I am not an amusement park ride kind of gal.
Even the Mad Hatter’s Tea Cup ride at Disney World makes me nauseated. Roller coasters, parachute jumps and Haunted Mansion elevator drops are definitely not a few of my favorite things. And yet, I love the San Francisco public bus system.
I believe in public transportation, especially if I don’t have to peddle. So, even in New York City, going through the busiest audition/performance day, I took city buses. The occasional cab or subway when time demanded, but usually, I traversed that city, using what the Metropolitan Transit Authority had to offer above ground. Now, New York City has its charms, but its public transportation system is not one of them. Compared to San Francisco’s, New York City’s above ground transport system is crowded, dirty, uncomfortable, and boring.
It is also flat. Which is probably why it’s so boring.
I know, I know. I said I hate roller coasters. And at times, San Francisco’s various bus routes take the passenger on what can only be described as a roller coaster ride. But instead of scaring me, the bus rides here lull me into a kind of scenic somnolence, a relaxation rooted in the delightful feeling that over the next rise I will encounter another gorgeous view. This does not happen in Manhattan. First, because there’s nothing that gorgeous to look at, and second, as I mentioned, New York City is as flat as flat can be.
I guess I’ve become addicted to our urban hills.
But who wouldn’t crave the ride as you take the #24 Divisadero bus from the Haight, passing Oak, Eddy, Post, Sacramento, et al., until you ride along Jackson Street with Alta Plaza Park on one side and the glorious panoramic view of the bay at Pierce Street on the other? This bus, along with the #28 you can easily transfer to, will take you right into the thick of the America’s Cup festivities, where you can get as much of Larry Ellison as you want (something I’ve no interest in whatsoever, but others might).
If you take the #43 along Masonic from the Haight to the Marina, it takes you through the fragrant eucalyptus groves of the Presidio, alongside a fabulous Andy Goldsworthy natural sculpture, and you can even stop off at Lucasfilm’s public lobby to see the original models used in Star Wars! The #43 is one of my favorite rides. Then there’s the #6 or #71 down Haight Street all the way to some great shopping, and dozens of other buses all over town. Covering so many neighborhoods, it feels like being in a different country every trip.
One great way to get to know this city is to get on a bus at its starting point and take it all the way to its last stop. You can be a tourist in your own hometown, and for $2 ($.75 if you’re a senior), it’s the best bargain around. With no parking worries.
Then, there are the bus drivers.
First, unlike New York City (where bored bus drivers have a need for speed down the straightaways of Broadway and across 42nd Street), San Francisco bus jockeys keep an even-tempered pace, so there’s little danger of being flung about too badly. I’ve encountered the occasional heavy-footed driver, but overall, the men and women in charge of buses here seem well trained to negotiate hilly terrain. And they are very nice, super helpful, and at times, downright chatty. I never experienced this phenomenon in New York City. Bus personnel here have helped me to get to know this city, and they have been patient instructors.
As for the buses themselves?
San Francisco has the usual motorized buses, but we also have the largest trolley coach fleet in the United States and because they’re powered by electricity from overhead wires, our buses contribute to the general ecological health by being more energy efficient, quieter and less polluting. Another reason to support and frequent them. All you have to do is go to www.sfmta.com, www.nextbus.com, or one of the several Muni apps for all the schedule and route information you’ll ever need.
With such waste in the world, the urban crush, the pushing, the shoving, the yelling for space to park our cars, it’s nice to know that San Francisco provides us with a way to get around that makes more sense. You may not agree with me on this. But that’s OK. If you do decide to ride a bus, I’ll get up and give you my seat anyway.
So you can see what I see.