Outside Lands/Muni History Lesson

You never know what you’re gonna learn when you take a leisurely walk in San Francisco.

Tara and I headed out to the ocean from 28th Avenue and Balboa the other day. We took Balboa, but decided to walk back up Cabrillo to see what was in a mixed-use development neither of us knew about. As we approached La Playa, we noticed some large signs behind a group of trees, topped by clown faces. Once we overcame our indignation that clown imagery would be so wantonly employed in public, we decided to inspect. It turns out the signs serve as a marker, a written history of Playland, which used to exist at that spot. That part we already knew. What we didn’t realize was the extensive street car and steam bus circuits that served the amusement park back in the day.

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On the Poor, Cars, and Public Transportation

Matt Yglesias, prominent blogger of politics and public transportation, takes on what it means to be poor and the question of car ownership in our nation’s capital.

It’s a good, quick read. Many of the arguments Yglesias makes apply to our situation in San Francisco. I especially liked this bit:

The progressive move isn’t to keep subsidizing cars, but the reverse — to use congestion charges and performance parking fees to raise funds that improve the quality of service on the bus lines that poor people rely on.

I am starting to come around on tax incentives for folks to buy hybrids and other ultra-fuel-efficient cars. But even with such lures, the poor will be left out. Similarly, I’ve been a fan of congestion pricing for dense, urban areas, but not without adequate public transit already in place. That caveat prevents such a system from being just here in San Francisco under present circumstances, as Muni/BART are ill-equipped to deal with so many people choosing not to drive.

As I’ve said before, I’m hoping governments (especially federal) will reprioritize public transit and give it the funding it demands. True, more money alone won’t solve Muni’s problems. But shoring up the agency’s deficit can prevent fee hikes, a terrible idea in our current economic state. I’m excited that the incoming Obama administration is talking of exactly this kind of infrastructure funding. Now our new local government needs to get serious about overseeing big changes at SFMTA, and to help fund those changes.

Blame the victim

I spotted this ad campaign on the side of an underground Muni trolley the other day. I’m having trouble totaling up the number of things wrong with it. I mean, sure, it’s a smart idea for pedestrians in SF not to use their headphones when there are buses stampeding through the streets, but I don’t think the fact that someone didn’t hear the bus is an excuse for the driver to plow over them as though they weren’t there. Second, why is the bus in this ad speeding away after knocking the dude to the curb?

What else is wrong with this ad campaign? What do you think of it?

NYE Free-for-All!

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As Greg at N-Judah Chronicles has chronicled, Muni rides are set to be liberated after 8 p.m. tonight. Buses and Muni Metro trains will be free from that point until 6 a.m. Route and time details can be found on SFMTA’s website.

We cannot encourage you enough to take advantage of this great service. Yes, Muni will probably still be a pain, and you may have to wait. But it’s the safest, cheapest, most environmentally friendly way to navigate the seven-by-seven on this crazy night.

So with the perfect storm of New Year’s Eve revelry, free public transit, and Palestine-Israel protests, there’s bound to be some juicy episodes on buses and trains tonight. What a perfect chance to tell everyone what you see and hear! You’ve probably got the day off tomorrow, and maybe Friday also.

Consider this the Muni Diaries equivalent of a public television or radio pledge drive. In the spirit of making 2009 an awesome year, start by sharing your New Year’s Eve stories!

Photo: Flickr user wpfphotos

Milkmobile

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In October, I wrote about how Muni dedicated one of its historic streetcars on the F-Market/Wharves line to slain San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk. Though best known for his tireless fight for equal rights in the LGBT community, he was also Muni’s best friend in Silly Hall, as he called it, advocating for better transit in San Francisco. He was the first SF supervisor to regularly use his FastPass and the first SF supervisor to take Muni to work every day from his home in the Castro.

I learned these things after stepping into a packed-to-the-gills, green-and-white F-car yesterday afternoon, not realizing it was the Harvey Milk car I wrote about a couple months prior. I took these blurry photos with my phone before it crapped out on me, and spent a lot of time staring at the old photos and reading the info in this mobile tribute. This was the same car featured in Milk, the critically acclaimed Gus Van Sant movie about Milk and his time in San Francisco politics.

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