Tuesday, November 13, 2007
MUNI is evil....
But that should come as no surprise to people here. San Francisco has several public transport systems: BART, MUNI and the cable cars, as well as Caltrain and Greyhound for longer trips. So MUNI includes the light rail and the buses, and for $45 a month, if you hurry, you can buy a pass which gives you access to all MUNI, cable cars and BART within San Francisco. I usually take the bus to work, as it stops right outside or a block away from my work, depending on what mood the bus driver's in.
The bus I take, number 30 (and sometimes the 45) has been shown to be the slowest bus in all of San Francisco - in rush hour, you can walk faster than the bus drives - 3.7 miles an hour! So a bus ride that would take 10 mins to drive, takes more like 45 minutes on the bus. The worst part is 3rd Street, where my work is - it is the main street that comes off the freeway and is very very slow.
The other thing is that the buses are crowded. Very crowded. Think the subway in New York, and you'll be close. The amount of mornings I've squeezed onto the bus and hung on so that I'm hanging over the door, and almost get squashed by the door as it opens! Sometimes the drivers will kick you off if they think it's too full already, but most don't care if there are people standing at the front. You also have to give up your seat by law for someone who is disabled or elderly, which is probably a good idea that it's law! So the front of the bus especially is populated by little old Asian women babbling away to each other, and stern old Asian men gripping their purchases tightly, and cramped people gripping the bar above their heads, wearing their iPods and swaying sharply every time the bus screeches to a halt. Which is often.
(On a random note, I don't know if it's just where I live, and that the bus comes from Chinatown, but there are so many Chinese people here! As in, way more Chinese people than Caucasians, on the bus at least. I barely see Hispanic people here, compared to the huge population in San Jose which is more Hispanic than anything else!)
But, part of the reason the bus is so crowded is that I get on at the stop 2 blocks away from the main Chinatown stop, in another stop which is part of Chinatown as well. People cram onto and rush at the bus - they push you so hard at the mid-Chinatown stop that you actually get pushed back into the bus! It's true that the Chinese people have no concept of the queue. Chinatown really is a lot how I imagine China to be - but that's another post.
Anyway, I'm telling you all this because something funny happened on the bus tonight. Oracle is currently hosting a huge conference at the Moscone Centre, so there are lots of people, lots of traffic, and two huge LCD screens at the end of huge Oracle marquees, all over the middle of 3rd Street. So the buses are very slow - I had to wait an extra 20 minutes the other day for a bus, when I was already late for work, which was quite unusual.
So I got on the bus after work, and we lurched off. A few minutes down the road, a taxi was blocking the bus lane. (Taxis are awful - they drive so dangerously. I'm scared of them. They run red lights all the time, and don't care if they hit you.) So the bus driver, who is this African-American woman, starts getting mad at it and telling it to move. I thought she was just voicing her frustration, but no. After 2 seconds, her voice came out of a loudspeaker on the bus! I didn't even know that buses had them!
A few more stops later, the bus driver once again voiced her frustration, telling the car ahead, "Don't you f......... badmouth me!" and all sorts of statements! It was very funny to hear her saying this, and then hear it coming out of the loudspeaker two seconds later. The whole bus started laughing.
Later on, the bus driver starts yelling at someone who cuts her off in traffic... and once again it comes out of the loudspeakers. It was rather incongruous - I'm not sure I would want my angry ramblings broadcast for other people to hear....
There's a rule on MUNI that says you can't get on at the back door, but lots of people do - both to save time, or space if there's none, or, to get away with not paying for your ticket. MUNI has a terrible ticket collection rate, so I'm sure a lot of the people who get on at the back don't actually have a ticket. So, back on the bus, a guy tries to get on at the back door. The driver stops gets out her loudspeaker again and tells him to get off the bus and get back on at the front . He refuses, other people start yelling at the driver to just go, that its discriminatory since she didn't tell people to do that at other stops, that it's rush hour and they would pay the guy's ticket just so she would go again, etc etc. Finally the guy got off the bus and on again at the other end, and we lurched off again. I will not miss the MUNI commute when we leave.