Towse: views from the hill

October 15, 2009

A swell evening out, followed by an SFMTA … messup.

Filed under: life,public transit — Tags: , — Towse @ 4:56 pm

Last night we headed over to the Galleria at SF Design Center for Wine & Spirits‘ Top 100 Wines event. We bought the plebe tickets and had a discount on those, so the evening was the cost of a nice dinner. Walked down the hill and caught the 10-Townsend at Levi’s Plaza. A while and a ways later, we arrived just as the plebe doors opened at 6:30P.

Fine time. In addition to the wineries that made the list (of which we had far fewer than 100 tastes and red-wine-only at that), the interspersed foodie tables included wares from Flour & Water, Il Cane Rosso, Hog Island Oysters, Heaven’s Dog, Gitane, Cliff House, and more.

The event was shutting down at 8:30P, and with a last hurrah we handed our Riedel wine glasses to the gent at the exit and left to catch the bus home. The 10-Townsend stops running at 8P or so, but we could catch the 19-Polk at 15th and Rhode Island and take it up to Union and Polk where we’d catch the 45 down to Washington Square Park.

We thought.

We walked around the corner and down a block to the bus stop. NextBus signage said the next bus was due in 20 minutes or so. We could wait. The weather’s been relatively warm with the Japanese storm and it wasn’t raining. Thanks be.

The signage counted down (with some hiccups) to four minutes more to wait and then, suddenly, flipped to saying the next bus was due in 15 minutes. Wah?

The signage counted down (again) (again with some hiccups) until it said, “ARRIVING.”

We watched a different bus heading south on an adjacent parallel street and our next bus info changed its mind. Our next bus was now due in twenty-two minutes.

Is NextBus based on GPS in the buses? Or is it all just wet-finger guessology?

One of the other people waiting for the phantom bus called to see where the 19-Polk might be and when we could expect it. Oh, the answer came back after he’d been put on hold, there was a shooting and that’s why your bus is delayed.

(So tell me again why it said, “ARRIVING,” if it had had no intention of arriving and was, in fact, twenty-some minutes away?)

(Still can’t find any news reports of such a thing online this AM. Had we misunderstood? Would a fire at Union Square interrupt a bus route on Polk, because that’s the only trouble that happened last night that seems to have been deemed newsworthy.)

It’s now quarter to ten rather than quarter to nine, when we first arrived at the bus stop. No bus. No one knows if the latest ETA is even accurate. When will the next 19 arrive? None of us trust the system at this point. Pretty crummy for bus service that is supposed to arrive every twenty minutes at that time of the day.

The crowd waiting for the 19 at 15th and Rhode Island started to disperse. Each of us headed off to the location we thought would most likely result in a bus ride before midnight.

We opted to walk from 15th & Rhode Island to 4th and Townsend (a little less than a mile) to catch the 30 back to Washington Square Park, which still would leave us about half a mile up hill (and down) home. (Most of the other nearby bus stops we knew about were either no-longer-running 10s or the mysteriously-missing 19.)

Finally reached home around quarter to eleven. Far later than we’d intended.

What if we hadn’t been in shape or willing to walk over to catch the 30? Would the 19 ever have arrived?

What responsibility does SFMTA have to their customers waiting after dark (or during the day for that matter) to get them from where they are to where they are wanting to go according to the published schedules?

Inquiring minds.

November 15, 2007

Transbay Blog

Filed under: blog,politics,public transit — Tags: , — Towse @ 9:44 pm

Eric, over at Transbay Blog, is running a series of informational posts on the Central Subway, which I’ve ranted about on occasion here and elsewhere.

Transbay Blog is one of the most focussed, least axe-grinding blogs covering “News and thoughts on public transportation and city planning in the San Francisco Bay Area.” If such be your interests, check it out.

July 2, 2007

The chaotic traffic mess on Stockton

Filed under: life,public transit — Tags: , , — Towse @ 4:45 pm

Some times you just have to wonder.

I was at the Mayor’s confab on Saturday re Muni and other public transportation issues. The meeting was pure theatre. Some interesting points were made. Some points seem lost to the assembled. I was impressed with Nat Ford, new executive director of the Municipal Transportation Agency.

At one point in the meeting, Gavin asked the city staff present, “How many of you rode public transportation here.” A sizable number raised their hands. The follow up question, which wasn’t asked, is “How many of you didn’t ride public transportation here, and why not?”

As an example of parochialism and selective deafness, an inability to hear what people are saying (Why were so many people along the 9X and 30 routes thrilled to death with the thought of the Central Subway?) I note the following in The N-Judah Chronicles.

Greg writes, “There were many ironies surrounding this meeting – from the chaotic traffic mess on Stockton Street I ran into, trying to get back to Market St. to …”

I just had to comment (and I did but being as the comments over there are vetted before they’re posted, my oh-so-marvelous words seem to have been ash-canned, alas …):

I walked home (call it Union and Montgomery) from the meeting and had no problem with traffic or issues or problems.

Chaotic traffic messes on Stockton are the norm. Those issues were brought up at the meeting. Big surprise? Problems on the 30 and the 9X? Who knew?

Those in the nose know the Stockton issues and avoid Stockton or just deal with it.

Welcome to our world. Sorry the out of district folks had a problem.

The only transit line that I’ve ridden that can get almost as bad as the 30 Stockton going up Stockton is the 14 Mission going up Mission. I do realize that everyone has their pet peeves about public transit, but to say there was a chaotic traffic mess on Stockton after the meeting (like there isn’t a chaotic traffic mess on Stockton most any day most any time of the day?) just shows how deaf some people at that meeting were to attendee comments re the 30 Stockton, the 9X, the 45 and the 41.

Traffic from North Beach through Chinatown toward downtown and further is a mess, people. Add some more buses. Run shuttles through the Stockton corridor. Do something.

I’m just glad I can catch the buses at Washington Square Park because the folks who get on in Chinatown get squished in tighter than you’d think possible, with few straps or poles to hang onto. Not pretty.

February 28, 2007

Ed Jew sez $5.7M ‘youth’ deal: Fast Pass to budget deficit

Filed under: politics,public transit — Tags: , — Towse @ 1:49 am

Today’s Examiner has a commentary by Ed Jew on pending (perhaps approved — the SFC doesn’t say on their site) legislation extending youth Fast Pass discounts to all “youth” ages 18-24.

His point is the one I was making a bit ago.

#1 How can the Supes justify the cost when Muni is stretching to balance its budget?

#2 Why 18-24 year olds? What makes them so special?

What about people older than 24 who are working a minimum wage? Don’t they deserve a break? Do we want age-based Muni fares? Should we have needs-based Muni fares? Why not give everyone a fare break and see if we can get people out of their cars and onto public transport?

This legislation is so cockeyed. What are the Supes thinking?

February 14, 2007

A useful mashup: Muni fast passes and Google maps

Filed under: mashup,public transit — Tags: , — Towse @ 10:48 pm

skot9000 got tired of trying to track down the closest location to buy a Muni fast pass and found their ZIPcode-based lists unreasonably hard to use so he, nice guy wot he is, mashed up the Muni DB with Google maps.

Et voila! Pop in an intersection or an address and a radius and skot9000′s handy-dandy mashup will fill you in on the places nearby that sell Muni fast passes.

A to-do list for the City

Filed under: life,peeves,politics,public transit — Tags: , — Towse @ 8:22 pm

Above the fold this morning in the Chron was an article detailing the City’s plan to take over liability insurance and maintenance responsibility for the pair of cypress trees downhill from here that I’ve written about before , the trees that Mark Bittner flung himself in front of chainsaws to save, the trees that are, according to Bevan Dufty, who proposed the legislation, one of the parrots’ favorite roosts.

The operative words there are “one of the…”

The parrots have many favorite roosts. This clump of trees is not even the most favorite roost within a one hundred yard radius. Preserving these trees because the tourists like watching the parrots is a flawed argument. Mark lives right next to the trees in question, which is why he wants them preserved above all others. I understand his personal stake in all this.

… but the number of tourists who climb up and down the Greenwich Steps and are enchanted by the birds (and ipso facto and all that the trees MUST be preserved!) are far outnumbered by the number of tourists who climb up and down the Filbert Steps and are enchanted by the birds. The parrots are hanging out more often than not in the trees and on the wires above the Filbert Steps when they are hanging out on this side of the hill.

And, boy, am I tired of explaining to people I talk to at parties and gatherings that the parrots are fine, they’re happy, they’re healthy, they’re squawking all the time, when they’re here. There are scores of parrots in the flock and it is still growing. Concerned people say, “But I thought their tree was cut down.” or “I thought they had flown away.”

No, it wasn’t. No, they haven’t. They don’t even sleep here, I tell them. The parrots show up in the morning and squawk around and come and go and usually head back to the north end of town, to the Presidio or Fort Mason or wherever it is they lay their weary heads, when the sun starts heading toward its evening meetup with the ocean. Get here after 5P or 4P or some days even 3P and there won’t be a parrot to be seen. “Come back tomorrow,” I tell the disappointed tourists. “They’ve gone home to tuck in but they’ll be back tomorrow.”

And, whoo boy, the Steps especially near Napier Lane, outside Aaron Peskin’s place (the wires near his house are a new favorite place for them) are sprinkled with guano these days. We noticed a note from Judy Irving (TPOTH filmmaker and Mark’s wife) tacked onto Aaron’s fence the other day asking people not to feed the parrots.

The Northeast San Francisco Conservancy has collected $5K to give to the City to pay an arborist to trim the trees so at least that expense won’t be the City’s, but the other associated staffer expenses?

The City, which has a wide variety of ills that need attention, is spending time, staffing $$ (and perhaps real $$ if the trees topple) on a pair of trees that imosho don’t deserve the extraordinary attention they’ve been getting.

A guy from AP asked us last Sunday at Gavin’s campaign HQ opening, what we thought was the most serious problem in the City that needed addressing.

Oh, so many to choose from …

The City should be paying attention to:

(1) Muni/taxis/public transport/traffic meters/bike lanes/traffic and oh, the list could go on. Let’s talk about bus fares. Let’s talk about waiting for a 30 for much longer than expected and having two show up simultaneously. Let’s talk about reworking Muni and dropping the fares for everyone. (What’s with the proposed deal to give 18-24 year olds deals on their Muni passes when there are plenty of thirty- and forty-something dishwashers and grocery clerks who deserve a fare shake too.)

And maybe, just maybe, if we improve the Muni safety record we will have extra money in the budget. Last year Muni paid out $6.6 million in claims. Woo hoo! A million less than the year before! SIX MILLION SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS. Yikes.

(2) trash/litter and the scum bums who toss crap in the streets or toss coffee cups in the gutters or leave papers on benches for the winds to blow afar. Add in the City’s trash picker uppers who need to pickup the trash bins (especially the ones at the bottom of the Vallejo Steps at Montgomery) far more often than they do, the lack of trash bins on busy corners and at bus stops which gives people the excuse that they would have thrown their trash in a trash bin but there was not one to be found, and oh, the list could go on.

And then there’s the neighbor at the top of the Filbert Steps at Montgomery who doesn’t like the people down the Steps bringing their recycle up to the top of the Steps for recycle pickup. Every once in a while, when the recycle offends him for whatever reason, maybe the neighbor’s noise disturbed his tube watching, he kicks the recycle down the steps and makes a giant mess of things just because of because. Grow up, neighbor.

Let’s all take the “one for the road” pledge.

(3) crime, violent crime, hurting people, busting windows, busting jaws, killing people, robbing people, theft, property damage. People, some of them quite young, running amok.

(4) free WiFi — just get on with it. Let Earthlink and Google provide the service and use us as their guinea pigs and don’t even think of having the City set up its own bureaucracy to handle the problem. Oh, the bureaucrats handle Muni so well, why not give them this new box to play in?

(5) the building inspections department and the planning process … both busted by some accounts with the added fillip that no one can agree on the right thing to be done so nothing gets done

… until someone like buys a building and promises that all they’ll do is get rid of the graffiti, add outdoor lighting and … make movies inside away from the public view. The site’s zoned for commercial use. The building won’t change. Nothing that needs planning or historic preservation.

BUT WE DON’T WANT THAT! Well, over the years you didn’t want anything else either. No one could agree. It’s been over thirty years since the Guard left the building. ‘sides which’s been making movies in a warehouse not that far away for years now and nobody even noticed. Peter Acworth had a column on the op-ed page Monday about the purchase and his plans.

A new head’s been hired for the Building Inspection department and maybe he’ll work wonders. Planning’s problems don’t have an easy fix. Can’t we all just get along?

Don’t get me started on the ongoing snags affecting Angelo Sangiacomo’s efforts to rehab Trinity Plaza. He’s getting tired of the wrangling. What if he just says tahellwithit like the previous owner of the Armory did? I doubt we’ll ever find a buyer like that wants Trinity Plaza and will keep it just like it is, which seems to be the intent of the folks who are asking Sangiacomo to promise this, and when he does, asking him to promise that, and when he does, saying they’ve changed their minds and want him to …

(6) the Port and the piers and the wrangling there over what will be done. Leave things as some people seem to want and the piers will all look like Pier 36 in a few years.

(7) people who need health care. people who need housing. people who need jobs. people who need a shrink or drugs or food or a hug.

“Choose one?” we asked the reporter. “Muni, parking, taxis, anything to do with getting people around this town without adding cars on the streets but that’s just the beginning of what needs addressing.”

The pair of cypresses downhill from us didn’t even cross our minds. There are other trees that the parrots flock to. The parrots are thriving. I’m not a tree hugger, obviously. I don’t believe every tree deserves saving just because it’s a tree. I do believe in planting more trees in the city. We’re Friends of the Urban Forest. My problem with Dufty’s well-intentioned, if misguided, efforts is that I don’t cotton to the idea that rules should be changed and these trees deserve special efforts because of the parrots. They don’t. The parrots are fine. The City has more important troubles to address.

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