Another lesson relearned: cities and Public Services don’t really mix so well.
And so it is that I missed the 8:15 bus to work this morning, and am sitting in Peet’s Coffee on Van Ness writing this and waiting for 9:15 to roll around.
Such an introduction has undoubtedly prefaced many a whine on the state of MUNI (SF’s Public Transport system), but having endured 8 years of hilarious systems failures, self-serving drivers’ strikes and sweaty, “sardine can” conditions on the London Underground, I really can’t complain. In using the MUNI trams for six weeks now, I’ve never suffered a delay, smelled another human being’s armpits or had cause to make an inpromptu Voodoo likeness of MUNI staff. That’s partly luck, I know – MUNI is renowned for its idiosyncracies, and I’m sure that one day in the future I’ll look back at this very paragraph and laugh.
And to be fair, over the 8 years I was in London the tube did improve immeasurably. Newly-arrived Londoners can mull that one over next time their train breaks down in a tunnel.
Aaaanyway, as usual, I digress.
The cause of my delay this morning was indirectly due to the wonderful folks of San Francisco’s water Department. They’ve been messing around outside my house for the best part of a month (a yearly ritual, I’m told) doing God Knows What under the roadway. I don’t mind that they have to fix the pipes – it’s a big hill in a rainy, seismically-active city. Shit happens, and I’d rather that it didn’t “happen” to flow out of a broken pipe right where my car’s parked.
But whoever spent three weeks digging around under there earlier this month obviously didn’t finish what they started. And so I came out of my house this morning to find a brand new sign dumped in front of my car, warning of a “No stopping, Tow Away” zone being back in force. From today. The same “today” that they put the sign out.
I have my morning-commute routine now. A quick walk to Church Street MUNI, one stop on the K/L/M tram to Van Ness, and a couple of blocks’ walk to my bus stop. This plan doesn’t factor in ten minutes to move my car because some bastard set up a parking restriction with precisely zero warning.
Luckily, my neighbourhood is actually parking-rich, so it didn’t take long to move the car around the corner. But it took just long enough. I finally got downtown… just in time to see the bus pull away.
Still, I guess it gave me time for a coffee and a muffin and a quick whinge into my text-editor for later 360-posting, so it’s not all bad.
It also reminded me of the difference between Public Services in cities, versus those in towns. I may be over-sensitive or paranoid, but this morning’s fun little incident smacked of a certain hostility towards the folks of my neighbourhood. Why no warning? What the hell would have happened if they’d done this whilst I was away for a week?
If not an actively hostile act, then at the very least it exposed the general problem with city services. Cities get used more than towns. There are more people per square mile, more cars, more trucks, more wear-and-tear. There’s often less money-per-head (more poverty/homelessness), and much, much more to fix. So people get overworked, careless, lazy. And they forget to put out the parking restriction warnings until the day they start.
I wish I were a municipal planning genius and could provide an instant solution to this problem. Unfortunately, planning genius I ain’t. But I will keep thinking about it, particularly if I end up missing the bus again due to early-morning parking surprises…