The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

This morning's commute

In Chicago, I usually take the 156 bus or the El to work in the morning. Today, I took this:

That's how I got to see this on my commute:

Of course, now that I have arrived at the client's office, I should probably do some work.

M'aidez

The bad news is I've been in meetings with clients all day. The good news is their office has a view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Updates as warranted. And as I have time for.

San Francisco MUNI buses issue tickets

If you're driving in San Francisco, don't block the MUNI:

By early next year the city's entire fleet of 819 buses will be equipped with forward-facing cameras that take pictures of cars traveling or parked in the bus and transit-only lanes. A city employee then reviews the video to determine whether or not a violation has occurred — there are, of course, legitimate reasons a car might have to occupy a bus lane for a moment — and if so the fines range from $60 for moving vehicles to more than $100 for parked cars.

City officials consider the pilot program a success. "Schedule adherence" has improved, according to that update, as has general safety, since access to proper bus-stop curbs is impeded less often. In addition, the number of citations issued has risen over the past three years — from 1,311 in 2009 to 2,102 in 2010 and 3,052 last year, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

At the root of the problem is a disconnect between the automobile and transit worldviews, transit planner Jarrett Walker explains in his excellent new book, Human Transit. (More on this in the coming days.) While an empty bus lane is actually a functional bus lane, an empty car lane is a wasted car lane, so drivers are quick to capitalize on what they view as a transportation inefficiency.

That's pretty cool. In principle, I approve of automated parking enforcement, such as Chicago's street sweeper cameras, even though I've had to pay fines as a result. Fair enforcement is all right with me. (But don't get me started on how Chicago puts up street-sweeping signs the day before...)

Public transportation as amusement-park ride

There are a few examples of public transportation in the world that double as fun things for tourists over and above their practical uses for commuters. The Chicago El's Loop section, for example, or New York's Roosevelt Island Tramway.

In San Francisco, tourists mob the cable cars, pushing regular commuters aside, and removing them from this category. Same, to some extent, with the Muni F-line streetcars. but near the convergence of the F and California St. Cable Car is the Ferry Terminal Building, which, despite its transformation in the last 20 years into an urban market, actually has ferries. I took one of them yesterday.

I had to get from the city to Sausalito. The Sausalito Ferry is, it turns out, the best way to do that. The $4.85* fare not only gets you to Sausalito, but it also gives you this view:

The whole trip is like that. In fairness to the city, it wasn't as gloomy as it appears in the photo; I just caught it at a particularly dramatic moment.

Upon disembarking in Sausalito, however, this sign greeted me:

I have no idea what that means, especially since without cholesterol, animals die. But, hey, it's California, and no one from the Sausalito Police came to steal my cholesterol.

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* It's $4.85 if you have a Clipper Card. Otherwise it's $9. If you regularly travel to a particular city, I recommend getting a transit card.

Third-favorite city in the world (tied)

I'm back in San Francisco for a couple of days, narrowly escaping Chicago's lake-effect nightmare yesterday. I enjoyed walking around without a coat last night, until the rain started. (Did you know it rains here in February? Yes? You're ahead of me, then.) A friend and I wanted to check out a bar over by Civic Center, Smuggler's Cove, which I might Yelp later today. I must say, waiting outside in the rain for 35 minutes to go into a bar has lost its appeal for me over the years. Fortunately, the bodega right on the corner had umbrellas. This, by the way, is why I love San Francisco and New York: you can get what you need with a minimum of fuss.

Today will see me ferrying across the bay for lunch in Sausalito, then heading down to the Ps. Apparently there are ribs in the future for me. I might skip food at lunch, just in case.

Will my flight leave on time?

I remember traveling in the 1970s and 1980s, when no one could reliably answer this question until the plane actually left the runway. But today I'm at O'Hare while snow is falling, and it looks like my flight will in fact take off on time despite the snow and the lengthening list of delayed flights on the arrivals board.

How do I know?

First stop is the American Airlines website. Their flight status tool says my plane departs on time from gate K5. And the page has a link to "arriving flight information," which tells me that the plane I'm on will land in 10 minutes.

Oh, really? Yes, really, as Flight Aware's real-time tracker shows me. At this moment, the airplane taking me to San Francisco is heading straight for the O'Hare VOR about 70 km away. (It's over Joliet—no, wait, now it's over Naperville!)

The airline has done it right. By providing real-time information, they're putting me at ease. Even if the incoming plane were circling over Springfield, that would still help me by letting me plan how long I can sit here working before I have to schlepp to the gate.

Update: In the time it took to write this entry, my plane has arrived, and I can see it taxiing towards me right now. I am not making this up. That's not my plane, by the way. That's a plane being de-iced, to show you why I might be a little on edge about my actual departure time today.

Praise cheeses

Every time I visit San Francisco, I stop here:

Today I only left with 400 g, which unfortunately I'll have to leave with my family. Well, unfortunately for me; knowing them, it won't last two weeks in the house. That's an acceptable outcome.