I started writing this post on my iPhone while stuck on the 22 bus last week, but actually had to stop due to motion / olfactory / emotional sickness. With the music of Law & Order in your head, this is my story.
I’m Canadian, so it’s in my DNA to inherently trust and be a fan of public services. Transit is one of those things. I fundamentally believe that urban sprawl is the cause of many of today’s ills, both metaphorical and painfully real.
Growing up in suburbia, I had my own car (Grampa’s 87 Plymouth Voyager, THANKYOUVERYMUCH) so I hardly embarked on a bus or train, instead enjoying my newfound wheels o’ freedom while tooling around my frozen city. College involved walking no further than a mile to get from Junior Year dorm on the bottom tip of campus to the Theatre and Dance department – a rusted 1 speed purchased for not much more than a lark and a song got me from place to place.
Living in New York, I depended on public transit. Whipping around the city’s arteries in a tin can, crushed body-to-body with strangers doing their absolute best to ignore the masses pressed against them, I marveled at this crazy city’s ability to reduce the whole populace down to a moveable system under ground. From doorman to CEO, you could see a cross section of NYC every morning, and a broken AC system was a true social leveler. It got me to work, to parties in tiny walk-up apartments, to a friend’s funeral, with a relative ease and (most importantly) I could depend on it.
Living in SF has crushed those utopian, innocent dreams of one equalized nation, under MUNI. There are moments on public transit in this city where I think I should burn my TransLink/Clipper/WHATEVER they’re calling it now, buy an SUV, and start to see my daily commute through the comfortable lens of climate control.
Yes, there’s a subway, but it only travels on one line, one way. Yes, there are the gorgeous old trolleys on the Embarcadero, but they are never on time, despite what the fancy GPS tells you. Yes, there are buses, but some lines come once every half an hour and are as crowded as an NY subway, only with more stops and SF’s epic hills. Public transit as I know it in SF is a loud, smelly, sickness inducing endeavor that I avoid with all of my being.
No, SF has converted me to the faith of the bicycle instead. To the idea that running to work is an actual, feasible mode of transportation. To the belief that friends with cars are truly patron saints.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a heavy set cruiser that needs some air in her tires.