Sunday, December 23, 2012

Farewell? Maybe not!

In my blog, From Here to There: The San Francisco Muni, I have talked about new and old buses, graffiti and sanitation on buses, proof of payments, fights on Muni and safety tips, accuracy of Muni buses, Muni history, and new Muni shelters.
After analyzing all these, I conclude that Muni does have a lot of places where they can improve their services on.

I learned a lot about Muni that I did not know before, and maybe I now know more about Muni than Muni bus drivers! The main source of my information is from online articles from newspapers, and from the main SFMTA website itself. Also, I included a lot of my opinions and past or present experiences in the blogs. 

Where do I get experience?  I get it from riding Muni every day and by going to the Cable Car Museum located in 1201 Mason Street in San Francisco. Admission is free so if you have time, go check it out! The hours of operation is listed in the main website:

Inside the museum, they displayed old forms of proof of payments, such as tokens and passes. They also had a souvenir shop, so buy some souvenirs to show that you went there! They also showed how cable cars work, and it was a fun place to go with your family members.

Muni has served San Franciscans for a very long time, and Muni will continue its effort in providing us with service that will make us satisfied. In the future, I will continue to write posts when there are things for me to write about. I do not know when I will write a post, so keep checking to my blog periodically! It is the end of the semester, so take care and hope to see you in future posts!
 Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Seismic Wave Muni Shelter

Muni shelters—the structures that shield us from the rain, sun, and wind while waiting for the Muni to arrive. The old shelters around San Francisco are black, while new shelters introduced in 2010 are mainly red with some yellow roofs.
Yellow Muni Shelter
This is an effort made by SFMTA to provide us with a comfortable place to wait for Muni. Also, they made the shelters more accessible to people that are disabled.
Slowly, SFMTA is replacing all the shelters with these new shelters. Each shelter costs $25,000 to $30,000 (SF Examiner).

So why do we need these new shelters?

These new shelters are more environmentally friendly because these shelters are partially composed of recycled materials.

These shelters usually come in different lengths, varying from 8 to 16 feet (SFMTA). This will allow more seats to be made where it is needed most. Especially at Mission Street, seats are mostly taken up by the elderly people yet some elderly people still have to stand. I believe that this is a major improvement from the old shelters where the amount of seats is all the same.

The roof of the shelters has solar panels powering the backlit information panels, the LCD displaying when the next bus will come, and the push to talk feature.

There are also many features made for disabled people, such as the audio and the visual Nextbus indicators. The back panel is left open to make the shelter more accessible for people in wheelchairs. However, because of that open panel in the back, rain and wind were able to come into the shelters. 

The old shelters, installed in the 1980’s did a better job of keeping wind and rain out. Muni received several complaints, but it was not enough to make them change the current structure of the shelters.

I like these new seats more than the seats in the old shelters. These seats are flat, where it is easier to sit. The seats in the old shelters were small, and it hurts when I sit too long. In contrast, these new seats are big, and don’t hurt when I sit too long.

Occasionally, a kid would keep pressing the audio Nextbus button until his or her parents would tell them to stop. That’s really annoying, but at least I knew when the bus will come without looking at the LCD display. These audio Nextbus button are meant for people that are blind to be able to know when the next bus is coming.

These are so many new features of the new shelters! Can you spot one in your neighborhood? If you see one, check it out and tell me about it by commenting!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Back In The Days...

Back in the Days…

Learning a little about Muni’s history will allow us to know how Muni’s system works.  Muni was originally owned by private companies in the 19th century, but starting in 1952, Muni was completely owned and run by San Francisco.
Muni in the 19th Century 

Currently, Muni now has 54 bus lines, 17 trolley bus lines, 7 light rail lines, and 3 cable car lines.

Back then, the average speed of buses was 8.5 miles per hour, and today, the average speed is 8.1 miles per hour. The buses today are slower than the buses a century ago!

The first Muni trolleys were introduced in 1941, and became the foundation of the Metro we see today.

A New Muni Trolley Pulling an Old Trolley.

Believe it or not, Muni has considered a rapid transit to be built around San Francisco, but sadly, the proposal did not pass. Well, at least we still have Bart, but I think if Muni has a rapid transit too, there would be more stops across San Francisco, and maybe one of it could be at the front of San Francisco State University? J

Proposed Muni Rapid Transit

On November 2007, Muni thought about adding double decker buses to the Muni fleet to make buses less crowded, but it did not happen. If it were to happen, it would definitely make buses less crowded during the mornings and the afternoon.

Also in 2007, hybrid buses were introduced to the Muni fleet, making less pollution for our environment. (See my previous post, New Buses, Old Buses).

Just recently, Muni introduced the All Boarding system, which means that as long as you have a valid proof of payment, you can board through the front door or through the back door. (If you do not know the types of proof of payments, please read my previous blog: Risk it and a Ticket).

I found a very cool YouTube clip about Muni in the 1980’s, and the link is here:!

We care the most about fares because that is the thing that affects us the most, so will now list some interesting fare facts:

1912 – Fares costs only 5₵, but back then, with 5 cents, you can buy a loaf of bread!
1974 – Muni monthly passes were introduced for $11.
1992 – Fare costs $1
2003 – Fare increases to $1.25
2005 – Fare increases again to $1.50
2009 – Fare increases to present day $2

As you can tell, Muni fares have been increasing for a long time, and Muni is also improving by providing better services. Over these years, costs of operating a transit agency are increasing, so they had to increase their fares to adapt. Muni has changed dramatically over the century, providing us with services suitable to our lifestyles. Do you have some interesting facts about Muni’s history that you want to share? Comment below!


Friday, November 9, 2012

Are We There Yet?


We need Muni to be a reliable public transportation that will get us to our destination on time. If Muni cannot comply with that, then people will not ride Muni anymore. Muni tries to improve accuracy by installing GPS systems into the buses so that we can track when the bus will come. I find that being able to track when the bus will come is a good improvement, but sometimes it lacks accuracy.

For example, I was waiting for an outbound 27 bus, and the LCD display at the bus stop displayed that the bus will arrive after 9 minutes. And so I waited, but after 10 minutes, the display still read 8 minutes. After another 5 minutes, the bus finally came.

LCD Display of Next Muni to Arrive
Sometimes unexpected things come up, and I have experienced it. One day, very recently, an old man sitting in the front of the bus was a little bit unconscious because of the heat. He needed medical attention immediately, and so the bus stopped at 24th and Mission. The driver told us that we all had to get off and had to wait for the next bus that comes in 15 minutes.

The ambulance came shortly after the driver talked to the operator and the passengers rode the next bus. Of course, the bus was more cramped than usual, and people waiting at other stops also had to wait twice the time of the usual wait.

These incidents happen more than once, and it is hard to avoid. In 1999, San Francisco residents passed a ballot to make Muni to be on-time for 85% overall (The Bay Citizen). In August 2012, however, the accuracy of Muni dropped to 57.2% (SF Examiner).

So how exactly can I get to school on time with Muni coming late almost half of the time? What is causing Muni to be late?
Buses come late mainly because Muni is short of drivers, operators, and need newer buses that don’t break down.
It’d be easy to fix all of these problems, such as hiring more operators and training new drivers.

A New Driver in Training

However, these all cost huge amounts of money, and over all these years, Muni had several cutbacks on funding. We should be considerate about their current budget. But even though they had their budget cut, they still bought new buses that will go into use a little later (See my blog: New Buses, Old Buses).

With the new buses, I’m sure that there will be less incidents of having to fix buses, therefore improving their timeliness. More buses will be on the streets to carry passengers around San Francisco.

Do you have some comments about the accuracy of Muni? Comment below!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Frightening Near Death Experiences

The most critical thing that Muni must improve on is our safety, and how Muni will protect us and our belongings. Without ensuring the rider’s safety on Muni transportation, nobody will think that Muni is a reliable transportation we can take every day.

Every single day, fights and arguments are bound to happen on Muni buses, but it depends if you can see it. Often times, fights don’t get that serious, and the bus drivers stop them before it scares the riders. The bus driver, in the event of fights or arguments, has the responsibility to stop the bus and to end the fight.
Fights Occurring on Muni 

I’ve seen more arguments than fights. People usually argue for some unknown reason, and then they leave the bus. Usually, it doesn’t end up in a fight. However, fights do happen, and then it becomes more serious.

A few years back, when I was in High school, a YouTube clip was widely shared throughout the internet.  The clip was about a Chinese lady and an African American lady fighting on the 30 bus line because the African American lady wouldn't move her backpack over to let the Chinese lady sit.

The argument over the seat ended up as a fight, and some passengers tried to help stop the fight. The Muni driver stopped the bus, and then the African American lady left the bus. Although Muni should not have let that happened, there wasn't much that a driver can do. The best the driver can do is to call the police and then try to stop the fight.

The Fight that Occurred on Muni
In addition to arguments and fights, pick pocketing and robberies are also very common on Muni buses. According to ABC News, thefts on Muni increased from 102 to 150, and robberies increased from 38 to 57. Muni will need to prioritize our safety by coordinating with the San Francisco Police.

On the SFMTA webpage, it lists out some pointers that you can follow to avoid being pick pocketed and to be safe. I chose a few important key ideas to share on this blog.
1.     Stay awake. A pickpocket's easiest victim is a sleeping customer. If you feel drowsy, it's best to get up and stand.
2.     Stay alert. Be aware of your surroundings and the people around you.
3.     Avoid displaying large amounts of money in public.
4.     Carry wallets inside coat or front pants pocket - never in a backpack. (SFMTA)
These ideas are found in SFMTA’s website, and there are many more useful tips. 

In addition to the above ideas, the San Francisco Police is also working to lower crime rates on Muni buses. Police are riding Muni to inspect the buses and make sure nothing bad is happening. These policeman or policewoman ride Muni for about 5 blocks and then hop off. This is an example of an attempt to stop theft from happening.
Have you experienced some scary moments on Muni? I’d love to hear your story! Comment below to share!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Risk It and a Ticket

Risk it and a Ticket – Muni Cops and a Proof of Payments

Every time you board a Muni, you would have to pay $2 if you’re an adult and 75¢ if you’re 17 and under. But be sure to get a transfer if you pay in cash! That is proof that you have paid to ride Muni. I've seen people refuse the transfer after paying the fare, thinking that it’s just another piece of garbage. 

However, what they don’t know is that there are Muni cops going on buses and streetcars inspecting people for proof of payments. Proof of payments includes transfers (good for transferring between Muni for 1 ½ hours), passports (7-day or 30 day passes usually for visitors), and clipper cards. To avoid receiving a citation, have a proof of payment with you at all times! Later in this blog, I will inform you guys more about the clipper card.
Muni Transfers

Muni Passports

Muni loses about 19 million dollars because of the 8 ½ percent of people that doesn't pay what they should (SFGATE). That is the reason why SFMTA has Muni cops – they wanted to catch fare evaders and decrease the deficit. I’d say that Muni inspectors really changed a lot of people. People now fear getting a ticket of $100, so they now pay when boarding Muni.

Muni Fare Inspectors in Action

I've seen Muni fare inspectors numerous times, and are often seen in groups of three or more. Sometimes, they work with the police as well, because I've seen some police officers with inspectors in the Stonestown station. Most of the time, they are polite, and I've seen some nice fare inspectors that helped an elderly person pay their fare. 

Rarely do I see conflicts except for some arguments on the bus. People just usually go along with the fare inspectors and receive their citation. I believe that Muni fare inspectors are necessary to keep things in order, and to close the deficit gap as well. Knowing the different ways of how to pay is very important, and the most popular way of paying is by clipper cards.  

Clipper cards were introduced around 2010. At first, clipper cards were called Translink, and a limited amount of people used it. After Translink, it changed to clipper cards. Clipper cards are electronic passes that substitute’s paper passes. It is more convenient because it can automatically load money onto the card, so you will always have sufficient amount on the clipper card to deduct your fare. 

Clipper Card

Currently, Muni offers four different ways you can add value to the clipper card. You can add value by phone, website, vending machines, and retailer stores. Those that don’t use technology like elderly people will have to all or go to retailer stores to add value. Today, it is very widely used and if fairly convenient. Just tap your clipper card on the machine near the doors on the bus and you’re ready to roll! Do you have a story you want to share about Muni fare inspectors or clipper cards? Comment below! I’d like to hear your story!

Friday, October 12, 2012

My Artistic Side and Sanitation

Graffiti and Sanitation

As most of you have noticed, a lot of Muni buses have some sort of graffiti on the seats, windows, or even on the floor and the roof of the bus. These people vandalize the bus just so they can express their artistic side of them, but in the meantime, they are wasting taxpayer’s money. Muni uses money to clean up the graffiti on the buses, and Muni gets money from taxes, so they are wasting our money. 

Every year, Muni uses around 12.5 million dollars to clean, repaint, or replace parts of the buses that have been vandalized (SF Public Press). With that amount of money, we can use it to improve sanitation or replace the defective security cameras. We should not have to waste so much money on cleaning up graffiti.

Graffiti on Muni buses

I have seen people vandalizing Muni many times, but I have not done anything. Once, I witnessed a boy that was 15 or 16 years old take out a permanent marker and draw on the places where the ads were. However, I was too young at the time so I couldn't really do anything. But today, it’s much easier to report these people, and is much safer as well, because they won’t know.
Graffiti on where the ads are placed

As a result, Muni is cooperating with the San Francisco Police to catch people who vandalize Muni buses. Muni provides a number to text to if you see graffiti happening, so they can arrest those people that are wasting our tax money and to prevent these incidents from occurring again. The number is 415 – 710 -4455. This will then be reported to the police to catch these people. 
Graffiti on Streetcars
According to the SF Public Press, there have been 53 arrests since January 2010 to May 2011. If these efforts to catch graffiti vandals continue, we can lower the number of people vandalizing and decrease the amount of money we waste.

Another problem that arises is sanitation. We all hope that every bus is as clean as possible, with no crushed goldfish on the floor, strands of hair sticking in the corner of the window, or even gum stuck on the floor. Unfortunately, that will take time to improve. 

Just yesterday, I stepped on a piece of gum while sitting down. The gum, of course, stuck to my shoe. Well, I couldn’t really do anything but write on this blog how unhappy I was and hope that Muni will improve their service.  Hopefully, we can spend the 12.5 million dollars on creating a cleaner Muni bus rather than spending it on cleaning graffiti. 

That would really improve Muni service and less people will complain how dirty the Muni buses are. Until then, you can comment on this blog if you are angry how dirty the buses are!