Looks Like the FAIL Blog Beat Us To It. Well Sort Of.
I was browsing on the FAIL blog on the iPhone and saw this. Saturday fun for everyone!
see more pwn and owned pictures
I was browsing on the FAIL blog on the iPhone and saw this. Saturday fun for everyone!
see more pwn and owned pictures
While cruising around YouTube this afternoon I found this interesting video of a high tech bus board in New York City.
It seems like every movie about The Future made from the mid 80s to the late 90s always had stuff like this to remind the audience "hey! It's THE FUTURE!" and usually that meant the present day, louder and more garish, and of course with lots of product placement. (For fun, re-watch Blade Runner and all those products for companies that have gone out of business).
Maybe some day we'll see these in San Francisco. I can think of more than a few creative uses for such things. At least, preferably for products that sound a little more interesting than "egg white flatbreads."
Well that certainly was an interesting evening!
Loyal Readers and N riders know that last night started off with a rather dramatic car crash (more photos here) that effectively shut down the N at rush hour. I was getting ready to leave the house to attend an event way out by the ballpark, and assumed I'd have enough time to board the Mighty N, but when I checked Next MUNI I saw this delay. I figured it was just a slow day, but then I heard the news copters hovering above our building, and then got a call from a Loyal Reader who had just seen the accident on TV.
So, being the N Judah Guy, I walked over and took some photos. I have to say, I'm astonished at two things. One, that no one was killed or maimed horribly, and two, at the pure stupidity of this accident. I mean, do we need a neon sign that says to folks "hey don't drive on the part of Judah Street you're not supposed to?"
It's even more annoying that the drivers of the N trains were tested for drugs and put on suspension when frankly, they did nothing wrong. If anything, they should be given some thanks for trying to minimize the damage and resist the urge to kick this driver's ass. Reading some of the comments at the Gate, I noticed a lot of people immediately blamed MUNI for this mess, when in fact it was clearly not MUNI's fault at all. People on the scene all agreed the driver was the fool, and to suggest the meltdown was somehow controllable by MUNI is bogus.
I know a lot of people who were stranded last night a result, and the only reason I got to the event I wanted to attend was because Stan the Quizmaster happened to be riding in a cab (which he got because he read the N Judah Chronicles and noticed the alert about the accident!) and shared it with me downtown. Thanks, Stan!
Eventually I got to Pete's Tavern by the ballpark, where I attended an event organized by Melissa Griffin for Dennis Hererra, our City Attorney. City Attorney Hererra was meeting with blog-type folks and answering questions about what his office does, etc. It was a nice event, and Mr. Hererra explained what his office does, which many people don't quite understand, confusing it with the District Attorney's office. I got to meet a few folks in person who I know online, such as Jim Herd (who does the awesome SF Citizen blog) and reconnect with blog pals like Beth Spotswood, the good guys at Calitics and Beyond Chron (who also won Best Local Website in the same Bay Guardian Best of the Bay contest we did!) And by the time the event was over the N drama was done so I headed home.
Little did I know that I'd be exposed to a human rights violation on the train. At Carl and Cole a gang of hippies got on board. Now, I'm not the easily offended type, and I did live in Santa Cruz for a while so I'm not one to judge based on looks or whatever. But this gang smelled bad. And I don't mean "oh they smoked some pot and whatever" I mean "Call the UN, the Geneva Convention is being violated." An elderly Asian couple and I made eye contact as we both couldn't hide our reactions. I mean, this was so bad, I got off the train early to get away from it.
When I did, a group of French (!) tourists got off with me. One of them asked me why I didn't arrest them or something. They assumed I was a cop because I got a haircut earlier that day and was dressed for work (which is when everyone thinks I'm a cop.) Which is fine, I suppose, but alas, I had no powers to enforce to clean up the N train.
Finally, I stopped off at the Blackthorn for a drink and ran in to Jenny, one of my trivia team-mates. I think I spent a little more time there than I planned, but it was fun. Eventually I headed home and went to bed, putting off any posts until now because I had to get up early today to work on something for work.
All in all a wild Wednesday. And usually for me Wednesday just means it's LOST night....
I was wondering why the N outbound was indicating such a long delay, and now I just heard the news helicopters and got several messages..it seems that there's been a serious accident on the N Judah line on 10th and Judah...I am about to leave for an event but will take some pics...follow me on Twitter for updates...hopefully no one was hurt.
No, really, I promise. This isn't going to become the MUNI Budget Blog. But at least for this month, it kinda has to be, because right now is when plans are being made outside of SF that will directly affect everyone in town, be they a MUNI rider or not. So now's the time to speak up, so we can at least not have a totally miserable day on MUNI all the time.
Today we read the latest Big Bad Budget Blues story in the Chronicle. As I was reading it, I remembered something and did a little digging in my notes. Eureka!
Now, I sometimes give Now State Senator Mark Leno a hard time, not because he's a bad guy, but because he was part of some budget votes that used bond (borrowed) money for daily expenditures, and cut transit funding. And yes, I understand that sometimes Good People have to vote for Bad Budgets and all, but still. We're the City That Knows How, remember?
Anyway, back in mid 2007 I remember going to a "blogger meetup" with his campaign at Martuni's and I politely asked what ideas he had on stabilizing MUNI funding, and I remember jotting down some notes on one that was actually pretty good - allowing counties to go to the people and take a vote to repeal the vehicle license fee cuts Arnie signed into law when he was installed as Governor.
If you think about it, it has some merit. After all, if Orange and Kern Counties want to be bastions of the "No We Can't" crowd, fine! Let 'em. If San Francisco would like to do something different, they'd have the option to put it to the people and let them decide.
Now, passing something like this a) in the Legislature and then b) locally would take some Herculean efforts. However, if Sacramento is going to keep jerking us around, we need the means to declare independence and do what's right for our city & county. If other counties don't want to do this, fine, but they should butt out of our affairs.
I for one, do not want to see streets become a parking lot full of traffic jammed cars where no one can get to work or school. I also don't see anything changing if we leave it up to someone else. It's time for San Francisco to put aside the rhetoric and apply some of that know-how to really do something. I really don't care who it is, but the persons that do will get rewarded because they did something instead of just talk about it.
If you don't think this is a good idea, fine. Then come up with an idea of your own and share it here or elsewhere. I'm not a "toss money at a problem" kind of person, but I do know that if you can't depend on stable revenue, you can never make a realistic budget plan, ever. So, come on San Franciscans! We've got plenty of smart people living here....
Today I had a business lunch downtown, and got to finally wait in line and try out Taylor's Automatic Refresher at the Ferry Building. I'd always wanted to go there, but never relished waiting in line, so it was nice to finally try it out. Sure you pay like, 12 dollars for a burger (and no fries). But it's a pretty good burger, all said. (Besides, I never finish the fries anyway so I didn't order any).
As my iPhone (aka iPhail, aka iLemon) has been driving me nuts with its horrific number of dead signals and whatnots, I finally called up Apple to find out if perhaps it was a hardware issue, and they set up a time for me to go to the Stonestown Apple Store to get it fixed. (Sure, I could have gone to the crazy one downtown, but the Stonestown store is a bit calmer). So I got on what I thought was an M-Ocean View at Embarcadero and headed out.
Now, there'd been a bunch of trains rushing throug the station and I was thoroughly engrossed in all things Twitter, so I wasn't paying attention when I got on and was in fact on an N. No worries - I was able to get on the intended M at Church St. Station since it wasn't too far behind, and all.
Besides, had I not boarded the N, I would not have seen that rarest of urban sightings - well behaved children on public transit. A group of little preschoolers boarded and you could tell in the faces of some of the riders they were worried they were in for a loud, sugar fueled festival of whimsy.
Absolutely not the case. These kids were polite, said "please" and "excuse me" and sat down quietly and talked amongst themselves. They listened to the teacher and you could tell everyone was just blown away by how orderly and friendly these little ones were.
I don't mean to case on kids or anything, but if you've ever been on the bus with say, a pack of unruly teens who keep pulling the "Stop Requested" cable for EVERY SINGLE STOP, you know what I mean.
Anyway, this was all well and good until I realized I was on the wrong train. But I managed to walk to Church and actually catch the M that was a few minutes behind anyway. I made it to Stonestown where the good people at Apple determined that in fact, I did have a totally frakked iPhone. 10 minutes later I had a brand new one, and since I backed it up before I left the house, all would be well once I got home. Add in a quick visit to Trader Joe's and the PO Box on the way back via the 44, and all was pretty good after all.
Also, thanks to all of you who called Speaker Pelosi's office...I'll be finding out how things went in the House today, but no matter what, it's better to find something one can do to help out a little, since in the end we own MUNI.
The vigilant people at SF Streetsblog alerted everyone to an important amendment in the House that might help transit around the country get less screwed, but it's going to need all the Loyal Readers to take a few minutes out of their day to call Our Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and demand some action out of her office.
The amendment to speak out for is the Transbay Blog reports the amendment went through. It's not as great as the one sponsored by Rep. DeFazio of Oregon, but hey, it is better than nothing.
To paraphrase Bart Simpson, I always knew someone would finally come out and say this, I just wasn't expecting it here....while Green Gavin is far away in France, oohing and aahing over high speed rail, and demanding billions for a mile's worth of track in a feud with Judge Quentin Kopp, the Overhead Wire points out Green Gavin's impending MUNI FAIL.
High speed rail can be a great thing, and if the bonds approved by voters ever actually get sold, will one day be a boon to the economy, et al. The problem is that Green Gavin, like so many local politicians (and those sent to Sacramento) are perfectly happy to ooh and ahh over sparkly technology far away, but do nothing to make the day to day ride on MUNI one bit better. It's especially troublesome to see the Mayor globetrotting and campaigning out of town at a time when a huge fiscal crisis is hitting the City.
Don't forget, when we voted on a charter amendment in 2007 to amend MUNI, Green Gavin flip flopped in favor of parking spots for cars, before ultimately doing nothing. And now, when the Transit Effectiveness Project is likely to go the way of the dinosaur, where's Gavin? Lobbying the Obama Administration for some real help for MUNI? Asking our City's legislators to not sell transit down the line?
Nope. He's off in France. Or somewhere. Lucky him - at least he doesn't have to wait 45 minutes for the bus like the rest of us!
For some time now we'd been kicking around the idea of an N Judah Pub Crawl, but it wasn't until Loyal Reader Carla offered a few weeks ago to assist with the preparations (she has Jedi level event planning skills) that I was able to really do it right.
Right now we've tentatively planned it for just after Tax Time in April, when the weather is nice and we won't conflict with too many events. While I've got a few places in mind, I'd be interested in hearing suggestions from you as to places you'd like to see featured. And of course we'll feature a commemorative T shirt designed by Mason Powell, to celebrate. Post your suggestions in the comments or feel free to drop me an email!
It may seem like a long way out, but my experience with events (as well as other things I'm doing for work) made it clear if I didn't give it some lead time, it wouldn't come off with the kind of fun and flair an NJC event should have!
As we all know, stable funding of MUNI has led to many of its problems today. By relying on income sources that vary wildly from year to year, MUNI ends up having too much when it doesn't need it and not enough when it does.
Worse, we've had a state Legislature dedicated to cutting transit funding (despite voters wishes to dedicate stable funding for transit) every year. Now, when things are bad, Democrats in the Legislature and the Green Governor want to kill all transit funding, even though you pay taxes that are supposed to pay for that. Ah, genius.
But all is not lost. If you're not already checking out Streetsblog SF, you really should, because between them and the Overhead Wire, they've been keeping a close eye on the Obama Administration's so-called "stimulus plan," which many have critiqued so far.
Today, they had some excellent links to the miserable state of transit in the US and offer ways you, the citizen can bug Congress, give 'em a dose of reality, and reduce the pain somewhat for our beleagured MUNI and BART.
Too often when these issues are reported, the armchair analysts simply assume there's "too much spending" and that "spending needs to be cut." Stupid at best, ignorant and dangerous at worst. We have been cutting MUNI's budgets for decades now, using parlor tricks and gimmicks to keep the system running, and you've seen the effects.
We've cut training for drivers way back (hence accidents and rude drivers.) We've cut back on maintenance (which is why your N Judah trails parts on the way to Ocean Beach or 19th Avenue). And we've always relied on gimmicks like "parking tickets" as a revenue source, something they were never intended to be. Finally, we've been sending a lot of our tax dollars to Sacramento, and Sacramento is sucking them up, using the money to pay for things like debt service on bonds instead of what the law requires (because voters love to vote for "free money" for their pet projects).
It's time to restore a bit of sanity. Yes, MUNI can be run better, and no, it won't happen overnight. We are starting to read more about what it truly costs to run the system properly - now it's time to find solid ways to pay for it.
Put it another way - if it takes 5 gallons of gas to get you to where you're going, and you only have 3, you can play with the tire gauge, lighten the load, try to drive down as many hills as possible and so on, but in the end, if you don't have enough gas, you won't get where you're going. All the gimmicks in the world won't change the fact you're out of gas. Same goes for MUNI.
UPDATE: To be clear, this is nothing unique - the LA Times writes about mass transit misery around the country.
I was browsing through Google Reader during lunch and saw this TroubleAlert from the SFMTA pop up - yet again the beleaguered Church/Duboce intersection is causing some delays.
Hopefully the plan to fix this part of the line will start soon....there's been a lot of work put in to try to make this intersection work better for everyone!
The good folks at Zazzle.com have just announced a new discount code in honor of Inauguration Day - $4.40 off any shirt in the Zazzle store! All you need to do is go to our Zazzle store, pick out any shirt for sale (you'll find both N Judah and Adama for President items there), and enter the code 440SHIRTSALE for your discount. (FYI, Zazzle.com is located right here in the Bay Area, so if you're a local, you're ordering from a local business!)
And, while you're buying your shirt, why not send President Elect Obama a note the next time you get hit up for a donation asking him to give transit infrastructure help with that bazillion dollar "stimulus" package, instead of letting his transit secretary shovel it all to his campaign contributors?
God Bless the LA Times. Even in their crippled state, the victim of bad business decisions and a slowing economy, they still manage to publish succinct editorials that say what needs to be said in just a few words. Their recent editorial on the abysmal cuts the Democrats and the Governor are making to mass transit which will result in permanently taking away money voters wanted to go to roads and transit, and instead spend them on whatever. Our friends at the Overhead Wire made some good points on this today, too.
It is especially embarssing when represenatives from the City That Knows How, the City that proudly proclaims its "greener than thou" status, vote for these budgets. I've heard the excuses but in the end, consistently cutting money away from MUNI and BART in good years has done a lot of damage. Now that times are bad, the situation just gets worse.
Today's Chronicle reports on the "higher fares/less service" drainpipe BART is about to spiral down with, but Loyal Readers know this is nothing new to us, as we've been talking about this for a while now.
That said, I think we have an opportunity as citizens and MUNI riders to try and minimize some of the damage. Now, I'm not suggesting we just wait while the Federal Government magically comes in to save us from all our woes (because they can't), but I think it's time we asked our legislators in Sacramento to be a little more creative in finding ways to fund transit with stable revenue sources. If San Francisco's legislators can't show the way to our fellow citizens on basic issues like this, then maybe it's time San Francisco stop telling the rest of the state how to live.
I for one, would like to think that our legislators have some good ideas, and just need some encouragement to try them out. Here's a wild one - if the State is going to take tax money for transit away from transit, can we all get a discount on our state taxes and instead direct the money locally to our own MUNI?
Crazy idea, but I'm waiting to hear of a better one. In the meantime, why not take note of our Legislator's websites and contact them with your concerns about the budget? Let's give them the benefit of the doubt for now that they're willing to consider something besides killing MUNI, BART, and local government, and are willing to go out on a limb with some new ideas. Here's links to their web pages - next time MUNI has a failwhale, give 'em a ring:
UPDATE 1/19Don't hold your breath waiting for Washington DC to help out much. It seems that transit aid in the stimulus package has taken a major cut, in favor of cars and roads. According to the article, both the Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader, as well as the Obama team, had a role in cutting down transit help that would fund the kinds of infrastructure repairs agencies like MUNI struggle with in an age of cutbacks.
Maybe you should send a note to the Speaker and ask her when the last time she rode MUNI was....
The MUNI TroubleAlert and SFist report that there is a demonstration planned for 5pm today at the Civic Center Station. It is not clear what the nature of the demonstration will be (i.e. peaceful protest, or riot), but you can expect delays coming home through the downtown tunnel, and well , just about anywhere near Market Street.
This may or may not turn ugly, but your best bet is to try and keep up with the news, and if it starts to turn violent and dangerous, stay away and take another route home. While it is unclear if the intent of the protest is to turn violent or not, this posting, which describes rioting and hurting people as a "party" would indicate some people seem to be glad a person is dead, since it now justifies hurting people, trashing businesses and publicly owned buildings, and making death threats against bloggers. Sigh.
Anyway, if you see anything, or take any pictures, post a link in the comments...
The MUNI TroubleAlert is throwing up warning flags galore about Saturday, January 10th about possible disruptions due to "demonstrations" but as usual doesn't really make it clear what those demonstrations are about, and if they're likely to be violent etc.
I don't think MUNI is referring to the No Pants Subway ride, so whatever is going on , just be careful!
If you're not already familiar with Improv Everywhere and its local affiliate here in San Francisco you're missing out on some rather entertaining events people can participate in. (One of my all time favorites was this musical, staged at a Southern California food court mall last year.) They also had an event at Dolores Park last fall that was really cool too.
Anyway, this Saturday on BART and MUNI they'll be organizing the 2nd annual "No Pants Subway Ride".
In times like these, it is kind of cool to see some folks willing to do something kinda silly, kinda funny, and provide a little bit of participatory entertainment in an otherwise boring day. I just hope the weather warms up for 'em a little - I can't imagine being without several layers of clothing when it is this cold.
If you happen to run into the event, take a picture and post a link in the comments!
There's been no shortage of news, good and bad, these last few months. The economy is spiraling downward, and state and local governments are following down the drain as well. MUNI continues to provide plenty of drama for daily commuters, and that sense that no one is at City Hall minding the store continues.
That all said, 2009 might not be so bad for those of us who rely on MUNI, and those of us who need to be able to get around, be it by car, bike, or walking. That's because despite all the doom and gloom, there are some opportunities for us to take an active role in making things work for us for a change. None of it will happen, however, unless folks are willing to own the problem and start demanding real solutions.
There's a new President coming on board in a few weeks, and there's lots of talk about "investing" and "projects" and the like. Our Speaker, who happens to hail from Our Fair City, no longer has the excuse of a presidential veto to keep her from playing a real role in making things better. That said, neither the Obama Administration, or the Congress will do anything different unless we start sending a strong message that blowing tax money on make-work projects won't help the country.
Only by investing wisely in projects that will have a long term benefit and move this country forward will we see any change. More federal money, spent wisely, could take a lot of the cost of infrastructure off of MUNI's shoulders. This will only happen if people put a lot of pressure on Obama and Pelosi to do the right thing. Streetsblog SF and the the Overhead Wire have been doing some great work covering these issues in the media - start there, and then let the emails and phone calls fly.
The same cannot be said for the State of California, which has elevated looting to an art form. The Legislature (including two of San Francisco's legislators) have consistently voted for huge cuts to MUNI, taking money voters wanted spent on transit and roads, and repurposing it elsewhere. Now, when times are really bad, more cuts are on the way. And those bonds you voted for? They're not getting issued - the economic crisis is making sure of that.
Doom and gloom. But wait, there's hope! Incoming Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has been one of the few politicians who literally walks the talk on mass transit, having been a Fast Pass holder for years and who relies on transit in his daily life, much as the rest of us do.
Assemblyman Ammiano can't singlehandedly change the legislature in one term, but it may be an opportunity to have someone in Sacramento that can explain to the geniuses up there why their half-assed budgeting has been so harmful. And again, people need to stop accepting the nonsense these folks pump out, and ask them to do their jobs, not just spend time running for office.
Most importantly though, we live in San Francisco, which has a lot of faults, but in the end it's a nice little city to live in. Sure, our Mayor may be absent as he seeks greener pastures, and yes, the Board of Supervisors and the MTA might drive us nuts once in a while, but in the end it's our city, not theirs.
Every day we have the chance to help make this city just a little bit nicer, be it from simple politeness on the bus, refraining from using the 1-finger salute in traffic, or finding a better way to air our differences. It's not easy when times are frustrating, but I've realized lately sometimes dialing down the noise, and trying to replace it with even the smallest gesture of goodwill can reap real results.
Finally, we are lucky to live in a city where we have a veritable life in San Francisco.
It says a lot about a city like SF that so many people are interested in contributing in their own way via blogs and elsewhere, and in the end that's why I prefer to stay and fight instead of giving up and moving elsewhere. Happy 2009!
This week, tens of thousands of folks will be descending upon downtown for Macworld, for what very well may be the last one ever, now that Apple has said it won't be participating in the future. For now, though, in addition to our normal level of MUNI & BART riding folks, we'll have more people added into the mix. For those of you new to our City, here's a simplified guide for MUNI and BART so you can get around and avoid paying huge parking fees and fines.
Macworld is located at Moscone Center, which is just a couple of blocks from the BART/MUNI Powell Street station downtown. If you follow the Wikipedia link, you'll find that pretty much every major bus and train line hits this station (or right above it on Market Street) so it's an easy way to remember how to get to Macworld. If you're staying in a hotel downtown, chances are you can walk to the show, and if you're staying a bit further away and it's raining, you have at most a short bus ride to get to the event.
If you're staying outside of San Francisco, you can either take any BART from the Peninsula or the East Bay to Powell Station, or you can take Caltrain and take an N-Judah train downtown once you're in the City.
There are some other lines that drop you off closer to the action, but after years of giving out directions to tourists I've found that this has been the easiest way to explain where they need to go, without a lot of gymnastics.
Paying for your ride: MUNI discountinued the old weekly pass, so your options are somewhat limited. You can either buy a monthly pass for $45 (which also allows for free rides on BART within the City of San Francisco) and unlimited cable car rides. However, you can also buy a MUNI Passport, for 1, 3 or 7 days. The advantage? Much cheaper than a monthly. The disadvantage? You can't use them to ride BART for free.
A special warning about BART ticket machines: Whatever you do, do not put a $20 bill in the machine to buy one ticket! You won't get all the change you're due, and unless you plan on keeping that ticket and using it until it gets down to $0, you'll be stuck with it. Instead, use a debit or credit card, and buy a ticket for the exact amount that you need. Or, use a bill changer to break that $20 so you're not stuck with an expensive souvenir BART card.
Likewise, if you're paying cash for MUNI, you can use a BART machine to change a dollar into quarters. Totally counter-intuitive, yes, but all you need to do is press the button in the lower right hand corner that says "change $1", then put in your dollar, and you'll have quarters! Yes, the UI and all sucks ,and frankly if someone hadn't pointed this out to me years ago I wouldn't have necessarily known it, and yes we're aware the City that Knew How blows in this regard, so just know we feel your pain, and use your knowledge to impress coworkers.
Since you're attending Macworld, you likely have an iPhone. If so, you should consider purchasing Routesy SF, which is a great way to find the nearest bus stop and figure out when the next one is due to arrive. Or, you can opt to use NextMUNI for free via Safari.
Likewise, you can get a free iPhone app for BART, iBart and use it to help plan your travel.
A word on taxis in San Francisco. You may be used to other cities, where cabs are abundant, and charge a reasonable fare. In San Francisco, you will pay much more than you would in say, New York City, and that assumes you can even get a cab when you actually need one. Convention time usually causes the cab system to freak out, and the difficulty of getting an expensive cab at rush hour, etc. just gets that much worse. Your best bet is to catch one at a hotel and hope for the best if you're trying to get back later in the evening.
As I said before, this is a very simplified guide to MUNI and transit. I'm aware of other options, but I find that for most people these options seem to work fine. Big conventions tend to overwhelm San Francisco no matter what, so you need to plan a little extra time if you're relying on mass transit.
Driving a car is not much better - if the streets are already crowded, having more cars will ensure it moves even slower. Plus the cost of parking meters, garages and tickets is through the roof - a friend of mine once actually spent more on parking than on a car rental, per day! So have fun at Macworld, enjoy all the freebies, and stay safe on MUNI.