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August 16, 2007 / chrisisgross

an outsider’s inside view

just like in boston one of the unifying factors here in sf is to complain about public transportation. now i agree that there are issues and that like any part of a cities infrastructure it is under-funded and in need of upgrades or repairs. since i am newly minted san franciscan(and i feel comfortable saying this since i am integrating myself as much as a person can who has no job and not a lot of money) i can still see muni with a fresh perspective. so here is a little side by side comparison of the the two…

first off there is a population difference which needs to be addressed. boston has a population of half a million and a metro population of 3.5 million while san francisco is larger with about .75 million in the city and 7.5 in the metro area. initially it would seem that the size and scope of the two systems would be different, but the ration between population size is greatly in favor of muni. the t in boston serves a population that drives first and it is dramatically smaller than the transit options for the san francisco area. yet with this drive first attitude the areas where transit exists does not match the needs of those who use it.

the metro area’s are greatly different too. as anyone from massachusetts will attest that anything west of 128 is western mass and not boston. here though even sonoma is counted into the figures and you can conceivably commute by bus all the way into the city itself. now i am counting in a sense muni as one long transit system that is totally lined up like the t is with the commuter rail. eventually here this is supposed to happen with the translink system connecting all the transportation administrations at some point though it seems like that might be a while.

another factor in favor of muni as is the price. while bart may be a little stiff here and there it is certainly cheaper than the commuter rail and much more efficient, on time and less antiquated(though in honesty the bart reminds me of the epcot center’s monorail). in the city it is even better. a $1.50 gets you a few hours of bus rides unlimited whereas $1.25 gets you one transfer on buses that run at there own whim and do not go whree they need to be. now many sf residents might say the same for muni and gripe about the times of the buses, but i think nextmuni and 311 make up for it. not only do you get a least some sense of when the bus is going to show up you can call 311 to find out what the specific issue is if the bus is running really late and if it is an ongoing problem they even suggest an alternate route for you and how to get there. its like onstar for public transportation.

that is now three pluses for muni and finally the biggest three for me:

1. either run on electricity or clean gas so the environmental imprint is minimal

2. they have bike racks on all of the buses.

3. the routes are socio-economically correct.

what the third one means is that unlike the t which has more services for those that use its services the least i.e. those that it subsidizes the most and therefore costs the most to transport, the muni serves the population that uses transport the most with the largest numbers of services. i have linked the system maps of both systems(though the muni map is so detailed that it is a pdf) and if you no the demography of boston you can see how the poorest populations are the least served. in a sense the most likely users of the service are the most under-served. this does not seem to the case in fact all the area is served by transit.

so while its fun to complain about muni until you see how lousy transportation is elsewhere enjoy it. we all have muni horror stories( i have a few if you wantto know what they are we can go over it in the comments one involves human poop and my shoe). just sit in the middle of the bus and enjoy the ride.

ed’s note*

this all came about as i am planning my trip to an interview tomorrow that is on the polar opposite of the city and i can get there in less than 45 minutes from my house and under 30 if i play it perfectly on the light rail. so in my humble opinion yes muni is not perfect, but it could be a hell of a lot worse i.e. the t in boston.

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