Before 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.