Wednesday, May 6, 2009

MUNI sucks

Yesterday went from bad to stupid. After losing an hour in the AM due to a Caltrain suicide - exacerbated by not having my bike with me, not having my bike at the end of the day really cost me.

My wife called - "pick up some green sauce and diapers". This is a trivial errand with my bike, I'd probably stop at Rainbow for the sauce and the Noe Valley Walgreens for the diapers, unless I was feeling frisky and ride up to Mollie Stone's in Miraloma Park for both, giving me a hill climb up O'Shaugnessy in the process. Without a bike, I had to strategize. I was on Caltrain 275 which does not connect to BART or stop at 22nd St. I decided the best play was the 4th/King Safeway. As we pulled in I checked Nextbus - the T to the Castro in 10 minutes as I arrived at the station.

Run into Safeway - 10 minutes to grab a can of sauce and some diapers. Safeway was out of #1 diapers. Argh. I spy Walgreens across the street. Fine, I'll get the sauce and if I make the T, I will go to the Castro, otherwise, go into Walgreens and do a MUNI check. The cashier line was 6 deep! Aiyah! Who are these people? I didn't realize so many people lived in SoMa. I miss the T, and head to Walgreens.

I spy a 47 bus outside Walgreens. The 47 rules. Low traffic streets and cuts me right to Van Ness station. Of course it pulls out just as I get there. Fine, go into Walgreens which of course does not have the diapers I need. Now, it gets real comical.

I fumble with my Iphone for 2 minutes to check the T - 1 minute! Run to the T stop 1 block away, miss the T. Check the N Judah. 15 minutes. The 47 - 10 minutes. T - 15 minutes. I walk BACK to the 47 stop. 10 minutes pass, during which no 47 arrives to start the run, but an N Judah departs! Argh! Finally a 47 shows up, and the driver promptly goes around the corner for a smoke break. Another guy decides he will take the 10, which he sees is headed our way. Too late I decide this is a good idea, I walk around the corner to see that 10 bus pulling out. The T is on the way, so I head over there. Before it arrives, the 47 driver decides to put out his cigarrette and start his run - which would have surely outpace the T I finally just waited for.

MUNI FAIL. The problem at this spot is that there are 6 semi-useful lines, only 2 of which stop at the same place, the 45 and 30. NextMUNI will give you predictions for multiple lines at the same stop, but if the stops are catty-corner (like the 47 vs the 30) it won't, so navigating competing bus predictions on a Iphone may simply result in you first checking the prediction for a line that is 20 minutes away, then navigating to the line that is ARRIVING - 200 yards from where you stand.

The T and the N are at the same intersection but it takes 3-4 minutes to cross the dangerous intersection. The N Judah and the 47 begin at this spot so the NextBus predictors are completely useless, witness the non-existent 47 that eventually turned into a smoke-break bus, and the N-Judah that wasn't supposed to be there that magically appeared and departed while I awaited the 47.

If I ever found the time to write an Iphone App I would write the "4th and King - nextbus collection app" to get all the buses leaving this general area, do some general math, and rank the "fastest way to Montgomery", "Fastest way to the Castro" etc... putting a DANGER disclaimer on anything containing the 47, N, 30, or 45 which all being their runs at this spot (I think this also applies to a couple of the commuter lines - the 81 or something like that).

And of course the Walgreens in the Castro also didn't have the diapers....

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