Man vs. Muni: San Francisco reporter races 14-Mission with Facebook fans on his side 

As a reporter at The San Francisco Examiner, I have long thought there is nothing worse than covering something at the Hall of Justice. The place is depressing, the security lines are long, and I’m always afraid that I’ll be hauled into jail for some minor crime I committed a decade or more ago. And then there is the utter lack of good transit options to Bryant and Seventh streets.

Click on the photo at right to see a slideshow of Man vs. Muni.

Many times, I’ve traversed the distance from The Examiner’s office to the Hall of Justice without passing a single public transit vehicle. Waiting for a bus on Mission Street is almost always a worthless experience.

So, for my third race against Muni, I’m taking on the plodding 14-Mission bus, starting near my office at First and Mission streets and traveling to the hall at Seventh and Mission streets. In an informal Facebook poll, 86 percent of those people surveyed think I can beat the bus. Jeez, no pressure at all.

My plan is to depart at 8:45 a.m. sharp on Monday morning.

8:45 a.m. - Photographer Mike Koozmin and I take off from Mission and First roughly one minute before the 14-Mission’s scheduled departure. The mission to beat the Mission has begun.

8:48 a.m. - Only three minutes into the competition, a Muni bus flies past me just past Second Street. Koozmin and I both start hurling epithets, but then realize that the bus is out of service and carries no passengers. We apologize to the people standing next to us for all our swearing.

8:50 a.m. - We time the lights perfectly and cross Third Street without even breaking stride. Still no bus in sight. I’m beginning to think I could win this thing.

8:52 a.m. - But those hopes are quickly dashed by my first sighting of the 14-Mission. In between Third and Fourth streets, I glance back and see the bus about a block and a half behind me. The pantographs that connect the vehicle to the overhead wires look disturbingly like devil horns.

8:54 a.m. - Right before the light changes, Koozmin and I plow through Fifth Street one block ahead of the bus. Then I consider the distance ahead and realize the futility of this race. Does anyone know why each block in SoMa is roughly 12 football fields long? Doesn’t really seem fair.

8:55 a.m. - The 14-Mission begins loading passengers at Fifth Street, a half-block behind us. I scan the sidewalk for something big to throw in the street, but can’t find a suitable object.

8:56 a.m. - About 200 feet from Sixth Street, the 14-Mission passes me. My only hope now is for sort of boarding catastrophe at the next stop. Of course, if there is one spot in San Francisco where things could turn sour for Muni, Sixth and Mission is that place.

8:57 a.m. - Sadly, I don’t see a single crazy person holding up the works on Sixth Street. It seems as if all the usual Sixth Street nutjobs have migrated somewhere else today (foreshadowing).

8:58 a.m. - The dream officially dies when the 14-Mission reaches Seventh Street a half-block ahead of us. To add insult to injury, some deranged dude then punches Koozmin in the face, knocking his camera to the ground (luckily no one is hurt). The guy flees the scene — and presumably returns to his regular post on Sixth Street.

8:59 a.m. - To recap, we almost went toe-to-toe with the 14-Mission and all we got was a smack in the face. And while we were fighting the good fight Monday morning, Muni’s downtown train system completely failed. I could probably have done three laps between First and Seventh streets and still beat all the passengers stuck in the subway tunnel.

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Will Reisman

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