What does Muni say about San Francisco?
Photo by Flickr user Omer Simkha
What do experiences on public transit say about a city? I started thinking about this question when I was on a bus in Rome last week, having just arrived from the airport with my parents. We sat across from a fashionable Chinese woman in a purple dress who seemed like a local. As my parents and I conversed in Chinese about whether we were on the right bus, I looked over to the woman to see if she understood us. She eyed us briefly and took out her cell phone to make a call, speaking in accented Italian. Well, fine, I guess she doesn’t speak Chinese after all, I thought.
The next morning as I was walking under the 90 degrees heat to the Coloseum, who do I see but the same woman from the bus, leading a group of Chinese tourists, speaking in fluent Chinese to explain the history of the Coloseum! I pretended not to recognize her.
The experience on the bus really soured me for a moment on Rome. This leads me to wonder: what kind of impression on our city do visitors get from riding Muni?