Posts Tagged ‘cultureBus’

FREE! Park Your Motorcycle All Day on Kaplan Lane near the MoMA in the SoMA

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Well there I was looking for four Norwegian gals, trying to find Dow Alley without Google Maps (not functioning due to its monomaniacal obsession with upgrading the software on my so-called smart phone) and I stumbled upon the biggest motorcycle free parking lot that’s anywhere close to Union Square. I’m all like, why aren’t there meters for all the bikes here?

Anywho, take a gander, on the MapJack (as the view from Google StreetView was just too hard to figure out). It’s like a motorcycle showroom just out the back door of the ThirstyBear Restaurant and Brewery (ask about their Great Recesssion lunch specials).

See? On the sidewalk, in marked spaces, unmarked spaces, both sides of the street, not a ticket in sight (uh oh, see the comments, but still…) – it’s Biker’s Heaven. Click to expand:

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How on Earth did the City neglect to meterize this lane when rates have gone up 180% (that’s $100 extra per month for a typical biker, and the SFMTA wanted to raise rates higher) so far this year?

Leave us travel back to 2004, when the towaway signs got took down and unmetered parking began:

Kaplan Lane, east side, from Clementina Street to the northern terminus.”

See that? The MUNI people, the people so rich they could afford to run CultureBuses all over town pretty much completely empty for months and months just for their own pride, actually turned down a chance to raise revenue. It’s amazing. It’s like a trip back in time when you take Clementina off of third to encounter The Alley of Free Parking.

So spread the word to all your two-wheeled buddies. Hurray!

Oh, wait a second, some of the hundreds of riders who regularly use Kaplan to Stick It To The Man want to keep things a secret. For example, Mark W. says:

Shhhhhh!!! :)

So let’s keep things on the low down. This is a secret worth keeping, despite the occasional hit-and-run chain reaction accident. Of course, there are other places to park for free in San Francisco, but they’re not all hidden away like Kaplan.

So, this is how it’ll be. When I see you carrying your helmet at the Gold Club or the Metreon, I’ll just offer my knuckles for your knocking and we’ll both say, in unison: “Kaplan, baby!”

Let’s let Yelp‘s Rachel S. make the final pitch:

“*a*b*u*n*d*a*n*t* motorcycle parking that’s strides away from Moscone center, Yerba Beuna Gardens and SFMOMA.  Tiny note that’s, y’know, likely of little interest… it’s free.  Gratis. No cuesta nada.  Really.  And what’s more, it’s safe at most all hours in my experience.  Which sort’ve stands to reason given the surrounding businesses: the early-morning dark is monitored by the Starbucks’ clientele, the late-evening hours are overseen by Thirsty Bear’s patrons.  Plus, the walk from your parked bike back to the real world is through either an architecturally rich alleyway or a sculpture garden, depending on which direction you’re headed. Win all around.”

See you there!

Kaplan Lane is in my ears and in my eyes/
There beneath the gray-ish urban skies

Does Mayor Newsom’s SUV Have an Engine Larger than Those in the Old CultureBuses?

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Yes. Mayor Gavin Newsom‘s official vehicle (or one of the official vehicles, anyway) has an engine with a larger displacement and more power than those in the Culturebuses that used to roam the City.

Here’s the famous SUV, recently seen parked in a bike lane near Golden Gate Park. Note the T.V. antenna (maybe it’s used for other things, but fundamentally, it’s a TV antenna) on top:

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And here’s one of the huge CultureBuses, from a time before the whole program got cancelled:


Does the mayor of San Jose, a nearby town with (unlike S.F.) more than a million people, have a “Mobile Command Vehicle” too? Mmmm.

Oh well.

MUNI’s Pathetic San Francisco CultureBus Gets Mocked on Its Final Run

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

A kind of black celebration was held in Golden Gate Park this afternoon to mark the end of the MUNI’s San Francisco CultureBus.

See the death throes of CB via Steve Rhodes, Whole Wheat Toast, Plug1, Octoferret, MattyMatt, SftaJan, AgentAkit, and Jamison

Who showed up? Transit fans and local online royalty. Click to expand:

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This 74-X couldn’t leave without baffling its last pair of tourists. They didn’t get on. Surprised?

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All that was left was the filled-in pole hole that used to mark the CB bus stop:

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Yes, the 74X is terminal. It’s dead, Jim

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Here’s one last glimpse through the famous see-through bus: 

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Perhaps these brand new buses and their friendly drivers will soon be put to better use, just in time for the possible BART strike.

We Can Only Hope.

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

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

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:

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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.

The Fullest CultureBus Seen in a Good Long While

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Here it is, the fullest CultureBus seen on the Streets of San Francisco since debut weekend back in September 2008.

Upwards of eight blond(e) Euro-types could be seen through the tinted windows.

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Perhaps its the Tut Effect.

Who knows?

Congratulations to N Judah Chronicles on Its Fourth Anniversary!

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Who turned out to mark the fourth birthday of the famous N Judah Chronicles in the prideful Inner Sunset district last night? Well, how about Matt Baume of Curbed SF and Sweet Melissa Griffin and Beth Spotswood and the Heinekin Girls and even chief MUNI flack Judson True (hey, let’s all hope lying about CultureBus pays more than telling the truth about CultureBus, ’cause telling the truth about the CB don’t pay a whit) and a host of others too numerous to enumerate.

Here’s NJC’s grand poobah Greg Dewar addressing the crowd last night on Irving Street near 9th Avenue at the Blackthorn Tavern. Chanted the mob,“Four more years!”

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And here’s the NJ itself,  just a stone’s throw away from the party, rolling along in the wind and fog.

Tourists Continue to be Baffled by MUNI’s Culturebus

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

Look at this sad scene from Golden Gate Park yesterday. See all these people? They’ve been patiently waiting out in front of the California Academy of Sciences since just after the closing time of 5:00 P.M. The problem is that 5:00 P.M. is when the last Culturebus departs for the day.

However, los turistas don’t know that. I told some of them about the 44 O’Shaughnessy but that didn’t tempt them. They sort of knew about the 5 Fulton, but the closest stop is about 1000 feet away. The $7 fare – news of that is what it took to drive the bulk of them away from this bus stop. 

The Euro-looking family held out hope as they could see a CB stopped at the other end of the Music Concourse but, for some odd reason, the schedule is set up to deliver people to the Cal Academy 40 minutes after closing time – it doesn’t accommodate anybody wanting to depart Golden Gate Park after 5:00 PM.  

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The poor devils, they’d be better off hailing a cab, if they could find one. Click to expand.

Now if I were a “courteous CultureBus operator” I’d feel obligated to take these people wherever they wanted to go in Union Square irregardless of the schedule. But that’s just me.

Could somebody put up “Fare: $7, last pickup at 5:00 PM” on this CultureBus bus stop sign?

Is that too much to ask?

This CultureBus – Totally Empty or Not? Plus, A Modest Proposal

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Ah yes, Culturebus 74-X. First, the Proposal. Since it’s dying anyway come September, couldn’t the SFMTA just reduce the price down to $1.50 and have people actually ride the thing? Why not?

Wouldn’t you agree, Nat, that the CB’s $7 charge puts it on the right side of the Laffer Curve? Would lowering the price actually increase revenue? I say yes. Here I stand, I can do no other.

Are the relevant contracts and agreements etched in stone or something, forever unchangeable? What do we have to lose by lowering the price?

Second, come play CultureBus – Totally Empty or Not? Let’s get started.

Take a gander. It certainly looks pretty empty. How many souls aboard? Go ahead, click to expand.

Surprise! Kilroy is here. Part of what made CultureBus a laughingstock was all the reports of totally empty, see-through buses, but some of them might actually have had paying passengers. Riders generally tend to cluster in the same spot and it’s hard to see their heads popping up from the low-rise floor.

Still don’t know who was behind San Francisco CultureBus 2008-2009. Oh well.

Come sempre, la vittoria trova cento padri, e nessuno vuole riconoscere l’insuccesso.

How CultureBus is Just Like the Abysmal Space Shuttle Program

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Work with me here. The Space Transportation System (aka the Space Shuttle) was started up with a push from sciencey-type people, but it’s never lived up to expectations. Six “vehicles” have been dedicated to the program with just three (Atlantis, Discovery, and Endeavour) available to work these days.

Similarly, San Francisco’s CultureBus program was started up with a push from sciencey-type people, but it’s never lived up to expectations. Six “vehicles” have been dedicated to the program with just three available these days. Mmmm. Let’s compare and contrast, shall we?

The women in the background wandered away from this dedicated CultureBus 74X bus stop after hearing about the “SPECIAL FARES” (a “thrifty” seven bones each) just for CB riders. The sole holdout, in denial, took some time to confirm her understanding with the driver before walking away in confusion as others have before her, and catching up with her friends:

The Space Shuttle program’s failure was ably predicted 29 years ago in this prescient article from smart-ass college-boy Gregg Easterbrook. On the other hand, the gestation period for the CultureBus was much shorter and less transparent so you couldn’t really assess how it was going to turn out, and really, things like this can be tough to predict.

No matter, it soon became clear shortly after the debuts of these programs that the amount of “cargo” moved around was going to end up being an something like an order of magnitude less than projected. But here’s where NASA and MUNI took different approaches.

NASA willed the Space Shuttle program to “work” by taking away all possible alternatives (like regular old rockets) and thereby forcing customers to use the shuttle. (That was foolish and inefficient and of course 14 people have died so far, but at least NASA didn’t fly the shuttle empty just to save face.) MUNI made a different choice – the powers that be simply cut service by 66% a couple of months back. That makes it tough to recommend CB to the average rich, naive, culture-seeking tourist.

This new once-an-hour service approach has certainly cut down on empty CultureBus sightings and now it certainly seems that the average number of people on any particular KulturBus has gone up. (We’re still talking about a 90%+ empty bus though.) An alternative would have been to reduce the fare to $1.50 just like most other MUNI rides, but that wouldn’t fit into the concept so it’s not going to get tried out. O.K. fine.

Look forward to seeing mostly empty CultureBuses for the next six months or so. After that, who knows. While we’re waiting for the next chapter in this saga, take solace in the fact that the #5 Fulton can handle a lot of the role of CB.

Oh look here, the San Francisco Examiner is weighing in on the issue right now. Taking the data given at face value, which is always dangerous to do, each individual “Culture_Bus” (in the vernacular of the ‘Xam) is now bringing in about $14 per hour, which is about what one would expect given recent anecdotal observations. Of course the trouble with CB isn’t that it “loses money” (pretty much every public transit system in the world outside of Japan loses money), the trouble is that it doesn’t move people around that much at all, the trouble is that the number of potential riders it pisses off and confuses is five times greater than the number of people who actually ride it.

This tiny blog is through with this issue. It’s through with the excuses forwarded for the shiny bright yellow-orange public policy failure known as CultureBus, because hearing the truth about this program is too vexing for some. Perhaps the spinners will turn spin into win, somehow, with the same old approach, with the same old song and dance.

¿Verdad baila? ¿Verdad canta?

Vaya con Dios, Autobús de la Cultura, Setenta y Cuatro Equis.

San Francisco CultureBus Suffers a Failure to Launch

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

What’s this? A San Francisco CultureBus in Golden Gate Park that’s not empty? And one that actually has more than two passengers? That would be an amazing sight, but upon further review you can see it’s just a regular old CB-logo-free MUNI 44 chugging its way to 9th Avenue. My bad.

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Here’s the actual CultureBus seen a few seconds later. Sadly, it’s completely empty. That’s not an uncommon sight these days.

Let’s go back and read a headline from a quarter century ago:

Culture Bus a Victim of Too Few Riders; Culture Buses Dropped For Lack of Ridership”

Of course the writer from the NYTimes was referring to program back East in New York, not here. But the 1973-1982 N.Y.C. Culture Bus concept seems amazingly similar to San Francisco’s current CultureBus program. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with the idea, but the Culturebuses spotted on the streets of San Francisco appear to be completely bereft of passengers most of the time.

A few stats on the approximate number of riders counted on CB’s in October and November 2008, with a sample size of about 40 sightings:

Mean: Less than 1, something like .6 passengers

Median: 0

Mode: 0

Range: 0-2

The CultureBuses have produced anger and frustration among the regular MUNI bus-riding public, with confusion arising from Fastpass holders being told that they need to feed the kitty as they board. You’d figure that German tourists would love to get on board, but many of them prefer to wait for the regular MUNI bus to come by.

Over time, things will get better as people begin to understand the system of course. But the whole CultureBus program isn’t sustainable the way things are going. And if you think it’s stressful being a driver on a regular MUNI bus overflowing with passengers, how must it feel for the drivers who trundle around in a big metal box all day by themselves?

How many more birdies will it take to sail this whale?

Couldn’t there be some kind of introductory offer to locals just to get people on board? Would there much of a marginal cost to that? Nope.

Is there any urgency to this situation? Is anybody going:

I’ve tried A! I’ve tried B! I’ve tried C! I’ve tried D! Tell me what else I can try!”

Simply, the CB has experienced a Failure to Launch. It’s not gaining altitude or picking up speed or whatever. And anyone who starts quoting ridership stats from a once-in-a-blue-moon weekend last September when the California Academy of Sciences had a huge number of patrons (and when the de Young Museum might have had even more) isn’t helping matters.

Godspeed, little bus.