Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"T" is for "TROUBLE"

But "L" for "Livid" better describes my mood right now.

On April 7th MUNI finally started running full service on the new Third Street “T-Line.” This train is less than 50 yards from my apartment and has been heralded as the train that will bring “new life” to the Southeastern portion of the city and its many poor and underserved neighborhoods. While these predictions about “revitalization/gentrification” may eventually come to pass, currently the T-Line appears to be a total boondoggle.

When I moved to the Dogpatch, public transportation was unreliable but relatively plentiful. Two bus lines within two blocks connected my neighborhood to the rest (West) of the city. One bus line, the notoriously smelly and unpredictable #15 (R.I.P), was my connection North or South. While the #15 was still running I had my share of problems with the bus. Like the Jeffrey Express (#6) of my days of yore in Chicago, or bands of wild canines, the #15 was prone to run in packs. I would wait for what felt like hours for one bus only for two to three buses to arrive all at once. This was particularly frustrating during the morning commute to work. Still, I don’t think I ever waited longer than 25 minutes. Vespertine rides on the #15 were sometimes shady, but service was mostly even and I could get home from work within 15 minutes provided the Giants weren’t playing or some huge company wasn’t hosting their annual conference and closing down streets. The only real problems I ever had with ol’ #15 occurred on Saturday mornings when I was trying to get to the gym. Since the #15 ran less frequently on weekends than weekdays – Saturday mornings were PACKED. The bus was sometimes so crowded that passengers could hardly breathe and if someone had tried to steal something from your bag, you wouldn’t have been able to tell.

Now, with the advent of the T-Line, the #15 is nothing but a bittersweet memory. Better-smelling, shiny light rail cars have replaced the T-Line. The tradeoff is a moderate improvement in predictability since (in theory) satellite technology alerts riders to the approximate arrival time of the next train. Other tradeoffs, however, include increased crowding, abysmal timing, long waits at the end of the work day, and non-existent trains on weekends.

Cases in point: (1) I waited for more than 30 minutes for a train home at 6:00 PM this past Thursday. A commute that used to range between 15-30 minutes took more than an hour. As a test, I walked to work (2.5 miles) from home the next morning, chatting on the phone with my sister, stopped for a cup of coffee, and still made it door-to-door in 35 minutes. Pathetic. (2) When I woke up on Saturday morning I checked on "Next Muni" for the approximate arrival of the next T-train that would bring me within a few blocks of my gym. [Dear #15 used to provide door-to-door service for me but the T-Line lets me off about a half-mile away – so I have to get up earlier to hit “yogalates” these days.] On “Next Muni” there was NO explanation but an indication that NO trains were running North on the T-Line. MUNI had provided no warning about this complete shut-down so I set off to walk, in the rain, to the gym. Along the way I found a mysterious “shuttle” bus which ran an unscripted route along 2nd Street. Terrible.

In sum, I think my fuming is partly personal because I’m suffering from a change that has gone far less smoothly than I expected. I’m also outraged though on behalf of my neighborhood and the poorer and more underserved areas south of it. From the Dogpatch if I look up the hill ancient pastel housing projects with plywood windows look down on pricey new lofts. A burgeoning commuter neighborhood, the Patch and Potrero, are home to a good many Caltrain riders and drivers who commute to Silicon Valley. Still, those of us who commute within the city on public transportation are getting the short end of the stick. MUNI should have considered how eliminating the only north-south transportation option and replacing it with another inferior alternative would affect residents in my ‘hood. I moved here too late to have a say in the process, but I will register my dissent now.

I suppose it’s time to learn how to drive.


kristina said...

before you learng to drive, would you mind posting a new entry with all the information I need to know about contracts for the bar exam? yeah, thanks. you're a gem.

Reyes-Chow said...

Hey there! Hmmmmm . . . blogger you! Post post post! Hope you are well!