Sunday, April 5, 2009

Get on the bus

One of the time-honored practices of Muni riders in San Francisco is the transfer transfer. (My own term.)
It involves either a) simply leaving your bus or train transfer on your seat for the next person or b) openly asking someone standing at the bus stop or on the bus/train if he/she wants your slender newspring proof of fare payment.
Although I buy a monthly bus pass for $45 -- well worth it, since I take at least two buses and two trains a day -- I like transfer transfers. They appeal to my sense of what makes a community -- helping out someone who may, if only today, had trouble coming up with the $1.50 they needed to catch the bus across town for work or school or whatever.
And, OK, maybe there's a sense of transfer transfers sticking it to The Man.
Now here comes Muni, faced with budget trouble on top of it's already bad service reputation, saying that it will eliminate some routes, severely cut back others and add revenue by, among other things, increasing fares and charging 50 cents for transfers. (When I get on a real computer, I'll add the link to Muni's triumpherate of budget-balancing options.)
This worries me. Will charging for transfers eliminate transfer transfers as we know them? Will this commercialize transfer transfers? Is "community" dead?
My stomach aches thinking of the guy who the other day offered me his transfer at the 9th/Judah stop now walking up to me saying, "Hey, buddy! Wanna transfer?" and opening up his trench coat to reveal a couple dozen thin-paper tickets.
"This one right here's a beaut! Runs out at 11 tonight --" He chuckles. "It's only 7 now. Who knows how far you could ride with it?
"I see you're a nice fella -- nice tie, by the way -- so for you, I'll let you have it for 40 cents. Almost the same as a donut over there at Donut World." He points to my white bakery bag, the chocoloate-and-sprinkles masterpiece practically calling out to me.
I wince. Maybe it's his price that causes me to cringe. Maybe it's the cruller I wolfed down a couple minutes ago.
He senses that he's losing a sale.
"Alright. So you're a man watching his dimes. I understand. 30 cents. You ain't gonna find a better deal, especially once you get past Forest Hill."
I shake my head, trying to be respectful. After all, he could be a Muni Cop, just waiting to bust some middle-aged punk looking for a bus joyride.
"That's alright. Maybe next time," he says. "I've seen you around here before."
And with that he takes off down 9th, into the fog that's moved in from the northwest, across Golden Gate Park and Judah.
My 6-Parnassus bus pulls up to the corner, waiting to make the left turn onto 9th. I fish my monthly pass out of my back pocket and hold it close to my chest. There but by the grace of Muni go I.

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