Who’s Responsible for the Failure of MUNI’s CultureBus?

Today will see the last run of the San Francisco CultureBus (or “Culture Bus,” some people call it that). Yes, they’re “taking Old Yeller out back to shoot it and put it out of its misery.” But once you have a carcass, you need to find someone to take the blame for the FAIL. So, around whose neck should this screaming yellow albatross go?

The answer in MUNI chief Nat Ford. But not for the reason you might think.

“Is it he?” quoth one, “Is this the man?”
by him who died on cross,
With his cruel bow he laid full low
The harmless CultureBus.

Nat Ford is the Ancient Mariner:

Ancient_mariner_statue_arp_500pix copy

Watchet, Somerset, England. Via Adrian Pingstone

Is the source of the idea of the CultureBus documented anywhere? Not that I’m aware of. Obviously, the whole program was highly redolent of the New York City “Culture Bus” that ran from 1973 to 1982, but who had the idea to revive CB here in San Francisco? Perhaps it doesn’t really matter.

Whether or not the CultureBus concept was forced upon MUNI, doesn’t MUNI have the right and obligation to tinker with the idea? Did MUNI do anything to alter the CultureBus program once it became obvious (I’d peg it at early October 2008) that the daily ridership was turning out to be extremely low? I mean something other than spewing the stereotypical platitudes you’d expect them to spew?

Here’s what MUNI did – it cut back service 66% in January and raised prices 43% in July. That’s it. Just how airtight were these unseen agreements made amongst the stakeholders? Nothing could be done? Srsly?

(So, it’s like the Great Helmsman, the Dear Leader appoints you manage the Yangtse River Watershed and then tells you to kill every damned songbird within a 500 mile radius - how would you respond? Here’s what you’d do, you’re a team player right? You’d execute the plan and then wait for millions to die, powerless to alter Fate. And then you’d say boy, that Great Leap Forward, boy, it just didn’t work out.)

Wouldn’t it have been interesting to try something different? Lower the price to $1.50 for the sole purpose of actually moving people about the City in light of the circumstances? Or just trying anything except the same old same old, month after month?


Oh well.

So there’s your albatross, Nat. 

But that’s why you get paid the big bucks.

And as for you CultureBus, your pain is over, boy. Soon the Twitter birds will descend to lift you to Heaven.

Sleep! It is a gentle thing:


(In Elysium, there’ll be plenty of diesel and you’ll always be full of happy passengers.)

Good night, sweet CultureBus.

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