bus

Wildness beside a busy subway platform

In Yotsuya, the Marunouchi subway pops out of ground in central Tokyo. From the platform, there is this amazing view that includes a still functioning, although rarely used service road, an abandoned bus stop and plaza gradually returning to the wild, and a border of exuberant independent plants. There is something beautiful to glimpse this inefficient use of space and so much lush greenery in the midst of a dense city.

Goats tending a bus yard in San Francisco

This image of goats controlling the weeds at a San Francisco bus yard is whimsical and inspiring. Why doesn’t Tokyo (and other big cities) use these natural weed-eaters? The company behind this is called City Grazing, and their slogan: “Our herd of goats are organically fed, will eat your weeds and entertain your children!”

Camouflaged iPad for public transit

Using an old school notebook as an iPad cover is both crafty and funny. What’s sad is that San Francisco bloggers are speaking seriously about the need for camouflage to use the newest tech toy in public transit. Given how common iPhone thefts are in San Francisco public buses, this is already a concern and the subject of a betting pool over when the first case will be reported.

The case is certainly crafty, but I guess the user isn’t planning on using it in public. Isn’t the solution for residents to demand greater safety in public spaces? How can public transit be an attractive, let alone an efficient, alternative to private vehicles if people feel unsafe?

San Francisco transit

Muni Mess, by Mike Monteiro

I often tell Tokyo-ites how marvelous their train and subway system is: fast, convenient, clean, and safe. Mostly, Tokyo residents stare in disbelief when I explain how filthy the transit system in San Francisco is.

Recently I read a reminder that not only is San Francisco’s transit dirty, slow and inconvenient, but also dangerous. In the aftermath of a serious stabbing of an 11 year old boy, riding a Muni bus for his first time, the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper’s top political columnists provide the following advice for riding transit at night:

Muni manners: Roxann Hohman, who often rides Muni home from work late at night, passes on some unwritten safety rules for fellow riders. To wit:

— Sit in the middle. The mentally unstable and homeless sit up front where they grope or panhandle at will. The hood rats sit in the back where they can punch people in the head on the way out just for kicks.

— Keep your purse jammed under your arm and the strap wrapped around your wrist, lest someone grabs it on the way out the door.

— If you listen to music, don’t use the telltale white earbuds of an iPod – it’s just asking for trouble. And never listen to music so loud that you can’t tell what’s happening around you.

— Finally, don’t say anything to the three teenagers who are screaming at the top of their lungs, though they are just 2 feet from each other. To do so ensures you’ll get jumped, and you won’t get much help.

Is it any wonder that public transit is a service used almost exclusively by the poor in San Francisco? I am certain these columnists, and many of their readers, never ride the MUNI, certainly not in the evening. With such a continued heavy dependence on private automobiles, will San Francisco be able to grow without sacrificing mobility, air quality and health?