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Guest Blogger Wednesday: Why I Love MUNI So Much!

IMG_3425.jpgBefore I moved to San Francisco four years ago, I had a car and I drove it everyday. I drove it to work. I drove it to go visit friends. I drove it to the store. Sometimes, I would drive it just to drive the dang thing. The year before I moved to the city, I started bartending in a nightclub in the middle of the Tenderloin three nights a week. It was essential that I had my car at that time because I was commuting all the way from San Jose and I wouldn’t get out of work until 3 or 4 in the morning. Every night that I worked in the city, I had to pay $10-$15 to park my car. I didn’t want to risk parking it on the street and get nabbed by DPT for street cleaning or take a chance getting my car broken into. There were some nights that I would end up only to make enough to pay for parking my car.

I had a ton of friends who already lived in the city and tried to keep their car. I heard all kinds of horrible stories about numerous tickets from the DPT, which would lead to the infamous boot on their car. Getting your car broken into seemed to be a common theme in every neighborhood of San Francisco, even if you didn’t leave anything out in plain sight. Sometimes, people would have the urge to just bust your window and then what could you do? And then there were the stories of people having a hard time finding parking every day and night. I thought about all the wasted money, heartache and countless hours I might spend looking for a parking space and decided that when I made the move to the city, I would make it minus my car.

On July 1st, 2005, I handed over the keys to my car to my little sister and drove my U-Haul to San Francisco. That’s right. I gave my car to my little sister. I figured since she lived all the way out in Tracy and was turning 16, she would have a lot more use for the car than I would.

I quickly discovered my love and fascination for all things MUNI upon my arrival here in the city as a full-time resident. I have always been a public transportation fan. I love taking the bus. It’s nice to leave the driving in traffic up to someone else while you watch the city go by and people watch.

My monthly $45 Fast Pass got me everywhere in the city I needed to go. I could ride any MUNI bus or train. I could even ride BART within the city limits. On certain lines (Holla 38!!), I never waited longer than 10 minutes for a bus. It was a whole lot cheaper than paying cab fare and a lot less heartache than having to deal with parking, traffic and fighting the DPT.

There are so many interesting characters that ride MUNI. There is the guy who rides the 9 while he brushes his teeth. Also on the 9, there was this one guy who projectile vomited all over the seat in front of him. I had never seen a bus clear out so quick before. There are the little Asian ladies who push you out of the way with their bags while boarding the bus. There are the obnoxious high school kids who take over the 49 as soon as they get out of school. On the 19, there is the male crackhead who sits in the stairwell and refuses to get up when people are trying to exit the back of the bus.

I can’t forget the stinky, overweight homeless lady who fell asleep on me while riding the 22 on my way to work. She made me smell like a homeless person long after I had gotten to work that morning. I will never forget the lady who snuck her un-muzzled dog onto the 49 and then proceeded to dump a can of dog food on the floor of the bus so her dog could eat it. Nothing like the smell of dog food on a packed bus with the windows closed. If I drove a car here in the city, I would miss all of these characters. My life might even become a bit dull and uninteresting.

Now, exactly four years later, on July 1st of this year, my monthly Fast Pass is going to increase to $55. There also won’t be anymore complimentary BART rides within the city’s limits unless I want to pay extra. There is even word that there will be cuts in some of the MUNI routes and frequency of some of the lines. I can’t say that I would miss the 74X Culture bus.

So I have to pay an extra ten dollars a month. I still don’t have a monthly car payment or have to pay insurance. I don’t waste my money on gas or car maintenance. The DPT doesn’t own my soul. To me, it’s still worth it to pay $55 each month to watch the city pass me by and observe all of the interesting characters onboard. This is why I love MUNI so much.

Kathleen Neves writes the Cielo Gold: San Francisco Bartender Blog, the National Bartender Examiner, and can be found on Twitter at @cielogold.

Photo Credit: Tangobaby via I Live Here blog.

Comments

Wait, wait, I knew about the price increase, but they're going to charge extra for BART rides within the city too?

I picked a good time to move out of the city (and out of the US, for that matter!). I currently live near Balboa Park and had a pretty sweet deal with unlimited BART rides for $45 a month. Oh well.

That's actually a small mistake that got past me when I posted this for Kathleen. The scheduled add-on for rides within BART won't happen just yet - Budget Committee Chair John Avalos proposed the add-on fee, but it hasn't happened yet.

It's a stupid idea that'll create more problems than it's worth. Right now if you use a MUNI pass on an SF-to-SF trip on BART, MUNI pays a little over a dollar per ride. This is because BART uses the right-of-ways the old Interurban used, and part of an agreement made between BART and MUNI - because BART runs through the city it takes some load off of MUNI, and BART built the tunnels MUNI uses. BART management indicated that the rate is paid, and how MUNI passes that on is up to MUNI.

Still it's a stupid idea because it's nickel and diming the passengers and making transit more of a pain in the ass.

Sorry about that. I should have researched the proposed BART add-on fee on my own. So starting July 1st it will be $55 a month for the Fast Pass and those unlimited rides on BART within San Francisco. Just a ten dollar increase for now.

I still love MUNI!

Absolutely no worries Kathleen! Press coverage of the issue was a bit confusing during the big budget brouhaha and even I wasn't sure until I wentto Bart hq earlier this month!

Muni could make this easier by simply not tacking on any surcharge ever but such a surcharge is likely to appear late this year. I sense another fail whale being conceived!

I *was* a big MUNI fan since 1976.

But about two years ago I started riding my bicycle more. It became my preferred way of getting around even before the recent price increases and curtailing of service.

MUNI isn't as bad as many say, but my bicycle is almost always faster and certainly cheaper...

I *was* a big MUNI fan since 1976.

But about two years ago I started riding my bicycle more. It became my preferred way of getting around even before the recent price increases and curtailing of service.

MUNI isn't as bad as many say, but my bicycle is almost always faster and certainly cheaper...

Glad we'll still be able to use the fast passes on BART.
I don't mind the increase in fare, but I wish it came with an increase in service instead of cuts.
Such is life.

I'd ride a bike myself, but I've had enough injuries over the years that make that not a very enjoyable way to commute or get around for more than an hour or so a day. For those whom it works for, I say go for it, but for the love of God, please be careful and safe out there! There are parts of this city that are like a war zone out there!

I love your enthusiasm for public transport. With all your tales of woe, any non-committed city dweller would see you fleeing for the suburbs! I love the T in Boston for many of the same reasons. The other day I got a treat to break dancing DJ Jazzy Jeff look-a-like buskers. Makes for a really fun commute sometimes.

Although I only visit The City occasionally, the main reason for doing so is Muni. We Southern Californians went through the Dark Ages (a.k.a. The Bad Old Days) from 1949 to 1981 (for San Diego) or 1963 to 1990 (for Los Angeles). When all other cities west of El Paso went all-bus, Muni kept the faith will electric railways. Perhaps if I rode it every day, it would get old, but even with the revival of traction in LA LA Land, and light rail blossoming elsewhere in the west, Muni still fascinates me. Of course, it's not like my first encounter in 1967, when some motor coach lines still used White gasoline-engine buses, and the rest were Mack diesels, the trolley bus system had an assortment of venerable builders' names, PCC's ruled the standard-gauge rails, cable cars had yet to acquire Disneyland-style lineups, and Elkton Shops in their pre-OSHA funkiness kept much of this running. Muni is physically, politically and psychologically "part of The City."

I don't think most people appreciate the "characters" as much as you do. These types of things are a big reason many people do not want to ride transit.

I don't think most people appreciate the "characters" as much as you do. These types of things are a big reason many people do not want to ride transit.

Regarding "characters" on Muni: Those of us who remember Dr. Demento on the radio (especially here in Southern Calif., where he did a live broadcast on Sunday nights) will probably have their "mental jukeboxes" playing "Another One Rides the Bus", "Weird Al" Yankovic's parody on "Another One Bites the Dust". It was not a song to inspire increased ridership on public transit, and when Al recorded it, we had nothing but buses south of the Tehachapis (heck, south of the "M" line terminal)

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