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.

Sigh.

— Beth W.

Beth is a reporter and author. And rail junkie.

Seeing Our City’s Less Fortunate on Muni

A Muni ride puts you in much closer proximity with our city’s less fortunate – instead of just walking over yet another homeless person huddled in a blanket or ignoring yet another outstretched hand for spare change, a Muni ride makes you look at people in the eye. Or does it?

I was on the 38-Geary on Sunday when a older man wearing a trench coat got onboard. He sat across from a toddler bouncing on her mom’s lap, and the next thing I know, the man started singing a pretty, soulful tune to the little girl. “The girl of my dreams…ain’t no mountain too high…nothing can keep us apart.” “You know what I’m talking about,” he says to no one in particular.

He rambles on and tells the bus that his name is Fillmore Holmes (“That’s right. That’s my real name.”) and sings right in front of Virgin Records downtown. “My last show is on August 23! Are y’all going to come see me at my last show?”

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Muni Loony #2: the overly friendly guy

He is not technically one of the crazies, but his unusual habit of starting up conversations and engaging with strangers renders him an acutely annoying oddball. He is a middle-aged man, soft around the edges, always in dorky business casual. He often baits everyone with something banal like, “Man, it’s sure crowded today.” And should anyone respond, next thing you know he is asking them about where they are from and trying to connect with San Francisco trivia. One innocent couple held the door for him and the next 10 minutes were a barrage of T.M.I. snippets of his life. Doesn’t he get it? Morning commute is not a time to be chipper and chatty. The coffee may not have kicked in yet, and it takes zen power to survive the ride.

– Suzanne

Driver courtesies

I was on one of the Market Street buses a couple of weeks ago — the 71-Haight, I think — heading toward the Ferry Building. The bus was nearly empty and a couple of folks got off just as I hopped on. As soon as the bus doors closed, the driver turned to a young couple sitting in the elderly/disabled section and said, “Check your bags. The guy who was sitting next to you is a pickpocket. Let me know if he took anything and I’ll call the cops.”

She waited while they frantically checked their bags. Fortunately, nothing was taken and the bus wasn’t seriously delayed. But I liked that this driver was looking out for out-of-towners possibly distracted and dazzled by their unfamiliar environment.

It almost made up for the 38L driver yesterday who spent more time yelling at every single passenger than actually driving… – Beth W.

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