This is a very difficult thing for us to admit, but here it goes: Muni service at Bay to Breakers today was … not a total disaster. There. Fine.
We’re not saying it was awesome though! The reroutes were confusing, there was a near-total lack of maps and signage, the overcrowding was about a miserable as you’d expect, and at one point we got to yell at a bus driver. In other words, a marked improvement over what we’ve seen in years past! And in general, things seemed to be going smoothly. Twitter reports only a few problems, and also some nice news! How crazy is this newfound efficacy? Did you experience it too, or were we just in some alternate realm?
On the plus side, Muni had plenty of buses waiting to bring riders back downtown. But that’s pretty much all they were doing — waiting. When we checked around 10:30am, thirty-seven buses were just hanging out at the end of the race, gellin’ like Magellan. Eventually, as the crowd grew, more were put into service; but it seems silly to have tons of buses idling while people are waiting at stops.
Also! It was not so easy to figure out what bus to get on. There were lots of buses, but only a few special ones were letting people board. Most were out of service; some were shuttles; others were normal 5s, some were detouring from other routes, and there were no signs or maps or arrows indicating which were which. You could go online to read a long list of transit-babble, but since it was nearly all words and no pictures, it was basically impossible to understand unless you are a Muni pro.
Even the bus drivers themselves seemed flummoxed: we eventually found our way to a stop where, we were assured, the regular non-express 5 would be picking people up. After 10 minutes, a bus labeled “Bay To Breakers Shuttle” pulled up, and the driver indicated that he’d make all regular stops. As it turns out, he was making some regular stops. Sometimes he’d pull over, sometimes he wouldn’t; and pulling the cord had little impact. We pulled the cord for the Fulton/Stanyan stop, and he just motored past. So we bellowed “CAN WE STOP HERE PLEASE” — and we did.
We have to admit that we kind of enjoy it when a driver gives us cause to yell at them. Of course we like it even better when they simply respond to cord-pullings; but sometimes it’s nice to get off a good shout. Like, a really good roar that swells your chest and flares your nostrils. Feels great, and drivers are always quick to respond. Win-win!
Another issue: spacing between buses was a little goofy. As usual with Muni, there’d be a long long gap, and then multiple vehicles. It was particularly pronounced today.
So, what would we have done differently? Actually very little. Muni’s prep work this year was, we have to admit, much improved. Here’s what we’d like to see next year:
– More signs and maps on the route, so riders actually know where to go. Big ones, too — not those tiny letter-sized ones.
– More buses in service, rather than just hanging out.
– More pre-payment. There were big delays as riders fished around for dollars and coins. Many riders were not Muni regulars; they didn’t have passes. Muni could have sped things up by selling tickets at the finish line, or better yet, ahead of time online.
– And the number one thing we want: Dedicated bus lanes and transit-triggered traffic signals. This is also the least likely, alas. But imagine how much faster your ride would be if you didn’t have to mingle with cars, and lights turned green as you approached. Maybe someday, we’ll have a green mayor who actually rides the bus, rather than an SUV.
So there it is: Muni working in a manner fast approaching adequacy. At least, that’s how it was for us in the morning. How was it for you? Did you stay longer and experience frustrations? Or did they keep the show running smoothly all day? Report your findings in the comments.