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Apr
06 2012

3:16 AM

Travel

7 comments

Despite the mishaps, I still love public transport

Adventures in San Francisco, 29th February – 17th March 2012

In Singapore, I always swear by public transport. I avoid cabs if I can and often opt for bus rides (and occasionally, the train … although they have been less than reliable in recent months). Few things make me happier than being able to park myself on a seat, plug in my earphones and people-watch, or just watch the world go by.

So, it was natural that I’d do the same in San Francisco.

I always believe one hasn’t truly lived the life in a new city without experiencing its public transportation first hand, because you get to soak up loads of sights while commuting. And yeah, people watch. You don’t get quite the same experience being fetched from point A to point B in a car.

I relied on good ol’ Google Maps on my iPhone and my naturally keen sense of direction to get us safely around.

Muni buses in San Francisco
Muni Metro buses in San Francisco.

See that cord attached across the window? Well, you pull that if you wanted to alight. I didn’t know that at first and was looking around like an idiot for that familiar yellow and red button to press (as we did in Singapore, and Hong Kong as well). When I couldn’t find the button, I thought I was supposed to yell … until my travel buddy witnessed someone else pulling the cord and we had the eureka moment.

And so I pulled the cord and … nothing happened. I pulled it harder. Still nothing. This happened every time and until today I still have no idea what I did wrong.

In the above picture, the bus was completely empty.

And no, it’s not normal. I’ve learned from that fateful day when the bus is empty, something is terribly wrong. Apparently, the bus had already reached the very last stop and I still had no friggin’ clue. So there I remained, taking pictures of the delightfully empty bus until the bus driver suddenly looked behind and yelled “HEY, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? THIS IS THE LAST STOP!”

Every day was a new adventure. If it wasn’t the bus, it was the light rail (a.k.a. Muni Metro ‘F’ line). If it wasn’t the light rail, it was the underground Muni Metro. Otherwise, it was the BART. Or the Caltrain.

Oh yeah, the BART. The travel buddy and I had many a running joke about the BART, because the name sounds so much like ‘fart’. So there was the occasional statement of “I go fart in the BART” before we burst into girly giggles. Juvenile, I know. But hey, travelling is all about letting yourself go. (;

Caltrain @ Millbrae
Millbrae Caltrain Station on a rainy day.

The Caltrain – looks harmless when stationary, but menacing when in motion. It especially scares the shit out of me when I’m standing at an outdoor platform at some suburb town and the express Caltrain just whooshes past bringing along with it an eardrum-vibrating roaring noise and a strong draft. If I could avoid the Caltrain, I would.

Now that I’m back to the usual (almost clinical) transport system here in Singapore, I really miss the variety of commuting options there and their various eccentricities. And people watching there is so much more fun too.

Also worth a mention is how people in San Francisco are generally so considerate – speaking at low volumes when on board the trains or buses. Whereas back here, I’ll never fail to have my eardrums shattered by some ah pek or ah soh speaking at the top of his/her lungs.

But well, I still love public transport. Especially bus rides.

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7 Comments

  • 06 Apr 2012
    8:45 AM

    Margot

    Here in Toronto our streetcars (and some of the older busses) have the pull cord too. If somebody has already pulled the cord for that stop then if you pull it again after them it won’t right since it’s been pulled once. I don’t know about San Francisco, but in Toronto there’s a sign at the front of all the streetcars and busses that lights up red when the cord has been pulled and says “Stop Requested”. Basically only one person needs to ring if they want to get off; I guess having it ring multiple times would get annoying for other passengers and the driver. ;) So that’s probably why it didn’t ring, you weren’t the first one to pull it. I have a feeling it’s like that throughout North America.

    • 07 Apr 2012
      1:09 AM

      brendalogy

      Oh, it’s the same for San Francisco! There’s an indicator at the front of the bus that lights up with “Stop Requested” when someone pulls the cord.

      What puzzles me was that it never lighted up whenever I pull the cord, while it always works when my friend pulls it. The cord no like me. :(

  • 08 Apr 2012
    5:11 PM

    Rodney

    Glad you hear that you survived MUNI. It looks like you were at the VA Hospital at the end of the 38 Geary when you took your bus photos. Sometimes the drivers ignore stop requests if they feel like it. Most of us here in SF avoid MUNI if given a choice and prefer to either drive or ride bicycles.

    • 08 Apr 2012
      8:08 PM

      brendalogy

      Whoa, you’re spot on – I was indeed stuck at the VA Hospital (line 38). You must have bionic eyes!

      So far, I haven’t yet encountered any bus driver that ignored my stop requests – although I’ve had the bus driver smack the door shut on me once (which is just as bad!).

  • 11 Apr 2012
    2:45 PM

    Rodney

    Yeah, MUNI drivers make a sport out of that. Also how many people they can leave behind when they spot runners from across the street who are trying to catch their bus. The F line has nice old cars because those were restored by volunteers. Did you try any of the cable cars?

    • 12 Apr 2012
      11:10 AM

      brendalogy

      Whoa, these MUNI drivers are evil.

      Yup, I took the F line to the Fisherman’s Wharf and also further outbound along Market Street towards the end of the trip. Didn’t try the cable cars though – wanted to do it on the very last day but it was a mad rush then. Will definitely be back, though. (: I loved SF.

  • 06 May 2012
    1:49 AM

    The day time slowed to a crawl « Brenda on everything and nothing in particular

    […] is Land’s End. The place to which we boarded the wrong bus and (nearly) got lost. You’re guaranteed fantastic views of the open sea every direction you […]

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