Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What the heck is this?

A completely subjective, and by no means not inaccurate, line by line and route by route investigation of the buses of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

In my mind, being a good San Franciscan means spending an inordinate amount of one's life on the bus. I say this because as unpleasant as it may sometimes be, an SF bus ride is pretty much a microcosm of daily life in this fair city: both are overpriced, cramped, dirty, and soundtracked by a constant stream of unintelligible ravings from men and women who have soiled themselves.

We all know about the scandals, the Examiner headlines (does anyone do alarmist alliteration as well as they do?), the fact that the buses are the oldest and least-well-maintained of any major urban transportation agency in the US; we've all gotten an earful from surly drivers and/or surly passengers or been late for work because the bus we're on gets derailed from its overhead electric line (seriously, do they use this technology anywhere else? Did this seem like the wave of the future in 1974?). In short, we know MUNI has problems. On the upside I guess, at least we can all agree the logo looks cool.

But what is MUNI all about, really? What can a systematic study of this complex network of lines, stops, hubs, detours, rights-of-way, and dedicated lanes tell us about the changing demographic makeup of San Francisco at the dawn of the 21st century? What shifts has the decline of American industry affected in the lives of working-class urbanites over the past four decades? Was public transportation in the United States doomed to failure when the automobile industry conspired to (and successfully did) dismantle the extensive streetcar networks of pre-WWII urban centers throughout the country?

I'm not going to answer any of these questions. I'm not even going to ask them. But my research may bring to light new questions, and perhaps even provide new answers. Don't hold your breath though - I've always been better with the questions part than the answers part. 

My first installment, "The 22 Fillmore" will appear soon! Until then, check this slice of classic Bay Area public-transit-shit-talking:

PS: Without really thinking about it, I ended up naming this blog after a song title, as I did with my other blog. Sorry. I'm a ripoff artist. It's what I do.