Friday, December 03, 2010

My Muni Bucket List

One of the sad parts of leaving San Francisco is I won't be riding Muni anymore. I feel like I've spent much of the past 13 years mastering the intricacies of this wondrous-yet-fickle transit system, and now all this knowledge will go to waste. Then there's Elliot, who has spent the majority of his young life riding Muni (and no one gets more excited by buses than him). I only hope AC Transit can live up to his standards (they do seem to have more exciting fights).

Fortunately, I managed to spend this week trying to soak up as much Muni as possible. Every day I've taken a different line to work. For instance, I had never commuted to work on a cable car before (though I have taken them during off hours), so I set out to experience that.

Here are the crossed-out items from my Muni "bucket list."

I walked down to California and Van Ness, and boarded a downtown-bound cable car.

Amazing: Hardly any tourists (maybe because it would never occur to them to come to this part of town to find a cable car). Most of the riders were well-dressed businesspeople, who fixated on their BlackBerrys. I handed my Clipper card to the gripman, who couldn't manage to scan it. It apparently happens a lot because he just gave up and handed the card back to me.

Before reaching the end of the line, the car came grinding to a halt. The driver announced that he had "run out of cable" and that he had "given it every inch." Then we all had to get out and walk the rest of the way. Is this a common occurrence? If so, it's maybe not an ideal commuting choice — even with few tourists and no fare collection.

I've taken the 1-California many times, but never to work in the morning. So I was excited to try this out. But finding where to pick it up isn't the most intuitive process.

Despite the name, it doesn't run on California for much of its route, and I neglected to look up the map on my computer before leaving the hotel.

So I found someone who offered directions: I had to walk up to where Gough becomes a two-way road and Sacramento becomes one-way. It almost seemed like a riddle, or a line from "Lord of the Rings." But I managed to find the stop on Gough and hopped on. The bus then turned down Clay and took that route downtown.

To me, the 1-California has always represented the life of luxury — how the other half of Muni lives. It seems like a fast, reliable bus line that serves the city's wealthy and powerful neighborhoods.

In real life, the bus gets a little too crowded to be glamorous. And it's only fast if you get the express. But it is filled with young, good-looking professionals having conversations about their exciting lives. One woman talked about how she recently went on a business trip in Beijing and got food poisoning from a Starbucks (not sure if that's irony or karma).

I was late to work the first two days, so I thought maybe the 2-Clement would be speedier. It wasn't.

The 2 is just as crowded as the 1 (if not more so), and yet it runs through the Tenderloin and Union Square. In other words, you get both the crazy/homeless/drug-addict crowd AND tourists. Not a good combination.

Ah, the 38. You don't get much more crowded than this. And because it's usually a double bus, it's pretty much the Wild West by the time you get to the rear. Livestock, dice games, pole dancing — you name it. I was too crammed in to be able to observe much of anything, sadly.

Not sure what I'll do tomorrow...maybe just take a cab.