Changes Coming to the NJC!

Thanks to talented professionals who know what they are doing, I’ve managed to migrate my entire 9+ years worth of posts into WordPress! This will not only ensure that I can blog on non-orphanware, it also means it will be easier for me to update via iPhone and make changes so the blog looks like something from 2014, not 2005.

It will take me a little while to get all the artwork and other assorted add ons done, but WordPress is easy to use and I’ve had some experience with it doing the Muni Rider Voter Guide in 2010. I’ll make a formal announcement soon!

Winners and Losers in This Week’s Muni “Sick-out”

This week Muni’s owner/riders had the distinct displeasure of enduring a “sick out” by Muni operators on Monday & Tuesday. Operators cannot strike by law, but there’s no law against “everyone” calling in “sick” at once*. This avoids going to jail for an illegal strike, but causes all the uncertainty of a strike on Muni owner/riders. To put it mildly – it sucks.
You can read Joe Eskenazi’s assessment as to why the sickout was called on by Muni operators – a contract that was voted down on Friday that members did not like. Under the rules of Proposition G, if a contract is voted down, management and the union go to arbitration.
Thus, there was already a mechanism to resolve differences, and the “sick out” was not necessary. Despite this, the membership of Local 250-A – TWU thought that a “sick out” would be a great idea and somehow get public opinion on their side.
To whom I would simply ask “How’s that working out for you?”
So, let’s go through who the Winners and Losers are in this (hopefully) 2-day “sick out”:
1. Muni Operators Union, TWU Local 250-A: I have no idea who’s in charge at this union, and it seems more and more like the membership and the leadership are from different planets, since the membership overwhelmingly voted down this contract AND came up with the brilliant idea to have virtual strike (ok “Sick Out”) on a Monday. I’m sure this appealed to some who get off on the idea of a “militant” labor movement, but the sad fact is that it has blown up in their faces.
While $37/hour sounds like a lot of money, try living on that in the City, or the greater Bay Area, with a family. That “big wage” suddenly isn’t a lot of money anymore, and if you make less than that and still manage to pay rent in town, I don’t know how you do it. That said, whatever legitimate grievances they had were eclipsed by the “screw you” tone of this “action.”
Few people know, or care about the intricacies of the “labor movement”, because most people don’t work for a government agency. They instead work in the private sector, which has an extremely low number of union workers, even in Allegedly Liberal San Francisco.
As such most owner/riders don’t have a lot of sympathy for the operators (who have “pensions” and “pay raises,” things alien to the private sector), especially when they are late to work or school because the buses aren’t running. They instead see a group of people getting something they are told they can’t have at their own job. Those who ride a shuttle bus to the suburbs have no dog in this fight, so they don’t care one way or another.
If the goal was to unite “the workers” with “the people,” they failed.
If the goal was to “stick it” to management, well yes, they did make some people’s lives miserable for a few days, but no one is getting fired as as result of the action.
The SFMTA Board will still be in charge, regardless of how well they are doing. The Mayor and the Board of Supervisors (who appoint the SFMTA board) will perpetuate a failed status quo, and will feel no pain at the polls later on. Once again, the “sick out” FAILED.
2. The SFMTA: If the agency’s leadership wanted to pile on another stinker on the backs of Muni owner/riders, well all I can say is “well played” People such as myself who actually pay attention to these matters knew that this next contract would be a difficult sell to operators, based partially on past negotiations where operators did have give up raises and other assorted benefits to help the agency in troubled times.
You simply cannot ask a group of workers to take a hit over and over, all the while bragging about increased revenues and ridership and having a very well paid management & middle management. Now, the budget of the agency is not as simple as most people seem to think, but it’s not like the SFMTA didn’t see this coming in one form or another.
We kept being told that Proposition G was supposed to fix some of these labor issues, but for some reason, once again we vote on something, and yet somehow it “doesn’t work out.” I’m sure there’s many “excuses” management can come up with, but they are very very well paid to solve these problems for us, the owner/riders. Besides, when you’re sitting outside waiting for a 44 O’Shaughnessy that’s not arriving, all the excuses in the world don’t mean a hill of beans to you.
Combined with so many articles about Muni mismanagement in the SF Weekly, and an overall distrust of the agency, I’m sure people will be voting in droves to approve new debt and new taxes for the SFMTA. In other words, another FAILURE to add to the “Loser” column.
3. Muni’s Owner/Riders: People in San Francisco live in the first city in America to own its own public transit system. The idea was to create something that would serve the entire public – not just some shareholders elsewhere – and that said agency would be obligated to serve the public first. Clearly that’s not the case right now, and there’s a myriad of reasons as to why, but you can read 9 years of archived posts on this blog to explain that.
That said Muni’s owner/riders were losers two ways:
First, anyone who had ANYTHING to do that required taking Muni (work, school, errands, doctor’s appointments, etc) were stuck with long waits and crowded rides. Not everyone reads The Internet all the time, so much of the owner/ridership was caught off guard by the “sick out” and the ensuing problems said action caused. Now, I’m lucky in that I’m self employed so I could re-arrange my schedule – most people aren’t so lucky. In fact, being late to work can be a fireable offense. So as I stated before, if the operators were looking for some “solidarity” with the “people,” they failed, and it was the owner/riders who paid the price.
Second, Muni’s owner/riders were losers in the sense that over and over again, as those who really should be stewards of their own public transit system, owner/riders consistently rewarded the politicians and the SFMTA management for poor performance. The sad fact is until people start losing their jobs because Muni is failing, it will continue to fail.
Case in point: in the 2012 elections we had several candidates for Supervisor who ran on detailed, articulate plans to advocate for better transportation in San Francisco. They lost to well funded incumbents (and other candidates) who ran on empty “feel good” platitudes. Trust me, City Hall got the message.
So long as owner/riders allow a loud minority of NIMBYs and Know Nothings to dominate meetings, blocking needed improvements, it will continue to fail.
So long as you, the owner/rider, are willing to complain on the stupid Internet, but aren’t willing to vote for people who are actually willing and competent enough to make specific changes to improve the transportation system in San Francisco, it will continue to fail.
This sounds harsh, but it’s the sad truth. Owner/Riders deserve and expect a transit system that is worthy of an expensive city, but they are also obligate to ensure that happens. Sitting on your ass and complaining won’t cut it.
Oh wait! I forgot!
WINNERS: No one.
Some Final Deep Thoughts:

Part of the reason I haven’t been updating in a while is that frankly, I’m tired of writing about failure, both with the SFMTA and the City of San Francisco. When I started writing this in 2005 (!) it was fun and interesting.
However, as I’ve often said before, one can tell a lot about how San Francisco truly operates when viewing through the “lens” of public transportation over the last 100 years. Such a view isn’t very pretty most of the time.
Nowhere is perfect, to be sure, but it says a lot when cities in the Third World can build better systems faster, and over a larger area than a super-wealthy city of 49 square miles. Likewise, when Los Angeles can move people around on trains and buses in ways we can only dream of should put us all to shame. This city is full of Good People of all ages, etc. who are smart and want something better. So what’s holding us back?
It doesn’t have to be this way, but blogs and know-nothing Twitter comments won’t change much. Until there’s a consensus that we can and should do better, San Francisco will continue to wallow in mediocrity, something which seems ok to most people.
Your move, SF.
*Fun Factoid: Any operator who doesn’t have a legitimate note from an Actual Doctor or Health Care Provider won’t get paid.
UPDATE: BIG high five to the San Francisco Transit Rider’s union for this post calling out the “Mayor” on his lack of support for transit. Good job, gang.

Taking a Trip to Los Angeles, Using Only Public Transit? Yes, It’s Possible….

Today I am departing for Los Angeles for a number of reasons, including some coverage of the California Democratic Convention (which I’ll post on my other blog if it’s warranted) and to just get out of town and enjoy a change of scenery.
My goal for this trip, transit-wise wasn’t so much to prove a point as to avoid having to rent a car, and since half my trip will be spent downtown, and the other half on LA’s Westside, I think this will be do-able. I’ve received some great advice from Twitter transit fan @ExpoLineLedger, and the LA MTA website has also been helpful. (To be clear, I am flying down there, but I’m relying on BART and Muni to get me to SFO, and a bus from LAX to downtown once I arrive.)
I will post updates for the transit portion of the trip on my main Twitter account, @njudah with the hashtag #njcla2014. Posts relating to the CDP Convention will have the hashtag #cadem2014, so if you’re not interested in that topic, you can filter those tweets out rather easily.
If nothing else, I’m looking forward to enjoying some sunny weather, check out various attractions, and get a french dip sandwich at Phillipe’s, all sans rental car! I’ll write a summary when the trip is over.
At a time when our own SFMTA seems to be sabotaging its own Transit Effectiveness Project which cost several million dollars and received hundreds of hours of public input, and a lack of leadership overall in San Francisco on transit issues, it’ll be interesting to see how another California city and region handles such things. Maybe there’s a few things we could learn from them, eh?

Two VERY Important Meetings That Will DIRECTLY Affect the N and The Neighborhood!

Ok, I know I said I was going to be on hiatus working to FINALLY move this blog off of ancient MovableType and on to Word Press, but there are two meetings that people should know about that will have a direct effect on their commute, both for the short term, and in the years to come.
The first, is a meeting to be held on improvements to Irving Street on January 30th, at the San Francisco County Fair building. This is significant, because Irving Street is due to be repaved in 2015.
The SFMTA is holding a meeting, following up on the outreach done to the public for the Transit Effectiveness Project back in 2007-2008. The changes proposed will have a direct impact on the ability of the SFMTA to speed up the N and make it more efficient, while at the same time ensuring safety for everyone who uses the streets and sidewalks in the Inner Sunset.
You can read the details here. If you cannot attend, you can always send in your comments to the SFMTA directly, as well.
Bear in mind that it’s important you speak up now and listen also to the extensive work already done on this – in order to be prepared for the 2015 repaving effort, the changes need to be approved in March 2014. Many changes have been made in other neighborhood with success, and no armageddon for local residents and businesses. Be sure to pay attention to this process as it goes forward.
(Please also note this has absolutely nothing to do with vague proposals about the future of Irving between 9th and 10th. That vague concept is a separate effort, and has absolutely nothing at all to do with improvements between Arguello and Irving/9th).
The second (and third) meetings you should be aware of relate to the Sunset Tunnel Trackway Improvement Project. You can read the details at the SFMTA website, in particular the weekend closures that will be necessary (and oh so fun!) during the project.
This is a big deal, so two meetings are scheduled: one will be held on January 29th at 6pm at the Electrical Workers Union Hall at 55 Fillmore Street.
The second will be held on February 6th at the Park Branch Library Community Room, also at 6pm, at 1833 Page Street.
Be sure to attend if you can, and hopefully we will see some interest from elected officials who represent the N Judah line show up and pay attention as well. Past experience has demonstrated that the SFMTA can always hold a nice meeting, but it’s the follow-up and the results that matter more – something that’s not always the SFMTA’s strong suit.
Remember, you are an owner/rider of Muni, and only you can demand better. You’re certainly not going to get any help, from the Mayor on down, without making sure they know you’re paying attention this time.

The Blog is On Hiatus But Will Return

I haven’t been updating this blog for a while now. There are several reasons: part of it has been a bit of burnout, as I’ve been following all things Muni for 8 years. The other has been that I’ve had things to attend to in Non Internet Life (aka Real Life) that has taken up a lot of my time. While I’ve maintained a Twitter & an Instagram account that’s part Muni and part personal, it’s not the same as doing a blog.
However, I am actively working to move this site off of orphan software and finally onto WordPress, which will allow me to post faster, and from my phone, as well as be easier to customize. Once that’s done, as well as some other things I’m involved with, I’ll resume the blog with some new energy and focus.
In the meantime, please peruse the 8+ years of posts in the archives. Thanks for your patience and support.

Celebrate the N Judah Line’s 85th Anniversary Next Week With A New Shirt Design! UPDATED

UPDATE: Zazzle pulled the design off our store, saying it violated their terms of service, which of course it did not. They are claiming that drawing pictures of streetcars somehow involved “copyright” which again, is BULLSHIT. Ironically, they didn’t pull the 80th anniversary design. Even worse, we already went through this bullshit once before, and after said dustup, they put all our stuff back online and admitted THEY screwed up.
Anyway, Happy N Judah Birthday, etc. I’m going to take down our Zazzle store for good this week, because I’m sick of their bullshit.
Did you know that our Mighty N turns 85 next Monday, October 21, 2013? Probably not. Well now you do, and there’s now a new series of products we have started producing to celebrate the Big Day.
First off is a basic T Shirt, which you can customize color, etc. You can find it here and there will be some more products (women’s t-shirt, a mug, etc.) posted later this week.
Whether you buy something or not, be sure to say “Happy Birthday” when you ride the N next week!

Enjoying Your Choco-Ration, Muni Riders? AKA How’s that 3 Car Muni Metro Working?

You have to give credit to Muni and the SFMTA for one thing – they sure know how to spin the news media in ways that would make the Ministry of Truth blush in 1984. There are many such examples but I’m going to focus on just one today – the news about “test runs” of three-car Muni Metro trains, as reported in various outlets, including The Examiner.
Now, to hear what’s said at SFMTA meetings, the press and whatnot, the MTA did oh so much hard work to make this pilot happen. Why, what a smart idea! Make the trains able to take more passengers when things are busy. What a great idea ! Huzzah for the shopkeep! Huzzah for the Salaries at Muni and the MTA!
There’s just one little problem with all of this ballyhoo for this allegedly brilliant idea – that is how the system was supposed to work in the first *&^%! place. Yes, you read that right. When the Muni Metro system was designed, trains were supposed to have the option of three, even four cars as needed. Really.
The only reason we haven’t had them since the introduction of the Breda cars in the 1990s? Well, that’s because the Breda cars, to put it mildly, suck. You can read about how our esteemed ex-Mayor politicized and screwed up this process, but what’s more important is the fallout for you, the rider – you got your services cut, and you didn’t even realize it. The Breda cars had serious problems staying stuck together in a more than 2 car configuration, and somehow, only now, has the MTA bothered to even try and fix the problem.
(Or, if they had, despite all the Salaries, they failed for 15 years).
So while I applaud seeing an extension of service, and hope to maybe see a 3 car train on the N Judah line someday, I’m not going to hold my breath, and I’m certainly not going to jump for joy when my choco-ration is “increased” by 10 grams when it’s actually been cut by 50.

Two Local Events You Should Be Aware Of: Sunset Boulevard Open House and A Really Big Garage Sale!

There’s a couple of events happening here locally that I thought people should be aware of. The first is a hearing by the Public Utlities Commision regarding the future of Sunset Boulevard. The goal is to find ways to better use the green parts of the street to manage stormwater, and to make other improvements to enhance this unique street in San Francisco.
The hearing will be held on July 25th from 5pm to 8pm at the Sunset Recreation Center, 2201 Lawton St (between 28th and 29th). For more details on what the meeting will discuss, follow this link to the PUC website.
The other event is a multi-family “flea market” being held at the “Yes We Can!” House at Irving and 6th. The market will be held from noon to 5pm and you get a free ice cream after your purchase. Attendees are encouraged to bring dollar bills and loose change. If you’d like to reserve a table to sell for $25, contact Barbara at 415 246 4748.

A Letter to BART Management and Unions: You Can Both Bite My Shiny Metal Ass

Bite my shiny metal ass.jpgDear BART Management and Unions:
Bite my shiny metal ass.
On Sunday, BART showed it what it can do when it does best, move a record number of people to one of the largest events of the year. Yes it was crowded, and yes it was hot, but BART still managed to get the job done safely and quickly. Well done.
On Monday, BART showed what it can do when it lets BS and pettiness get in the way of its core mission, and stranded hundreds of thousands of people trying to get to work, school, their doctor, the store, or ANYTHING ELSE PEOPLE USE BART FOR. Millions of dollars in productivity were lost, people wasted time burning gas in cars, and some may have even lost their jobs because they were late.
While people continue to insist that San Francisco and the Bay Area are a bastion of leftist thought*, if BART unions thought they’d win over the hearts and minds of workers, public and private for their cause, they have been sorely mistaken. That’s because the labor movement, particulary in the Bay Area, no longer covers a wide range of workers, public and private. Most “union” employees work for government agencies, and organizing at private workplaces is non-existent (see any organizers at Facebook or Google?)
Even with the talk of our area “avoiding” the recession, most people aren’t making a lot of money. They don’t get health care benefits. They don’t get raises. The BART unions have done nothing to explain themselves to the public that creates a sympathetic base of support. Rather, there’s a lot of resentment, because most people can’t see the median salary as “oppressive.” You know this list better than we do so please explain why you deserve our sympathy as we struggle to get around the Bay Area.
However, BART management, if you think this means I’m giving your asses a pass, think again. When I read that you paid out a $950,000 payment to FIRED CEO Dorothy Duggar, then gave her almost 2 years of salary while did no work, and gave her bonuses, all I can say is what the Hell is wrong with you people?
How do you give big pay and bonuses to someone whom you fired for not doing their job? We’re supposed to trust you to be the bastions of fiscal responsibility here? I can find better people, with more common sense, that don’t make dumbass decisions like that. Better yet, take 5 minutes out in the Real World, and see how this kind of nonsense goes with those who do Actual Work for a living.
Here’s a proposition – I’ll screw up BART and cost a lot less than a couple of million dollars**. Seriously. Hell, I’ll do it for 25% of that multimillion dollar salary. Sounds “fiscally prudent” to me!
Ok joke’s over. Time for a reality check: it is your consistent failures that have led us to the point where we build stations to nowhere that cost a fortune and don’t drive up ridership, and we have to keep bailing out your bad (and sometimes corrupt) decisions. So don’t think I’m buying you’re “it’s the greedy unions’ fault” line you’ve been pumping. You’re no better.
If you expect the public to support you when you demand more money to expand services and to do the maintenance and hard work required, both of you need to get off your asses, get back to the bargaining table, fix this sh*t now, or forever lose crucial public support to ensure that as we grow in population, we’re not stuck with a transit system from the 1970s in the 2020s.
Do it now. Otherwise, BITE MY SHINY METAL ASS.
Myself, and everyone else in the Bay Area.
*Let’s just jettison this idea anyone here is really a leftist. If this was say, Paris, or Brazil, we’d have mass riots. Here, we have mass bitching on social media, and it’s not “pro strike.”
**Remember Linton Johnson? The guy who was a total failure at his job as a PR guy for the agency? He was never fired. This promise is similar to the one I made in 2011 to do his job twice as good but for half the price. I can live on $75,000 + benefits. And hey, if I screw up, I can still get paid anyway!
Oh, and one last thing. The belagaured SFTMA deserves a round of applause for increasing service to try and help. They had to delay a major retrofit of the Automatic Tracking Control in the tunnel because of BART’s strike (an important repair.) I say BART should reimburse the MTA for its troubles during the strike. It’s only fair.