I would usually start my morning commute as late as 10 or 11am to get to San Francisco. But, since university has already started, I have returned to waking up early and getting a commuter bus as early as 7:45am. However, on the first day of coming back to school early, the commute has been a complete mess — and a disaster — from start to end.
It was a little past 7:30am when I left my place to pick up my 58 bus heading towards San Francisco. I would usually get that bus between 7:43 and 7:50am at Hamilton, usually empty (except for 1 or 2 passengers already on board), and once I board that bus, I would be on my way to the City. Sometimes even, I would see the following buses in order: a Line 51 bus to Downtown Novato (school run), a Line 49 bus to San Rafael, and the Hamilton Shuttle, before the 58 bus. Last Wednesday, though, the 58 bus never showed up from the time I got to the stop until nearly 30 minutes later when the free Hamilton Shuttle came to my stop for a second time and took it instead to Alameda del Prado bus pad. Total wait time from start: 25 minutes.
Once the shuttle came close to the Highway 101 bus pad at Alameda del Prado, I sensed that a Route 54 bus was already pulling into the bus pad to pick up passengers. The driver told me that he will do his best for me to get the bus by pulling his shuttle closest to the curb for me to run and get the 54 bus. Unfortunately, despite me running, it only took me less than a minute to realize that the 54 bus I wanted closed its door and left before me boarding it. Result: another wait time of 40 minutes before boarding the last 54 bus heading to the City — and it pulled into the bus pad 20 minutes later than scheduled. In fact, as I checked the clock, the time then was 7 minutes to 9:00am. From that time on, I only had around 75 minutes to cross the Golden Gate Bridge into the City and hopefully grab a Muni 28 bus towards San Francisco State University. The bus driver — which I know him as a friend — explained to me that most of the buses heading out of Novato and Sonoma County were running really late due to heavy traffic along Highway 101 from De Long Avenue (possibly from the Narrows as well) towards Civic Center in San Rafael. Total wait time: 38 minutes, total travel time: 30 minutes.
However, the long wait in Novato — totaling nearly 1-1/2 hours — to get to San Francisco was nothing compared to what happened to the Muni bus I took to San Francisco State University. The bus body number was 8045 (pictured, above), and when I picked that up as a Line 28 from the Golden Gate Bridge, it was again running a bit empty (except for like 5 people on board), and as the bus progressed through Park Presidio Boulevard, the bus stopped to pick up and drop off passengers as usual. But, as the bus reached 19th Avenue and Lincoln Way south of Golden Gate Park, a strange phenomenon happened: as the driver tried to close the front door to continue along 19th Avenue, all of a sudden, the rear door opened. Usually, someone should be stepping on the stairwell to activate the rear door (with a green light); however, no passenger was on the stairwell that would have activated the door. So the driver closed the rear door to continue on, but as he was about to leave… the front door suddenly opened like magic. It was like a mistake for me to see the front door happen by mistake when the rear door was already closed since the driver already was done boarding and disembarking passengers. The phenomenon happened more than three times that the Muni driver tried to restart his bus all over… yet the same phenomenon persisted. We were so pissed inside the bus, we waited for five minutes for it to move, and once the bus restarted and the problem continued, all 50+ of us on board got off the bus and waited for another bus running right behind the bus I was on. And once the other bus stopped on the middle of 19th Avenue, all of us boarded the bus like a stampede trying to get out from an accident, and the bus I was originally on finally went out of service. Fortunately, the driver of the reliever bus knew what to do in that situation: since the bus was full to the limit (including standees), he did not stop the bus to pick up more passengers; instead, he only stopped to drop off passengers along the way, and once I got into San Francisco State, I only had 10 minutes to run to my class! And I was so lucky since I knew the room I was heading into was literally just 1 minute away, so I had time to relax and talk to a friend about the horrendous trip I had that day. Total travel time: 35 minutes.
This only shows that a commuter has to be prepared for anything that could happen along the road: whether it can be a traffic jam on the freeway, a bus breakdown, or angry passengers, one has to be patient and understanding that I am not the only one using the bus. There are thousands of us transit riders who rely on buses, ferries, trains, and light rail vehicles every single day, and of course, vehicles aren’t perfect, either. So, the lesson learned from that experience was not only to stay calm during a tough commute, but to also find a way to get into the City as early as possible to lessen stress and exhaustion. I understand that it can be cheaper and better for the environment to use transit, but the main enemy of transit is time and passenger loads: transit takes slower and carries more passengers per mile than cars do.