Last night I wanted to attend a party held by my web services provider downtown. Normally this would have been a short trip on the N to Montgomery St. Station, but alas, no N due to the shutdown. Instead I took my (normally) trusty backup – the 71.
Little did I know I’d be boarding a bus that would exemplify everything that is wrong with riding mass transit – from serious overcrowding, to deadbeats back-door boarding to avoid paying fares, to a herky-jerky ride, and of course being so crowded the bus literally smelled like a sardine can (and not in a good way). Needless to say, I was glad to get to my destination without being too late, and at least the party had free beers.
However, as we were lurching towards downtown on an over-crowded Haight Street full of buses and double parked cars, it served as a reminder of why the N Judah line was built in the first place, and why the decision to go to “trackless trolleys” in the post-war era has proven to be a near-fatal mistake we are still recovering from.
First off – why the N was built in the first place. Before the N was built, most of the Sunset District was made up of sand dunes. The City and various other interests wanted this area developed, but there was no easy way to connect with downtown and the rest of San Francisco, hence the N Judah line was conceived and built.
After having this long service interruption, and lenghty delays on crowded streets and buses, you begin to appreciate why people in the 1920s, upon hearing of the N-Judah’s approval called it a “God-send to Humanity.” Not only does cutting through the Sunset Tunnel save a lot of time, LRVs/Streetcars can carry a lot more people per vehicle than the buses can.
Likewise, you start to realize that the “cost cutting’ mentality that had us lose many of our rail lines in favor of the so-called “Trackless Trolleys” took away many well-used rail lines, and replaced them with buses that provide that inimitable herky-jerky ride one is accustomed to on lines like the 38 Geary, not to mention that said trolley buses don’t command the street presence a rail line does. It’s yet another example of how short term thinking, particularly by politicians, damage Our Muni for decades.
That said, once this N-pocalypse is over, the work done will make things ride smoother, and like dental work, it’s painful to get done but once it’s over, it’s OVER, and people in the future will be glad we put up with the hassles for a little over a week.