munipiece2.jpgYou’ve Got To Hide Your Phone Away
Fact: Sitting on the bus is boring. Fact: Playing games on your phone is fun. Fact: Playing games on your phone while sitting on the bus can be trouble. Late last week, yet another heartless, phoneless criminal attempted an onboard snatch-and-grab of a poor, helpless cell phone, but this time the story had a happier (for some) ending.

It all happened at 27th and Church at 10:37 Friday night. A 33-year-old woman was seated on the bus when a 21-year-old man grabbed her phone and fled. She followed, and managed to get her phone back. The suspect was arrested.

This type of theft, often coupled with a swift, unexpected knuckle sandwich to the face, is an increasingly common problem on Bay Area public transit. Always be sure to protect yourself by being aware of your surroundings, no matter how engrossingly angry those birds are, and download an anti-theft app (like Prey) that lets you track down whomever absconded with your mobile device.

Masonic To Get Bike and Pedestrian-Friendly Face Lift
It’s often been said that Masonic is one of the more dangerous stretches of road in San Francisco. Cars zoom by while contending with armies of bikers and pedestrians. Earlier this month, a biker and some pedestrians were struck by a car running a red light at the intersection of Masonic and Grove–which led to both increased police enforcement at the crossing as well as a much-needed repainting of the avenue’s faded lanes.

Now SFMTA is going the whole nine yards and is completely redoing the entire stretch of road. The redesign will, they say, calm traffic, create a separate bike lane, improve pedestrian crosswalks, remodel bus stops along the route, install a landscaped median and create a small park at Masonic’s intersection with Geary.

The city is holding a planning meeting where interested parties can share their questions/concerns/songs on Friday, May 13 at 10am at City Hall in Room 416.

Central Subway Faces Criticism
Nobody likes the Central Subway. Critics say the proposed extension of the T-line though Downtown and into Chinatown is too expensive or simply unsafe. The whole plan grew out of a shady backroom deal between Willie Brown and Rose Pak, critics say, so naturally it’s going to be costly, evil and murder babies during its free time. People toss around the term “boondoggle,” but that mainly because boondoggle fun to say. Try it, boondoggle.

The newest controversy is over SFMTA’s plans to accommodate the scores of low-income residents whose homes will be demolished during the subway’s construction. The city is giving the Chinatown Community Development Center, one of the only developers in the area specializing in low-income housing, an $8 million grant towards the construction of a $32 million development to house the nearly two dozen families the subway will displace. The organization has long been one of the Central Subway’s most outspoken advocates in the neighborhood and some are calling SFMTA’s awarding them the grant an act of political patronage.

The $1.6 billion project is scheduled to be completed by 2019. However, if experience has taught us anything, expect both of those numbers to creep upward as the construction drags on.

Lotto Playing Muni Driver Suspended
When a Muni driver hopped off the 5-Fulton earlier this month, most passengers thought he was just taking an unscheduled bathroom break (or were too busy nervously guarding their phones from theft to even notice). However, there were audible gasps when passengers realized the driver had stranded them in traffic so he could buy a lottery ticket.

Let’s hope that his numbers came up in a big–otherwise it probably wasn’t worth it. The driver may be facing suspension. A suspension doesn’t necessary mean the end of a driver’s time behind the wheel–just last week an operator taken off the road for texting while driving was spotted driving despite her suspension.

The Wiggle Just Got Safer
Any regular San Francisco biker will tell you that the trickiest part of The Wiggle is making the turn onto Fell from Scott. Since Fell is a heavily trafficked one-way street with a painfully long stop light, turning onto it from Scott usually involves some ill-advised weaving though a line of stopped cars, cutting into the crosswalk and barely avoiding cars screaming onto Scott from Fell, often going at speeds approaching 40mph.

The intersection is a recipe for disaster, which is why it’s awesome that SFMTA is putting in a left-turn only signal at the intersection designed to give bikers more than enough time to make the tricky turn.

Cost of Parking Permits to Rise
As a result of SFMTA’s substantial budget deficit (normally I’d put a link here to a specific story but just go back and read any other SFMTA roundup and you’ll get the idea pretty quick), the beleaguered transit agency is always looking for ways to raise revenue.

They’ve tried giving out more parking tickets, eliminating discounts at city-owned parking garages and cracking down on the scourge of people senselessly parking on innocent, defenseless sidewalks. The agency claims they could easily close the deficit if they were able to get all the concessions they want out of the operators’ union, but that’s easier said than done.

SFMTA’s new get-rich-eventually-scheme is to increase the cost of residential parking permits by $2 (to $100) and cost of rescuing a booted car by $8 (to $280). These price hikes may appear relatively minor, but they’re just the latest in a series of moves by the agency close its budget gap by increasing fees to the public. The cost of a residential parking permit, for example, has increased by 67% from three years ago.

The city is also considering expanding the residential parking permit program. Just this past weekend, SFMTA held a meeting about the implementation of a residential parking zone around Dolores Park.

Another Thing To Watch Out For On The Bus
Pepper spray. A teen girl who was assaulted by an older man on the 14-Mission last Friday successfully fought him off with pepper spray (woo-hoo!) but also hit the driver and two elderly women in the process (d’oh!). Well, you know what they say, you can’t make an omelet without pepper spraying some old ladies in the face.

Nat Ford: Still Employed
While the Central Subway seems to have few friends these days, SFMTA chief Nat Ford has even fewer. Ford has had one foot out the door for years now, which has raised hackles both in City Hall and in the general, Muni-riding populace. That said, spending $400,000 to buy him out of the rest of his contract would be counterproductive and embarrassing during the contentious contract negotiations with the operators’ union.

The word on the street (and by “street” I mean Matier and Ross) is that City Hall is hoping they can wait out the rest of the negotiations with the union, while avoiding a strike, and then quietly paying Ford to hop on the first train out of town.

Help To Make Market Street Less Awful
The Better Market Street Project is looking for a few good men (and women) to do their parts to make Market Street someplace Twitter would want to move to–even without all the sweetheart land deals and multi-million dollar tax breaks.

The first step is a series of public meetings and webinars where members of the community can learn about the proposed changes in store for the highly-trafficked thoroughfare, ask questions and make their own suggestions. A list of opportunities can be found here

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