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SF Needs to Lighten Up: Belated Report on the Culture Bus Death March

shapeimage_1.pngI had a pretty fun weekend, actually, which started on Saturday with a trip out to check out the New People J-pop center in Japantown, a nice long walk from J-town to the Inner Richmond, and capped it off with a short ride on the last run of the infamous Culture Bus. I took a few pics here and there and tossed them on Flickr for fun.

Plenty of people have recorded this momentous occasion, including our pals at the SF Appeal, the Transbay Blog, and so on. Reader Jamison was there too, and took pictures way better than mine. Sure it was transit nerdy snarkville, but it was kinda fun. Riding it, however, you really do appreciate just what a half-baked idea it was. The line doesn't connect with BART or Caltrain, it's not likely you'd actually go to all the museums in a day (and yet you pay $10), and the end of the line is 2nd and Howard. How fun.

That said, we all realized how this could have been a fun, moneymaking thing for MUNI if the MTA board ever bothered to listen to anyone (we know they don't), instead of some brainiac from the society set. Not only were we on the cleanest MUNI bus I've ever been on, with one of the coolest drivers, but we also talked about how it would be fun to take over a bus with all of our friends and have someone give a guided tour or something about things we care about ("hey there's Absinthe where that guy from Top Chef worked" and so on).

Magically enough, just hours after our ride, the Restore the 74 bus was posted, and it's funny to see how upset some people got at this so quickly. I mean, come on, Internet, lighten the frak up a little! We're not all crankypants SFGate commenters! It's a fun site but it also makes a point:

Nobody knows where the Culture Bus came from or why it started running, but we’re glad that it did. And now that it’s gone, we miss it more than ever. So we want it back. It doesn’t have to be $10. It doesn’t need to make you wait an hour to catch it. It doesn’t have to be the city’s best-kept secret. In fact, it probably shouldn’t be any of those things. But wouldn’t it be great to ride a bus around town, pointing at the cool stuff and stopping to see the fun stuff? Yeah. That would be really great.

But this doesn't have to be a MUNI funded anything. Heck there are some pretty awesome MUNI lines (well maybe after the October cuts, not so many) that go all sorts of zany places and could use a photo safari/guided tour. It'd be fun. And cheaper than the Culture Bus of the Past.

Which lines would you want to try this on? Post your ideas in the comments.

Oh and for fun, here's me looking like a doofus on camera, and many others looking way cooler than me, courtesy of VidSF:

Comments

Nice to see you the other day Greg!

I thought the Restore the 74 site was hilarious and it was difficult for me to believe how someone could think it was serious. That said, I'm sorry that muni couldn't come up with decent ideas for this line. I mean, $10?! Way too much. And it didn't go to the Legion of Honor, which would be the one museum where paying extra would be worth it. Oh well, another failed and expensive experiment for the record books.

@Natalie: your point about the LoH is a good one. Getting there is the most awkward trip from many parts of the City.

@Greg: I think a case could be made for a guided tour on the 22-Fillmore route, which passes through a nice variety of historic neighborhoods. I may be biased, though—I used to love Sunday morning trips home on the 22 to lower Pac Heights after spending Saturday night in the Castro; the joyful exuberance of the churchgoing ladies' hats was balm to the hungover soul. :-)

It could have been a great idea; in fact, the suggestion that it go directly to the Legion is a fantastic one but MUNI just let the idea fail and die. So few knew about the bus and even fewer knew about its schedule (schedule - what schedule) and the price was way too high.
The city that knows how? Not hardly!
But renting the bus for a city tour and party - now that's a fantastic idea. Shall we take a vote on whether anybody at MUNI or City Hall follows through?

Mention of the Legion of Honor reminds me of the time (about 15 years ago) my wife and I were staying at the Days Inn near the Zoo; I was planning to ride the "L" into downtown and she wanted to visit the "Legion". I pointed out the bus stop for the 18, made sure she had plenty of coins (this may have been before fareboxes accepted $1 bills) and went off to ride streetcars. When I got back, I asked if she made it to the "Legion", and she told me that she did, but it took a while. She had gone to the bus stop and waited. And waited and waited. Finally she asked a local, "Shouldn't the bus be here by now?", and was told, "Yes, it's supposed to run every 20 minutes." When the bus did show up, local lady asked the driver why it took so long, and was advised that the line normally has five buses running, but there were only two in service that day--not enough drivers. She's not a transit fan like I am, and this didn't help matters any.

Getting to the LOH definitely requires a load of patience. The only bus route with direct service runs way on the far west side of town. I used to live near that 18 line, and my friends teased me that I live in the next county.

I never understood why the culture bus had to have a separate fare structure. $10 was way too high. I guess they wanted to discourage locals from riding it, but they ultimately discouraged everyone from riding it.

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