Monday, August 06, 2007

the joy of public transportation...

So I arrive in San Francisco Int'l Airport after a nice flight from Seattle tingling with excitement. I've always been one to extol the beauty and simplicity of public transit without ever using it. I'm a guilty bastard... I drive everywhere. This from the guy who wrote a senior thesis on multimodal transit.

That's why I'm always excited to go into a big city and take advantage of the infrastructure. Well, apparently, you need some smarts, an ATM card, and the ability to use at least three types of automated machine to make the journey from SFO to the Haight in the heart of San Francisco.

I jump off the plane and pick up my bags. I walk to the monorail shuttle to go from my terminal to the BART (Bay Area Train) station. I use my credit card to purchase a $5.15 one-way ticket to the Civic Center station in Downtown SF. I ride the train, which is entirely relaxing, iPod in hand, staring creepily at a really cute French girl who appears to be backpacking her way around, wondering if my Francais is still any good.

In Civic Center, things get interesting. You see, you need $1.50 IN COINS to ride the MUNI (surface street cars that will take you around the city). I'm not carrying ANY cash, so I stumble around trying to find what seems pretty obvious to me - a credit card powered coin machine. They won't sell a ticket with plastic apparently, so I end up walking up to street level, going to an ATM and taking out 3 $20s. Then I have to go back underground, to the change machine which will change a $20 into 4 $5s (why not give more options when your effing train will only accept quarters!@#!@#!@).

There is no way to turn the fivers into $1s, so I go to a BART ticket station and beg the lady to give me $3 and 8 quarters so I can get on the goddamn MUNI. Nope. She is kind enough to give me 5 $1s and direct me to the automated BART ticket sales machine which will change dollar bills to quarters. Finally, I am able to board, but after 20 minutes of my ineptitude, the cute French Girl is long gone. No English and she's still fairing better than I.

The rest of the weekend was a blast. I rode over the Golden Gate Bridge into Tiburon, and ran into a fine Kiwi by the name of Craig Upton. He rides for Navigator's Insurance, and was kind enough to ride with me along Paradise Dr. On the treacherous return over the bridge, I was able to fair the cross winds and only collide with one gigantically-overweight hard-0f-hearing tourist.

A nice Polish guy named Tomasz agreed to take my picture in full Henry's regalia in front of the GG Bridge, and he should be emailing me the photo any day now.

Despite my idiocy, I love cities, I love the West Coast, and I love public transit. Down with cars, and up with bikes. Except when they are this bike:

Have the proprietors of this bike shop ever seen the terrain in San Francisco?


Rachel said...

Seriously, the BART ticket machines in the muni stations are the WORST. I forget exactly how they worked, but I remember being so dumbfounded that someone would design a machine that way.

P.S. We went mountain biking this weekend. It is SO. HARD. Plus in the summertime I am fat and lazy, which didn't help matters.

Suki said...

I <3 sf...the little dirty hole in the wall indian food restaurants, the bread bowl o' clam chowder at the pier...the panderers...the homos.

Silas said...

That's what you get for only taking out $20 at a time...

Plastic is for climbing gyms and carbon fiber frames, dollars are for spending.