I used to have a job where we were provided commuter checks. Commuter checks basically pay for you to take public transportation to work. Since I had the good fortune of living within walking distance from my job, I opted not to use the checks; however, my supervisor suggested I get them anyway. I figured it couldn’t hurt, since they were free, and I started collecting them each month. A few months later, I was offered a new position with SF City and County. The job was with the Department of Public Health and based near Zuckerberg General Hospital, which meant no more walking.
I had stacked hundreds of dollars in commuter checks, but it never crossed my mind to take the bus. I had maybe taken three MUNI rides in my entire life! In high school, I would take Samtrans, but Samtrans was just nicer than MUNI: the buses were pretty clean and they didn’t attract the same type of riders as MUNI. I never had any issues. In any case, for a number of reasons I didn’t want to take MUNI to work.
First, I did the research and found out I would need to ride two buses to get from my house to SF General-seemed like way too much work.
Second, I’d have to adjust my schedule and leave home earlier to account for the travel time. This would also mean David would be responsible for getting the kids to and from school, and if anything happened during the day, I’d have to catch a bus to them.
Also, I’m successful. Do successful people ride the bus?!
So, I drove. I would have to leave extra early to find (and pay for) parking in the General lot or take my chances in the 4 hour spaces next to the building. And, if the 4 hour spaces were gone, I would find 1 hour parking and move my car throughout the day. Everything was fine until I forgot to move my car once and got an $80 ticket. I was heated! So I dug up my commuter checks and traded them in at Walgreens for a clipper card.
It turned out that taking two buses wasn’t the end of the world. Yes, there were some sketchy people on them sometimes; no, I didn’t always get a seat and yes, they were gross during the heatwaves. But I wasn’t driving in traffic; I wasn’t paying for gas and I wasn’t paying for parking. I wasn’t even paying to ride the bus! So, I got used to it, even started taking MUNI to other places, and on weekends because it was so convenient.
Then, I changed jobs again. I now have the good fortune of being able to walk to work. But because I’ve gotten used to the bus, I still take it when it rains or if I just don’t feel like walking. It’s only one bus and it’s a much shorter ride, but it’s also much more crowded.
I wouldn’t say I’m completely sold; for example, the other day I stepped onto the bus and it smelled exactly like lukewarm piss. The bus driver even had on a face mask! But I survived. I held my breath until my stop and then happily walked a couple of blocks to my house. I think I’ll be a MUNI rider for the next while, or at least until my rides stop being free.