Sunday, July 28, 2013

BUS STORY # 351 (Shorts 31)

Say the magic word... by busboy4
Say the magic word..., a photo by busboy4 on Flickr.
Guy gets on the bus, takes a seat, holds up his pass, and asks, “Anyone need a day pass?” Three hands shoot up in the air. But the person who gets the pass is the one who doesn’t raise his hand. He simply gets up and walks right over to the guy who hands it over.

***

We are just pulling away from UNMH when I catch sight of a woman some 20 yards away walking and raising her arm toward us. She’s an older woman, and striking because she’s wearing a bright red expensive-looking coat and has a head of short, nicely-styled white hair. The way she raises her arms says “Wait! Wait!” and simultaneously “I’ve missed it.” It is possible the driver hasn’t seen her. Some 20 minutes later, down at the ATC, my transfer is just getting ready to pull out when I see the same woman walk-running toward the front door. I have no idea how she’s managed to make it on time, but I find myself thinking walk-running is not something she ordinarily does. I am surprised to recognize I'm feeling gratitude her efforts have been rewarded.

***

A couple with a stroller and a toddler board first. They take the three-seater directly behind the driver and start getting settled. A few other riders board, followed by a woman pushing a stroller with one hand and holding her little girl’s hand with the other. She looks at the two-seater facing the couple who’s just settling in. There’s a rider there, a beefy guy. He’s watching her and the little girl. He’s not moving. She has trouble getting the stroller past the settling-in couple and their stroller, but she finally manages. The older guy watches her finally manage, and his eyes follow them down the aisle. Beefy, older guy. Old enough to know better. He has on a black T-shirt with white lettering: “I Need A Beer.” It’s not a beer that he needs.

***

It's back.  Again. by busboy4
It's back. Again., a photo by busboy4 on Flickr.
Looks like the city is trying once again. This is a new bus stop sign at the site of the mysteriously disappearing bus stop sign. I noticed it early this May. We’ll see how long this one lasts.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

BUS STORY # 350 (Muni!, Part 3)

You can read Parts 1 and 2 here and here.

We were familiar with the Ferry Building Marketplace from a BART trip some six years ago with a good friend of ours living in Oakland at the time. It is a foodie mecca, with small specialty restaurants, markets and shops. We went foraging for a picnic dinner and picked out a salad from Farm Fresh To You, razor-thin-sliced Salami Pepato from Boccalone Salumaria, a Pepato cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, a sour baguette from the Acme bakery, a jar of walnut Dijon mustard from Sur Le Table, and from a bargain bin at Village Market a half-bottle of Pinot Noir from Chile with a twist-off cap which proved to be... potable.

We visited every market in the building, stepped outside to the wharf to enjoy the view and the gorgeous weather, then turned back to the street to catch our ride home on the legendary F Line.

This is the line that features vintage streetcars.  Muni's history page reports the idea for historic streetcar service began in the early 1970s, and Muni acquired its first vintage car, now retired, from Hamburg, Germany. The current F Line runs from Fisherman’s Wharf to Market and Castro.

One of the old streetcars pulled up to our stop while we were waiting to cross the street. This was No. 1062. I couldn’t find any information on this vintage car inside, but I made a note of the number for a later Google session.

Sure enough, I located not only the story of 1062, but a wonderful website dedicated to San Francisco’s Market Street Railway projects.

When we got there, it was standing room only. I wanted to wait for the next car so we could sit, but Mrs. Busboy was ready to go back to our room. She eventually got a seat, and I got one when the car lost over half its riders to Pier 39. We got off at the end of the line and worked up an appetite by hiking up a couple of steep blocks on the walk back to our room.

We had our picnic at the little table in our room where we reviewed our day. Mrs. Busboy gave me five stars for my planning and the transportation. I know she had not anticipated how good the buses would be.

The next morning, we got back into our car and headed home to New Mexico, which is where we’d left our hearts.

__________


The photo at the top of this story is a screenshot from the page featuring No. 1062, from the Market Street Railway website.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

BUS STORY # 349 (MUNI! Part 2)

Untitled by busboy4
Muni bus going uptown..., a photo by busboy4 on Flickr.
You can read Part 1 here.

From the de Young museum in Golden Gate Park, we traveled across town to North Beach, the Italian section of town. Using Google Maps, we were directed to the 5 just outside the museum. It was there in less than five minutes.

We had seats, but as we got closer to Market Street and the Financial District, the bus filled up until there was standing room only. My wife had already been impressed by how well-dressed so many of the riders were on the 28. Here on the 5, the eclectic range of dress reminded us of the audiences at the Santa Fe Opera, except no one was wearing outrageously wonderful costumes. (The natives may be keeping these in reserve for the day of the annual Breakers to Bay.)

We transferred to the 8X downtown -- an articulated bus full to the gills which came almost as soon as we reached the stop. We rode standing up to Columbus Street (What else would the main street of an Italian-American neighborhood be named?) where we got off and began wandering the streets.

The neighborhood is both like and unlike Boston’s North End. There are streets that are nothing but restaurants on one or both sides of the street, but with tables lining the sidewalks outside. Only one of them had a host standing outside with menus, urging pedestrians to come inside and eat.

We went from restaurant to restaurant, looking at the menus posted in the windows or set up on stands outside the doors, until I spotted a menu featuring “Spaghetti Puttanesca.” Long story short: I’d lost my source of Puttanesca when my favorite Italian restaurant in Albuquerque, Vivace, closed last spring. “This is the place,” I urged my wife.

This authentic Italian restaurant turned out to have the unlikely name of “Original U.S. Restaurant.” But the authenticity was beyond question: the place was packed with patrons fixed upon the large screen TV hanging in the back of the restaurant which was broadcasting a soccer game, in Italian. The place reverberated with shouts and groans in what turned out to be an overtime shootout in a semi-final championship game between Italy and Spain.

The Puttanesca was outstanding.

Our plan had been to catch a bus north to the beginning of the F line and take one of the old streetcars along The Embarcadero to the Ferry Building Marketplace. We were planning to shop for a picnic dinner. But my wife wanted some exercise, and she used a pocket-sized street map to plot a course due east.

It turned out to be a pleasant walk. The weather was gorgeous and the streets were flat the whole way. (There are some killer steep climbs in this city.) And: we stumbled across a small sculpture of Georgia O’Keefe, of all people, in a small park about a block away from the wharfs. You can read about it and the park here.


Continued next week.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

BUS STORY # 348 (Muni! Part 1)

Muni! by busboy4
Muni!, a photo by busboy4 on Flickr.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to use BART -- Bay Area Rapid Transit. (You can read about it here.) But that was outside San Francisco. And so I did not have the opportunity to use the legendary Muni -- short for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency -- which includes buses, light rail, the F Line which uses restored historic streetcars, and, of course, the cable cars.

What makes Muni legendary is captured in large part by Muni Diaries. (See side links under “Elsewhere.”) As far as I can tell, this is the only blog about a municipal transportation system that is maintained by a large community of its riders. Like San Francisco itself, the blog can be rambunctious, and I didn’t feature a link to the site when I first discovered it. But such a vibrant, eclectic, articulate ridership proved irresistible. It also made me wonder just how well this mild-mannered Albuquerque boy would do in the big city.

When my wife and I made our initial plans for a trip to Seattle, San Francisco was not in the picture. But as we were planning our return route, Mrs. Busboy suggested we spend a couple of nights and see the sights. I agreed on the condition we not attempt to drive in the city. I will tell you right now this was not a ploy to use the buses, and Mrs. Busboy agreed because she didn’t want either of us trying to drive in San Francisco. That could have been a marriage breaker.

And so we pulled into our motel one afternoon, parked the car, and left it there until we headed southwest two days later. And we saw the sights.

Let me say right here that using Muni to get around and see the sights could not have worked any better. There are three reasons for this success story: 1) Google Maps; 2) my younger son, who showed my wife how to use this amazing app; 3) Muni itself. No matter where we were, we could enter where we wanted to go, tap on the bus icon, and Google Maps gave us four or five options available in the next ten minutes for how to get there.

We started our tourist day by asking how we would get to the de Young Museum at Golden Gate Park. Maps directed us to the 28 at the corner of Laguna and Chestnut -- a half-mile walk (on level ground) from our motel.

When the 28 arrived (less than five minutes after we’d gotten to the stop), just to be sure, I asked the driver if her bus went to Park Presidio Boulevard and Fulton Street. She said it did, and to come on aboard.

I think I may have discovered the primary reason Muni buses sometimes run late: tourists like us asking if this bus goes to ____ and if not, how can they get to _____. There were a lot of us using the bus system and asking questions on our day in the city, and the drivers were remarkably patient and helpful.

So were the riders. On the 28, which was relatively empty when we boarded, a rider wearing an orange SF hat pointed out a building overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and bay, and told us it was originally a Burger King before the Feds kicked them off the hill to make a national park. (You can read one former resident’s memories and account here.)

He also told us he was getting off two stops before ours, and that we should go left after getting off at our stop. When he did get off, he went up front to the driver where we heard this conversation:

“There’s two riders back there that need to know when to get off at Fremont.”

“OK. How’s you’re wife doing?”

The driver let us know when we reached our stop, and reminded us to go left. We reached the museum in less than 10 minutes.

We spent a good two hours in the museum where we saw, among other things, a fine collection of New Mexico pueblo pottery and some examples of pottery we had not seen before, from the Hopi. (The Hopi reservation is in northern Arizona. You can read about the museum’s exhibition here.)

We’d decided to eat lunch in North Beach, the Italian section of the city whose restaurants sounded in several guidebooks much like those in Boston’s North End. We would need two buses to get there.

Continued next week.