Tara Ramroop has laughed, cried, and commiserated with this amazing community from the start. She's been writing for as long as she can remember and riding Muni for more than a decade.

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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N-nada

I have a new name for the N-Judah. It’s the N-Nada. As in, “waiting for an N? Sorry, NADA.”

Preface: while I ride Muni just about every day in bus or F-Market/Wharves form, I rarely ride Muni Metro. I always hear that electronic lady saying “N (N echo) in 2 minutes!” when I walk upstairs from BART, and the metro line has a pretty satisfying whir to its machinery. But I’ve never depended on it; before today, the last time I used it was probably around February.

To those who were curious, “Muni Metro” is a slower, not entirely underground version of the New York Subway. It’s a rail-transit line that goes faster than the buses and goes to many parts of town. But that’s where the similarities to the Subway stop.

To those who use Muni Metro regularly, someone has to flippin’ tell me if you always have to wait this long for an N-Judah, allegedly one of the most popular Metro lines.

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Life Lessons Learned Early

I heard something on the F yesterday (yes, I still take it when I’m too encumbered or lazy to walk downtown) that was moderately appalling. Though, truth be told, it was the end of the day and I was starving for dinner.

A woman and her son (dad and Other Sibling were elsewhere in the streetcar) got pretty awesome pole-standing spots right in front of the back doors, by the stairwell. As long as you hold your bag in front of you, it’s really not a bad place if you’re stuck standing. The stairwell space gives you room to breathe, and you get a pretty awesome blast of fresh air when the door opens. If you stand aside, it’s just mildly annoying to make way for people on their way out. Mom clearly realized this was a good place to be, encouraging her son to “stay in this spot, because it’s the best one.”

Had this been a full car with a smattering of standers, then, by all means, stand at the choice back-door spot until you’re blue in the face. But remember the Golden Rule of Public Transportation: if people are still boarding a standing-room-only bus…

keep moving to the back of the bus.

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The 47, my new best friend

I had another harrowing experience waiting for my F car this morning on Market at Van Ness. Two alleged trolley-bus Fs (their signs said they were, in fact F buses, and included “Market/Wharves” and everything) came by after a long while…and both drivers said they were stopping at Eighth Street. If you didn’t know, Eighth Street is about 3-4 blocks from where I was standing. And the F train is a charming little streetcar that is mostly for tourists, and therefore hideously unreliable. It is, unfortunately, among the fastest ways to get from the Embarcadero BART station to the northeast end of town, second only to walking, if you have time. It might (might) tie the 10-Townsend or the 9x, though both are crazy crowded in the mornings.

I hadn’t seen an F train for 15 minutes at least, and Jeff, my partner in life and Muni Diaries, said NextMuni was estimating it wouldn’t be there for another 20 minutes. I thought I had to take a cab to work for the third time in a month – a ride that costs at least $10 more than the $0 it normally does. My golden solution was a 47-Van Ness, which hit its scheduled stop on Van Ness at Market right after I got there. The driver was helpful when people asked questions, and it put me a block from my office. Thank you, 47. I always liked you better than that dirty sister of yours, the 49.

Meanwhile, people gathered at the F stop across the way in greater numbers, looking expectantly up Market for a car that probably still hasn’t gotten there.

I wasn’t that late (got in around 9:25 instead of 9:10), and I don’t mind the ride. It’s just unfair (and highly lame) when you have to play guessing games with your commute. If this keeps up, I might just break up with the F train altogether – this time, I mean it.

31AX

Clearly, the “if you don’t have anything nice to say…” adage is not Muni Diaries’ style. Usually. But today, we have something nice to say.

The 31AX (express service running between the Outer Richmond and Financial District) earned itself some kudos today. By the time it showed up at my stop on Balboa at 28th Avenue (at 8 a.m.), it was packed. But the beautiful part is that at Park Presidio, it stops picking people up. It zooms along, down Geary, then down Bush, to get this busload of people to their jobs downtown. Even in spite of the full bus, it was still punctual, pleasantly quiet and got me to downtown in a record 30 minutes. I had more than enough time to stop and grab coffee during my walk up Sansome to the Wharves, and I felt fantastic because of it.

Getting to work on time, reliably, is one of the biggest beefs I have with the system these days. But I might be less inclined to strangle people and pen angry letters to Muni HQ if the limited service runs continue performing as well as they did today.

Is an increase in express lines the answer? Think and discuss.

-Tara

confirmed by a cab driver…

…that San Francisco is one of the worst cities in the country to do pretty much any transiting. Put it this way: no matter how you decide to get from Point A to Point B, whether by bus, streetcar, cab or regular car, it will take infinitely longer to do so than it would in most other major metropolitan areas.

Why was I in a cab at 9 a.m. on a Friday, you ask?

As Jeff posted earlier, the F line stopped on Market and dumped all its passengers near New Montgomery. This was due to an apparent power outage somewhere on the line. From what I could gather, given the clusterfuck around every trolley bus and streetcar, everyone on the line had to stop. This created a mass spillover into Market Street and surroundings, as people clamored for cabs and shoved their way into the already-full buses clunking past. I picked up a cab on Second near Market, and the fare jumped to almost $5 before hitting Market. For perspective, it cost roughly another $5 to get from Market to the very north end of town.

Aside from the F, the only Muni lines that I know go by my job are the 10-Townsend and the 39-Coit. Seeing as how neither of those was near me (not as far as I could tell), I had absolutely no idea how I could get to work without taking a cab. I tried looking at a system map on a bus shelter on Third Street…but couldn’t see through the ink-black graffiti covering almost everything.

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