Eugenia Chien has been eavesdropping on the 47, 49, or 1 lines since the mid-90's. She lives by the adage, "Anything can happen on Muni" (and also, "That's not water.")

Confession: I’m a rude newspaper reader on Muni

Yesterday while on the J train, I thought I’d use my time wisely by reading my Sunday New York Times (yes, yes, I am two days late but it’s only the Style section).  As soon as I took out the paper from my backpack I realized that the Style section isn’t a very stylish and practical read while on Muni. With riders sitting on both side of me and two more people standing right at my knee, I could hardly even turn the page! The guy who sat next to me was reading a compact little novel and gave me a dirty look when I accidentally brushed the side of his face with my unwieldy newsprint.

Thankfully, the lovely ladies at Muni Manners pointed out the correct etiquette for reading the newspaper while in transit. They suggest “folding for minimum impact” by preparing the paper pre-boarding. Brilliant!


Delicate Etiquette When Giving Up Your Seat

I was on the 47 Van Ness yesterday following the fire at the Castro station that put KLM etc out of service for a period of time. When a group of riders got on at the Van Ness and Geary stop, I saw that a few of them were perhaps elderly and definitely looking kind of tired. So I got up and gave up my seat because I was getting off at the next stop anyway.

“Ugh! Do I look THAT old?”

I heard a voice behind me as I tried to make my way to the back of the bus.

You just can’t win!


O txtmuni, why hast thou forsaken me?

That’s what I’ve been wondering the past couple of weeks. Txtmuni, a wonderful little service that you can use with your cell phone to check when the next bus is coming to your stop, suddenly stopped working a couple of weeks ago. Instead of useful displays of how many minutes I’d have to wait for the next death-trap-on-wheels, it would say “no times avail.”

So I dug up a contact for the guy who runs txtmuni, and finally heard from him today. It turns out that Muni changed all the “stop codes” on the Web site — all the data txtmuni was using to get ITS information. And the guy who runs the site just moved away for grad school and won’t have time to fix things on his end for a while. I get that.

However, he says there’s an alternative; NextBus has its own SMS system, with a slightly different syntax than txtmuni’s, but the same basic functionality. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m definitely going to. I’ve come to rely on the ability to use my cell phone to find out how long I have to wait.

So, for those of you who wonder, like I did, what happened to txtmuni, that’s the story. For those of you who didn’t know about these handy services, now you do.

— Beth W.

Beth W. is still wondering why txtmuni never had time information for the 38 line, but it’s a moot point now.

Learn, Muni, Learn

You can tell a lot about a system by how it adapts to failure.

I live in SF, I use both BART and Muni regularly. When they work, they’re decent. When things go wrong, it’s an N Judah-flavored apocalypse. If you’ve got an alternate, you take it. If not, you get a cab or walk. It’s a decent bus town, there’s usually a bus a few blocks away. It’ll probably show up within half an hour, and it’ll get you within half a mile, and it’s probably a nice walk anyway. Unless you’re trying to get back to the Sunset, in which case it’s more like a mile and the walk might be foggy. But anyway, there’s half a dozen good noodle places on the way, and you can bitch on your blog later if you swing thataway.

The last week, though, I’ve been staying in Zurich, and using the SVV tram system a lot. Let’s set aside incidentals like perfect adherence to schedule and good coverage and accurate ETA signs. The other day something melted down on the 11 Auzelg/Rehalp line, which runs roughly north/south along the eastern edge of central Zurich. Residential stuff out on the far-northern Auzelg end, shopping and S-Bahn connections a bit closer in, restaurants and bars towards the middle, and gradually more suburban and residential down South towards Rehalp. The nearest analog in SF would probably be the N-Judah or K-Ingleside.

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Outside Lands Update: Bike It

Muni hasn’t gotten any better with providing enough transportation for big events. After last night’s Outside Lands show, Muni was jammed. As with Bay to Breakers and any Giants’ game, Muni couldn’t keep up with the crowd overflow. At least three full buses passed me without stopping. Meanwhile, people continued to flock the stops.

Muni promised extra services on the 5, 71, and N lines for the three-day event.  To see the full pre- and post-concert travel schedule, including tips for best stops, visit MTA’s Outside Lands page. But there’s really no bother. I ended up walking three miles to get home.

If you’re going to the concert, the best way to travel is by bike.


Tracks to nowhere

You know what makes me sad? Seeing those pairs of iron trolley rails on various city streets and discovering that they don’t go anywhere.

For example, at the Transbay Terminal — there’s a set of Muni trolley rails on the bus pad. Follow them with your eyes to Fremont Street, only to find they’ve been paved over. Nobody’s using those anymore.

While there are still a number of remnants like that above ground throughout The City, I’ll bet there’s plenty more that have been torn up and/or buried under asphalt.

When I went to the Railway Museum, I learned that the city used to have many, many more trolley lines, but with time most of them were replaced with buses. I find the trolleys so much more pleasant than buses. Drivers get out of their way more often. They don’t wallow back and forth and make you seasick. And, for some reason, they seem less smelly and more enjoyable. Maybe it’s because I’m a rail freak, you never know, but part of me wishes they’d go back to more trolleys, fewer buses.

At any rate, I don’t have a comprehensive mental map of all those rail-bits I’ve seen all over The City. But I get excited when I spot them, and then feel deflated when I realize that that 100 feet of track are all that remain of someone’s daily commuter route, or perhaps the first streetcar ride they ever took in San Francisco.


— Beth W.

Beth is a reporter and author. And rail junkie.

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