Part of my Bold Moments series of articles. This actually never ran because the editor I had to work with thought it “too negative”. I’m sure she also always complained about her boyfriend being “so mean”. Honestly, I think the premise was too “thinky” wherein it called upon citizens to boycott their public transport before public transport boycotted them, yet again. This was definitively the moment the shark was jumped with The Bold Italic.
Miquel Hudin is mad as hell and not gonna ride Muni anymore!
I’ve lived in San Francisco since the Muni Meltdown in the late 1990’s yet I somehow just went about my business and dealt with the near-collapse of the system as best I could, like everyone else. I was also riding it in the summer of 2007 when the T Line expansion froze the entire system on a daily basis, yet again I shrugged my shoulders, had a decent excuse for being late to the office, and generally dealt with it.
Then, in the last year, after such instances as being abandoned in the Dog Patch in the early evening and finding that it was faster to walk from Potrero Hill or Noe Valley back to downtown, my faith in the system started to waiver. Once it came out that Muni director, Nathaniel Ford (our highest paid city employee) was starting to look for a new job after Prop G was passed last fall, things started to look an ugly shade of brown. But it wasn’t until the Muni union authorized a strike prior to anything going awry in their contract negotiations that need to be completed by June 30th, that I realized I’d had enough.
This system costs us over 3/4 of a billion dollars each year. That’s more money than the GDP of 16 separate countries! And it’s not like we get an affordable system out of this budget overhead. At their lengthiest, our $2 rides will only cover at most, 1/4 the distance of a NYC subway long haul (say like W 242nd Street to Coney Island) which costs $2.25. Not to mention the fact that the average speed of Muni trains is 10 MPH, while NYC’s run at 17 MPH. Muni buses are even worse at an average speed of 8MPH. As proven by Bay to Breakers, there are people who can literally run across the city in half the time motorized transport takes to cover it.
But, it’s easy to complain about Muni, it’s a sport we San Franciscans seem to like more than baseball these days; although it spawns great websites such as www.howfuckedismuni.com. The difference in what I’m saying is that it’s time to actually do something about this failed system. The only way we’ll get leverage is if falling reliability translates into falling ridership and the city administration then finds that they have the cojones to wrangle Muni in to place and make it both reliable and affordable. Yes, I’m calling for the citizens of San Francisco to go on strike against Muni.
Work from Home Works for Some
Of course, the first question that pops up is how on earth do you do this? We all have places to go and people to see that require some form of negotiating that space between Points A & B. I’ve been without a car for nearly 10 years now and the last thing I’d ever propose is for everyone to start driving. In fact, this might not even be possible as we only have parking for 63% of the cars in the city right now, which most folks estimate to be about a half million vehicles.
On my own Two Feet
Walking. Yes, it might seem like a throwback to the 19th century, but honestly, San Francisco is an extremely walkable city. A former co-worker of mine would walk from Bernal Heights to North Beach and back every day. When I asked him when he was planning to start attending AA meetings, he laughed it off and said that he enjoyed the view. He spoke the truth in that we live in a very pretty city and we rarely see that much of it outside of our own neighborhood and perhaps that of our office. We love moving to great neighborhoods, but then we don’t walk the physical distances connection all of them.
Walking is also quite a bit faster than most Muni routes, especially the buses once they hit downtown and stop on every single block corner for some reason. My general rule, even before I started my personal Strike Against Muni, is that if it’s less than two miles, I always walk it. It’s a great way to rediscover your hood, subhoods, and microhoods that we all enjoy naming so much.
One Nation Under Pedal
While biking often gets a bad rap due to Critical Mass, the fixie, and anarchist bike messengers, it might blow your mind that yes, you can be a very normal person and ride a bike. It’s the best way to that last five miles beyond the two mile walking radius.
As is the case with walking, San Francisco’s “Never Weather” pretty much guarantees that you can get most anywhere without really breaking too much of a sweat. There is a very bike-forward mentality with new bike lanes opening up all the time, more bike racks being installed everywhere, and the Bicycle Coalition always there to get your back.
Do it Yourself
Yes, you can fight the pricey downhill slide that our Muni system currently enjoys. Just walk, bike, or even fly if you somehow figure that out (but not on a motorized vehicle, please). Whatever you do, don’t use Muni trains and buses. Drive down the ridership numbers to force the agency to focus on what’s important: moving us around our fine city, in a timely manner.