Thursday, February 4, 2010

Adventures on SF Muni

I've mentioned before that I really kinda totally hate the bus. I go to great lengths to avoid the bus. In New York, I would walk across town rather than take the crosstown bus. In London, which actually has awesome buses, I would transfer tubes three times rather than take the bus.

One time, I famously forced Honda to walk on the narrow shoulder of a highway amidst broken bottles and cigarette butts because I didn't want to take the bus. (Halfway down the road, we gave up and called a cab to come and rescue us.)

I really hate the bus. I hate waiting for the bus, I hate being on the bus, I hate the sudden stops on the bus that make me fall over. I will frequently walk two miles rather than take the bus.

But I also don't have a car, and sometimes the bus is the best possible option.

So, the other day, I was in San Francisco, and I had to get to a panel discussion, and I had to take the bus. And, of course, I was pressed for time, so the bus was late. First ten minutes late. Then twenty minutes late. Then a full half hour late.

And my irritation at the budget strapped SF Muni system and the bus as mode of transportation grew and grew.

Eventually, the bus arrived, I made it to the panel and all was well.

Until I had to go home.

It was dark, and there weren't a lot of people around, and I did not feel like waiting half an hour for a bus. So I decided to call Muni and find out when the next bus would be arriving. (By the way, I totally, totally love this feature of Muni. I love that you can CALL and get to a customer service rep who will tell you when the next bus will be arriving.) So, I dialed up, got through to my lovely Muni rep and asked her when my bus would be arriving.

"I'm sorry, ma'am, it looks like that bus is no longer operating for the night."

"Oh. Um. Okay. So ... how do I get back to [SF neighborhood]."

"Well, you could take the X bus. In fact, it should be pulling up any minute now. And then, from there, you can transfer to the Y."

"Any second now? Wait, where?"

And then, I had an, "Oh crap," moment where I saw said bus. That I was just about to miss.

So I ran over to the bus and literally FLAGGED it down.

Now, though I hate the bus, I have, in fact, ridden the bus in a number of different cities and countries. However, I have never flagged a bus down like it was a taxicab. Usually, flagging buses does not work. But in San Francisco, it apparently does.

"Where are you going?!" asked the flummoxed bus driver.

"Um, I'm going to [Neighborhood]."

"You need the W bus for that."

"I know, but it's stopped running for the night."

"Really? You sure?"

"Yes, I called Muni and asked."

"Aight then. Well, I tell you what. I thought you was crazy, I did! But you can take this bus and transfer to the V and then you can take the V. Okay?"

"Okay, thank you."

"Aight, that's fine. I thought you was crazy! Now go sit down and I'll tell you where to get off."

So I did. And he did.

And I still kinda hate the bus, but I think I might love SF Muni. Because after flagging the bus down like a crazy person, the driver was nice enough to not only direct me to exactly where I needed to go. Not only that, but when he saw me scrounging in my bag for the remaining twenty cents of fare (somehow I'm still carrying loads of British and European change in my purse that gets mixed in with the American coins), he just waved me away and let it go.

But that might be because he still thought I was crazy.


Cath@VWXYNot? said...

Heh! I bet you did look a little bit crazy. And being a bus driver might lead you to make that assumption a little more easily than most!

Our transit authority will send you the next 3 buses on each route by text message if you text the number on the bus stop sign to their number. It's ridiculously fast. I also have their iPhone app installed, which uses your current location to tell you which bus and SkyTrain (light rail) routes are closest, and when the next one is. Very useful.

Stephanie said...

The bus drivers in St. Paul/Minneapolis are pretty nice like that, too. :) Makes riding the bus that much easier.

I have to admit though, I've never taken SF Muni, despite living next to San Francisco all my life. I guess I don't try to go anywhere once I'm inside the city. Nice to hear they're helpful.

Katy said...

I don't really mind the bus. The drivers are always friendly. You can always call metro and get the bus route information.

I just wish they had a rule that people aren't allowed to talk on their cell phones. I HATE listoning to people yell about personal issues while I'm trying to read.


Oldnovice said...


I absolutely LOVE the willingness of regional transit associations to basically walk you through how to get from X to Y (available in SO many places in the US now ... EXCEPT where *I* live in North Texas).

Makes vacationing a whole lot easier. Makes going back to Chicago area to see my kids a whole lot easier.

Beth Terry, aka Fake Plastic Fish said...

Ruchi. I would not count on Muni drivers stopping like that one did. You had good karma that night. If you can consider yourself lucky for having to stand and wait for a bus that never came in the dark.

I'm glad most of my travels in the Bay Area are just BART station to BART station. Usually I will walk great distances to avoid Muni.

Some bus lines, on the other hand, are pretty reliable. Like the Geary bus. But honestly, I've always avoided the neighborhood where you are because the bus situation there freaks me out.

My word verification word is "uniant." I'm going to start posting these at the end of every comment. I think this word refers to unreliable buses.

Robj98168 said...

That is the saving grace to the metro system here: the bus drivers! Not only are they helpful, they will answer some of the dumbest questions (I know- I ask the dumbest questions all the time)