Each day, Muni’s 30-Stockton bus carries more than 22,000 passengers, providing a crucial public transportation option for residents in San Francisco’s northern neighborhoods.
And it is my personal nemesis.
Click on the photo at right to see a slideshow of Man vs. Muni.
As a five-year resident of Nob Hill, I have been stymied, rejected and emotionally battered by the bus, which runs down the densely populated Chinatown corridor just two blocks from my apartment.
To exact revenge, I decided to best the 30-Stockton, on foot, covering a distance from the bus stop at Pacific Avenue and Stockton Street to Market Street.
The competition I selected was, admittedly, not perfectly scientific. I decided to depart at exactly 8 a.m. regardless of whether a 30-Stockton was leaving then. I have waited at that stop so many times, and the thought of just abandoning transit and walking down to Market Street has entered by mind on many occasions. This race was about testing whether it is worth hanging out and taking the always-packed 30-Stockton.
Also, this competition did not apply to the other moribund Muni buses on that route. It was me versus the 30-Stockton. Man versus Muni.
7:55 a.m. - We arrive at Stockton Street and Pacific Avenue. A crammed 45-Union/Stockton takes off. I wonder: Did that bus just steal all the passengers who were supposed to slow down my rival?
8:00 a.m. - I depart the bus stop at a very brisk pace and immediately start to sweat. At this point, I regret my decision to not wear something more aerodynamic, but a Spandex onesie would probably be frowned upon at the office.
Reaching my first intersection, photographer Mike Koozmin reminds me that crossing the street during a red light is illegal and violates the spirit of the competition. I agree to observe his rule, but I secretly contemplate chucking his camera into traffic.
8:01 a.m. - From Stockton and Washington streets, I notice a bus leaving my departing point. I cannot tell if this is the 30-Stockton or another slow-moving Muni line.
8:05 a.m. - I enter the Stockton Street tunnel in the lead. This portion is the only place on the route that a bus can pick up speed. The competition will be over if the 30-Stockton beats me here.
8:07 a.m. - My heart sinks as a Muni bus zooms by me in the tunnel. But my dread is replaced by elation as I realize it is the 8BX-Bayshore Express. I know what you are thinking: Any bus that takes you downtown will work, so I am definitely slower than public transit. But my beef is with the 30-Stockton, not the 8BX.
8:09 a.m. - Just before Union Square, I glance over my shoulder to see the menacing face of my enemy emerging from the tunnel. I am not paranoid, but I swear this vehicle is hellbent on tracking me down.
8:10 a.m. - My only hope is that the 30 becomes tangled up in Central Subway construction at Union Square. Oh, the irony of me winning this competition with help from the line that is eventually going to put the 30-Stockton out of business.
8:11 a.m. - Horrible, horrible defeat. Just one block away from Market Street and eternal satisfaction, and I am passed by the 30-Stockton. My humiliation is compounded further by the realization that sweat has drenched my back.
8:12 a.m. - Defeat has never been more painful. Koozmin orders me to pose for a photo keeling over a lamppost, looking utterly destitute. And why not? My pride has been irreparably destroyed.
8:15 a.m. - Undeterred, I call out the 30-Stockton for a rematch. People on Market Street stare at me strangely.