting the number of dance students to 10 per bus. Or creating some type of shuttle system to and from the dance school. Because right now, the situation isn’t working, and the schools really need to find a way to avoid displacing taxpayers, regular riders, and families in such an inconvenient and unforeseeable way. I understand using the public bus system for field trips and one-off type group events, but two and half months of adding 200+students per program, AM and PM, M-F to the system? That displaces a lot of riders and affects a multitude of people, and as many know, Muni just isn’t built for that.

Ballet dancers or someone else throwing you for a twirl? Anything Muni-related you feel you need to get off your chest, send it our way!

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