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March 5, 2011

The NJC Could Use A Few Good Guest Bloggers!

As I mentioned a while back, I'm going to be going out of town next week! I'm headed to Washington, DC for the "Pollies," the political industry's equivalent of the Oscars (or maybe more like the Golden Globes) from March 8th-11th.

While I'm gone, I won't be able to post regularly, since I'll be working at the convention, and one the way home (via Amtrak), I will have limited access to the Internet. So, it would be helpful if perhaps a few Loyal Readers who have already done so (or have always thought about) wrote for the blog while I'm gone. It's fairly easy, it doesn't have to be some big deep post about the intricacies of Muni finance, anything, even photos, just to keep the blog lively.

I'll be keeping notes and try and Tweet as often as I can on the train, but I'll likely write a few posts and post them when I return. For now, if you're curious, please contact me at the email address to the right, and let's see who we end up with!

October 27, 2010

Guest Blogger: The Realities of Having a Disability on Muni

This post also appears at Muni Diaries, but I thought it was important, and well-written enough that it deserved as wide a forum as possible. It's too easy when thinking about these issues to make them an abstract discussion of laws, acronyms and turf wars between political factions, when in reality we're talking about people and the common courtesy they deserve. Read on:

Having a mobility impairment is hard anywhere. The hills and public transit system unique to San Francisco add further complication for those of us with broken bodies. I'm missing half of my right foot because of a motorcycle wreck. I have a skin graft, nerve damage, and phantom pains in tissue that don't exist anymore.

I ride the muni every day. It's important I get a seat--if I stand all the way from Taraval at Sunset to Van Ness, the rest of my day is ruined. 20 minutes of balancing on a mangled foot causes anywhere from
12 to 72 hours of pain.

I use my cane every morning. When I can grab a seat, sitting in the handicapped seating is stressful. I get on the train in the Sunset/Parkside district and ride it all the way in. My disability is largely invisible unless I'm barefoot or wearing a skirt that exposes my scar-covered right leg. I get dirty looks from older riders when I
don't get up to allow them a seat; I look like a perfectly healthy 22-year old woman. I sit in the seat, repeat to myself "you're handicapped and have a right to sit here" and stare at my foot-and-a-half while clutching my cane with white knuckles. If someone asks, I explain that I am handicapped; that usually kills any discussion. Only once has someone decided to inflict themselves on me and made me "prove" my disability. After taking off my shoe and asking that my medical privacy be respected, the rider in question turned
beet red and got off at the next stop.

This morning, I wasn't able to get a seat. I spent the entire train ride being flung around by inertia. I fell into the person to my left three times. She yelled "Bitch" at me, then turned to look at me and saw my cane. She then muttered "oh, sorry" and moved 2 inches to the right. I tipped into the able-bodied young man that was in the handicapped seating. He looked up at me, saw the cane in my hand, made eye contact with me and shrugged, then turned up his headphones and pulled his hood over his eyes.

Continue reading "Guest Blogger: The Realities of Having a Disability on Muni" »

March 4, 2010

A Call for Guest Bloggers, Once Again

While it may not seem like it to you, the Loyal Reader, I've been spending a lot of time working on some changes to the site. A lot of it is technical BS (like figuring out how to migrate to WordPress from MovableType without nuking my site, commenters and permalinks in the process), and some are content related (more features), and so on. Etc. etc. etc.

A while back I experimented with the idea of having guest bloggers on the site and it seemed rather popular, so I've decided to bring it back.

Not only does it help me keep the site going when I'm busy and can't run to the computer/iPhone to blog and twitter Every Last Thing That's Going On, it's also kind of fun.

Posts can be on a wide variety of topics related, or semi-related to Muni or neighborhood type news. They should appeal to a diverse audience, be well written, etc. I'd also take photos for a guest post as well.

In the past, I've had people sign up to fill a specific Wednesday post, and it seemed to work well. If you're interested, please email me, and let me know what you might be interested in contributing and we'll see if we can work something out. I can't afford to pay people (although I wish I could) but if nothing else, I'll buy you a cocktail/beer/coffee/soft drink at the next N Judah party we have.

August 26, 2009

Guest Blogger Wednesday: One User's Experience With TransLink on MUNI

TransLinkCard2.jpgMichael Harper, who's guest blogged here before, offers up his personal experience using TransLink since its rollout earlier this year. Everyone's experience is unique - this is simply one person's experience and is meant to foster discussion to ensure TransLink can be its best. This is just one person's POV, and if you have a different experience with Translink on MUNI or BART, please post it in the comments! That's the point of free and open discussion on Guest Blogger Wednesday!

Having experienced the ups and downs TransLink from May to July, I feel obligated to stand up on this soapbox and tell you that the TransLink system is not ready for exclusive use. MUNI is talking about phasing out our beloved, tree-killing FastPasses in 2010. This gives TransLink a few extra months to get their ship in shape, but some of my experiences have led me to feel the system is inherently flawed. Let me go over the three months I used my card and then I'll follow up with what TransLink and MUNI can do to improve the system.

I switched to TransLink for simple enough reasons. As a full-time student who lived on campus, I did not leave the house often though to warrant an actual FastPass and I was sick of having to gather the odd change to make the $1.50 fare (Remember those days?). I felt that eCash was the solution for me. I found out pretty quickly that it wasn't that great of a solution. First and foremost, the most accessible way to add money to your card is with their website.

Continue reading "Guest Blogger Wednesday: One User's Experience With TransLink on MUNI" »

August 5, 2009

Guest Blogger Wednesday: Mason Powell's Guide To All Those Free Events This Weekend

SundayStreets.jpgGuest Blogger Wednesday gives readers a chance to regale the Loyal Readers with tales of the neighborhoods, MUNI and more. Want to Guest Blog? Email me and let's get you signed up!

These days, anything "free" is nice, especially when it comes to finding something to do on the weekend. And "fun" is nice too, especially after all the crazy accidents and other crazy stuff going on around town. We need a break! Lucky for us, we've got quite a few fun free events this weekend, all around San Francisco, and easy to reach by even our hobbled MUNI.

On Saturday and Sunday, we have two great street fairs, the Nihonmachi Street Fair in Japantown and the Pistahan Parade and Fair at Yerba Buena Gardens, which has like, a a bazillion MUNI lines that will drop you off over there.

Both are really fun (but I'm not eating a balut, no matter how much people keep telling me it's ok). Personally, I always like going to Japantown if only because it's got sort of a retro 60's James Bond in "You Only Live Twice" feel. (I keep looking for the Osato Chemical Concern logo...). All easily accessible by the 38 Geary and the 22 Fillmore.

On Sunday, we'll have all of Ocean Beach closed off for Sunday Streets SF from 10am to 2pm. Now, what you may not realize is that they're coordinating the street closure with the regular one in the park, so you'll literally be able to walk unimpeded from the Academy of Sciences to the Zoo, if that's your thing. Here's a map for your planning purposes. (Also, note that they're going to repeat this closure on September 6th). Hopefully the N won't die that day so you can avoid trying to find a parking spot way way out there.

Sunday is also the same day as the Inner Sunset Really Really Free Market, located at 6th and Irving. (This is the house Greg refers to as the "House Formerly Known as the Yes We Can House.") Located just a couple of blocks from the Inner Sunset Farmer's Market, they offer free anything, including ice cream. How can you resist that? And the N and the 71 will drop you off over there.

With so many fun free things to do, it's hard to choose, but it certainly makes the weekend more fun. And even on our broken down MUNI, you can get to most of these events pretty easily. So go out and have fun, everyone!

Editor's note: if you know of other fun events around town, feel free to share them in the comments!

UPDATE!: On Friday, August 7th, there's going to be a "Renegade Film Screening" on the N and other Muni Metro trains, from 5ish to 9ish that evening. Talk about MUNI street theater! Let's hope the cops and fare inspectors don't totally shut this down the way they did those kids a few years ago.

July 29, 2009

Guest Blogger Wednesday: Showdown on the 45...

If you read Greg's blog, you're most likely a Muni Person. I would preface my tale with lots of facts regarding my public transit street cred, but let's just say I'm a Muni Girl. I love Muni. Yes, love. It's a rather co-dependent relationship ...

Friday. Rush hour. The 45 mid-Chinatown. I have a seat (w00t) and I believe I was reading -Perez Hilton on my iPhone- Harper's. Minding my own business as usual. The bus, of course, is packed, but civil. Then, a 40ish white man gets on the back, where I'm sitting. He doesn't look particularly homeless or smell too foul, but has something of a transient look, wearing all dark colors and carrying a black duffel bag. I didn't notice him until he starts yelling at a couple of Chinese moms and their kids,

"Children shouldn't be eating on the bus! It's illegal! And they're being violent!"

Everyone else's collective reaction was something along the lines of "Whaaa?" I mean, the kids were eating an after-school snack or something. Fritos maybe. It's not like they had a picnic blanket out. As for violence, they might have been horsing around a bit, being wiggly and squirmy in their seats. Because, you know, that's what kids do.

But this guy was having none of it. He continues to yell at and berate the moms until one of them told him to "Be quiet and sit down."

"No! I won't sit down. You should make your kids stop eating. It's illegal." Then he continues,

"It's not because you're Chinese! I like Chinese! I love Chinatown." Everyone rolls their eyes. "But you can't have fucking violent children eating on the bus!"

"Hey! Will you just sit down and shut up?!" Offers a 20-something Marina Girl in the back, getting pissed that no one was stopping this guy from yelling at these kids.

"Who are you? You just got off your shift at the strip club? With all that makeup? You like being a hooker?" The smell of liquor on the asshole's breath starts to waft my way. He proceeds to go on about Jesus and some other totally unrelated things, finally spitting at the girl's feet and calling her a whore and a cunt. Which is where I got fed up. She called for the driver to come back.

Continue reading "Guest Blogger Wednesday: Showdown on the 45..." »

July 15, 2009

Guest Blogger Wednesday: Outerlands


I went down to 45th and Judah over the July 4th weekend to check out a new restaurant that has been receiving a lot of buzz in places like the Chronicle and even the New York Times. The restaurant, the five month old Outerlands, not only lived up to the hype, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a whole little hippie business district out there that I had never really appreciated before. I picked up some organic flowers at Other Avenues, the co-op between 44th and 45th, and I am contemplating a return trip out there to try out yet another raw food restaurant. I am not always so up on raw food, but I was a fan of some Café Gratitude specialties (if not the weird cult-like atmosphere).

I read that Outerlands was originally conceived as a soup restaurant, so I ordered a cup of carrot soup, and I also tried a salad with apples, pine nuts and cultured raw sauerkraut (whatever that is). The soup, which came with dill and garlic toast, was phenomenal, and the salad was out of this world. Everything was just unbelievably simple and delicious. The restaurant has great décor, too, with simple wooden tables and quirky wall art made up of what looks like pieces of driftwood. It all felt very calm and soothing, even as I was trying to contend with a wriggly ten month old who desperately wanted to get her hands on everything (in the end, I just fed her some carrot soup, which she loved).

I left Outerlands of two minds. I was glad to have a reason to set out for the far reaches of the Judah line. But I also found myself really wishing we had such a simple, hearty option in the Inner Sunset. Hey, that makes me think—now that the Café Gratitude space is empty, maybe Outerlands can move inbound?

Debra Solomon lives in the Inner Sunset with her husband and baby girl.

July 1, 2009

Guest Blogger Wednesday: MUNI Memories Through The Years

imageforrowenoftc.JPGAs many have regaled us with their infinitely different stories and homage to Muni, I have been at a loss for words when I was reminded that my date to write was around the corner. (So imminent, in fact, that this post was actually completed the day of.) The individuality of inspired tales were more impressive to me than writing something myself; it shows the dedication, despite many complaints, to a transit system that serves a seven-to-eight square mile metropolis.

So what, then, is my homage to this wheeled wonder? I’ve sat here thinking about that with the cursor blinking monotonously at me, trying desperately to compare my interest in Muni to all the others that photograph, write and tweet about, speak of, and regale many a horror story about. Is it the history, the people, the endless amount of epic fail? I haven’t in the slightest.

The earliest memory I have of Muni is in the 1980s, when I was very small. I am not a native of San Francisco, but my mother was born and raised here, my father moved here, and up until earlier this year, my grandparents were still lifelong residents of this city. Somehow, every member of my small family ends up in San Francisco—it’s practically a tradition. When my grandmother was in her spryer years she was never opposed to taking public transit; it got her where she needed to go, and when I was in town, I would most certainly almost always join her. I’d always had a love of trains (but that’s another story for another post), and the orange and white Boeing-Vertol streetcars were no exception. We’d take them to the zoo (back then, tigers didn’t jump out of their cages); we’d go downtown… it was an adventure any child could find exponential amounts of glee in.

Continue reading "Guest Blogger Wednesday: MUNI Memories Through The Years" »

June 24, 2009

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.

Continue reading "Guest Blogger Wednesday: Why I Love MUNI So Much!" »

June 17, 2009

Guest Blogger Wednesday: Going Car-Free In San Francisco

When I originally came to the Bay Area from the land of parking garages and four-lane residential streets known as Southern California, I brought with me my green, 1998 Honda Accord and my understanding of cities built-upon comprehensible grids. Living here would challenge both of these and change my entire concept of transportation.

Growing up in the Los Angeles area taught me to rely on my car. It was both my golden calf promising future prosperity and my fleshy calf providing sustenance in the meantime. The city I learned to drive in had a handful of bus lines, each covering only a few blocks of the main streets with their peculiar urine smells and two hour intervals. In an environment like that, driving a car was encouraged and expected, and the cities were planned accordingly with parking lots and SUVs in mind.

I used to assume this was the norm throughout California until my poorly researched and quickly implimented move to San Francisco. What once had been my tool for prosperity and sustenance now felt like concrete shoes. Compared to Los Angeles, parking in The City was rare or prohibitively expensive. Once one wandered off the main streets, the roads seem to disappear and reappear without good cause and at least a few trips were made assuming that 19th Ave and 19th St were the same thing. At some point, the choice was made to remain in my apartment for periods of several days or escape to cities that were friendlier to cars down south.

Continue reading "Guest Blogger Wednesday: Going Car-Free In San Francisco" »

June 10, 2009

Wednesday Guest Blogger: Greening the N Route

One of my absolute favorite streets in San Francisco is Noe between Duboce and Market. Step off of the N at Noe, just East of the East Portal of the Sunset Tunnel, and within a block or two, you start to feel like you’ve entered a secret special world.

From above, mature trees shade the street with graceful branches. At ground level there are planters with flowers and herbs running up and down the sidewalk. Every block or so, there are even little dedicated garden areas with more plants and benches where you can take a moment to sit and chat with a friend or just revel in all of the greenery. Not to mention there’s also a friendly guy who sells flowers out of a garage. I find just walking this little stretch of Noe on the way to run an errand in the Castro can have an incredibly soothing effect.

Well, get ready, Inner Sunset, you’re getting a greenified block of your own. I recently had brunch with Lisa Gelfand, principal in Gelfand Partners architecture firm and a longtime Inner Sunset resident. Lisa told me that a number of her 8th Avenue neighbors have gotten together and developed a proposal for a beautified block between Lincoln and Irving. With Lisa’s firm drawing up the plans pro bono, the group applied for a City matching grant; those funds are going to pay for extensive tree planting and concrete removal to create little square garden areas.

Residents on the block agree to care for the trees or any other planting in front of their house. If I understood correctly, a separate traffic calming project will create a “bulb-out” part of the sidewalk jutting into the street. I don’t know if there are plans for seating areas like they have on Noe Street (but I hope so!). In any case, they should break ground on this project sometime in the next month—I’ll definitely be watching to see how it all comes together.

Debra Solomon lives in the Inner Sunset with her husband and baby girl.

June 3, 2009

Guest Blogger Wed.: Celebrating an Epic WIN, Old SF Style with the Sunset Tunnel

tunnel-headline.jpg

City politics and poor MUNI performance got you down? Cynical and skeptical? Perhaps all you need is a feel-good story from an era with a can-do attitude.

Sunset District property owners and real estate men lobbied aggressively at the dawn of the 1920s for new streetcar service to the neighborhood. Transit lines had served the area since the 1880s, but many wanted municipal railway service via tunnel, expecting to significantly cut down commute times and, hopefully, increase property values. With the help of housewives trudging door-to-door across the dunes to get petitions signed, the effort paid off in 1925 when the Board of Supervisors voted for the proposed Duboce Tunnel route for what would become the N-Judah streetcar line.

Although the cars wouldn’t begin running until 1928, the Sunset District couldn’t wait to celebrate. Led by realtor Frank Doelger (brother to Henry Doelger, who would fill the Sunset with blocks of stucco houses in the 1930s and 1940s), the community threw a massive party on the night on April 25, 1925. The supervisors had just approved the tunnel plan the week before, but the celebration organizers had no problem pulling together a ridiculously outsized program.

Continue reading "Guest Blogger Wed.: Celebrating an Epic WIN, Old SF Style with the Sunset Tunnel" »

May 26, 2009

Guest Blogger Wednesday: A Piece of SF History, Right Under Your Feet (Sort Of).

urrcover.jpg

Every Wednesday, we'll be featuring a Guest Blogger who will share their insights into city life, Our Fair MUNI, or anything that comes to mind. This week's guest writer is "Mason Powell," who's been a contributor to the site since its beginnings in 2005, and provides behind the scenes help, including designing our famous The N Is Near T shirts!

Yes, that's a picture of a manhole cover. I took it while leaving the KPIX Eye on Blogs blogger party last fall! Now, I don't usually go around looking at manhole covers, but this one was different. It had the markings of the old United Railroads!

For those of us who are not transit nerds, a little background. The URR was the main transportation provider in San Francisco between 1902 and 1921. After it went bankrupt, it reorganized into the Market Street Railway, which was eventually sold to Muni in 1944. The company's #1,#2, and #3 lines all passed by here. Today the #2 and #3 lines are still running on Sutter Street, more or less, and keeping watch over (or is it under?) all of this is a piece of our transportation history.

Would you like to be a guest blogger? Email me and tell me a little about yourself and what you'd like to write about! Most of our spots are filled for now, but there's always room for more!

April 2, 2009

Guest Blogger: It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood!

Recession fever is doing strange things to San Franciscans. Aside from real concerns about layoffs and the murderous drubbing our 401K's have taken, I've noticed a tendency among the citizenry to look for doomsday scenarios to manifest in our streets. As if we, as sophisticated and diverse urban dwellers in one of the world's most idyllic and expensive cities, are somehow less legitimate if our Main Streets aren't all shuttered storefronts. This is not to say neighborhood businesses aren't vulnerable in an economic downturn, and that some of ours haven't or might not survive this one. But take a closer look around the city, and you'll find the resilient health and vibrancy that comes with well-used public space, diversity of uses and populations, and thriving neighborhood commercial.

Continue reading "Guest Blogger: It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood!" »

March 29, 2009

Guest Blogger: N Judah At Day's End

picture1.JPG Today the N Judah Chronicles kicks off the first of several "Guest Blogger" posts. Today's entry is the first of a series of photos submitted to the site. (Click on the image for full size version).

Within sight of a homeless woman, Amy, and her dog Fire, and oblivious passers-by, an outbound N-Judah train squeals around the curve from Irving Street into 9th Avenue in the Inner Sunset on March 5, 2009 (Christian Goepel photo).

Guest Blogger/Photographer Christian Goepel is a freelance photographer and San Francisco State journalism student. More of his work appears at journalistcitizen.blogspot.com. He can be contacted at cjgoepel@yahoo.com.

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