May 3, 2011

706 words 4 mins read

Beware of Buses Bearing Gifts

The phrase used to be “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts“, but I think the same can be applied to buses… more specifically MUNI buses. Maybe a better (more modern) version should be “Beware of buses bearing gifts” or simply “Screw MUNI”. If you wonder why I say this, obviously you’ve never visited San Francisco and relished the simple joy of riding MUNI. That bus system goes out of it’s way to find the best ways to inconvenience you. One might also think this is true of all mass transit and while it is true in some cases, MUNI has it down to an art form, a science even. I’m more than happy to explicate why I loveomniloathe the SF bus system.

A few evenings ago, a friend invited me over to their place after work. Normally, this isn’t a big deal, a bit of a walk, some MUNI and a little more walking. No problem, right? Well I decided that since I had some time, I’d try out a different stop, one a few blocks earlier that would hopefully lead to a less crowded bus. Just a few minutes after I showed up, a nearly empty double length 30 bus comes along. Awesome! The line I wanted AND plenty of seating!

20 minutes later, I was about two-thirds of the way to my destination, comfortable, reading my book and, of course, that’s when it all started to go south. The bus driver stops, turns around and shouts back to us “Where are you going?”. Since I was sort of tuned out and reading my book, I was slow on the draw, but the suit behind me shouted a suitably close answer for me. The bus driver shouts back “I don’t go that far” and orders us off the bus.

Um… Ok… I’m really gorammed confused at this point in time. When I got on the bus, it said 30. I’ve taken the 30 before. The 30 goes where I wanted to go, I know this because THAT’S WHY I GOT ON THE 30. MUUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!!!!!!!!!!!

The suit and I file out of the bus to sit at the bus stop (for the second time today). Sometime during our 10 minute wait for the next bus, a pile of German students show up. After slowly freezing to death, the next bus shows up and it is also a 30. I was a little hesitant since it was a double, luckily the suit was on top of the game and checked. Alas, that double doesn’t go where we want either. Which is extremely frustrating… since it said 30 on the front. I quickly deduced that no double 30’s continue past a certain point. The German students piled on which elicited a comment from the suit. I guess he understood German because he noted they’d be sorely disappointed that the bus was not going where they wanted either.

After ANOTHER 10 minute wait, a single bus 30 arrived. This one DOES go where we want, thank god. Of course, it’s PACKED but the suit and I pile on. We get one entire stop farther and suit makes an astute observation, “Hey, look. Our German friends are back”. Sure enough, they had found out that the double 30 didn’t go where they wanted after being on for exactly one stop.

Why do I share this story? This long and boring story of hatred? Because in almost all other cases there are “special” lines. Look at the 38, there is a 38, 38L, 38AX, 38BX. Do you know what these funny letters after a number mean? That the bus follows the same line, but does something different! L means limited, less stops. X means eXpress and generally cuts off a significant middle portion of the run.

So… so you know what a 30 bus is that only goes half way down the line? 30

IT’S SPECIAL. IT SHOULD HAVE A LETTER BECAUSE IT’S SO SPECIAL. A 30 goes from point A to point B. A 30 bus that goes from point A halfway to point B could be a 30H.

I mean, this is MUNI’s own system of designations. Seriously, is it that hard to stick to your own internal naming method?