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?