28 February 2015

A Quest for a Cord

This is a story about the search for a flip-phone recharging cord. It is also a story about the Mission, its unique offering of shops and services, and also it's people.

One day, while my parents were visiting San Francisco, my dad said he needed to get a recharge cord for his 20th century flip phone. He had forgotten his cord (most likely since he only uses the phone two dozen times a year). Flip phones were once common but finding a cord now sounded as challenging as finding an 8-track tape player.

So after visiting Walgreen's on Mission and 23rd St we stopped by the most obvious place I knew of - at least the most obvious place I knew of while I grew up. That place? Radio Shack of course! But Radio Shack didn't carry that specific recharge cord. The staff were helpful and indicated that the shop next store might have it. That's when we walked into Cyber Iman, Your IPhone, Computer Repair, Cell Phone Accessories store. This place had to have a recharge cord for my Dad's Samsung flip phone - it has the banner "Cell Phone Accessories" added on under the store sign!

24 February 2015

The Ways to the Presidio - Part 1: Walk in the Park

In the coming weeks I will be "commuting" to the Presidio from the Mission District to determine the best way to get there. Ways of getting there run the gambit: driving, transit, biking, walking and many iterations between each of these modes. I'll be doing some of them. As mentioned in my earlier summary of the commute options, the criteria for the "best" commuting options include:

  1. Journey Time - the door-to-door time by each mode and route choice
  2. Comfort  Level - how comfortable is the ride and overall journey experience
  3. Cost - how much does a daily commute cost? what are hidden costs?
  4. Safety and Environmental - how safe is the route and is it limited or flexible to seasonal variations (length of daylight, weather conditions, etc.) 
Note, you have only one more day to vote in the poll, "What's the best way to work at the Presidio from the Mission?" for what YOU think is the best way to get to the Presidio. Chime in and vote your response for the poll in the right column (only visible on HTML full web version of the web site). Results will be posted and discussed soon - so vote now!
Ecology Trail. Image: Presidio.gov

The Walk in the Park
I took the Muni 33-Stanyan bus from Guerrero and 18th Street. The ride was pleasant and scenic - especially at Market and Clayton streets where it takes a great V turn and you can see Downtown San Francisco and the bay. The ride was inconsequential, and I arrived at Sacramento and Cherry streets within 35 minutes - the last person on the bus. Amidst the mansions of Presidio Heights and CPMC California Campus, I headed north on Cherry Street, passing the Temple Emanu-El, and soon passed through the Arguello Gate into the Presidio.
Mural along Market St at 18th St. Image: Urban Life Signs

The "V-Turn" location where buses turn from Market (right) to Clayton (left) and vice versa. Image: Urban Life Signs

Downtown SF seen from Clayton and Market. Corona Heights is to the left. Image: Urban Life Signs

Temple Emanu-El in Presidio Heights. Image: Urban Life Signs

Arguello Gate. I walked through on the sidewalk (far right). Image: A Year on the Bay Area Ridge Trail
Without a Presidio hiking map on me, I took the most intuitive direction - east on the Mountain Lake Trail (not knowing the name at the time.) Soon I came to the Ecology Trail and headed north into the deep forest of this southeastern Presidio trail that links to the Main Post. 

Ecology Trail begins. Image: Urban Life Signs

Ecology Trail - Presidio. Image: Urban Life Signs

It becomes immediately apparent you are in a great forest and ecosystem with periodic sloped meadows. As I descended, I could see Andy Goldsworthy's "Spire" up above the slope I was decending. 

Andy Goldsworthy's "Spire". Image: California-Travels.com

Thick forested section of the Ecology Trail. Image: Urban Life Signs
Early on, just below Inspiration Point, we could make out Alcatraz and the Palace of Fine Arts dome. My daughter enjoyed the California golden poppies, but was less excited about the near half-dozen dog walkers we passed (nearly 2 dozen dogs in total). She's 2 years old - so you can't blame her. The dog walkers were all friendly and courteous.

Most of the trail is a moderate slope with some sections of near flat slope. I arrived at a breezy Main Post near the chapel. That's where the pedestrian world starts to deteriorate. But hey it's the beautiful Main Post of the Presidio you have arrived at with the Golden Gate Bridge in the near distance. 

Upon meeting my friend, we had a picnic lunch on a nice patch of grass that overlooks the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge beside the former Presidio Burger King. 

Trip Analysis

Journey Time: ~70 minutes
Comfort Level: high comfort with a welcome pleasant physical environment, plus a one-seat bus ride from the Mission to Presidio Heights. 
One-way cost: one Muni bus fare: $2.25 - walk segment was free.
Safety and environmental: The route seemed safe, although I was walking along it in the daytime. The route would be a bit less safe feeling in the evening or late afternoon darkness in the winter. While you take the 20 minute hiking portion - you are affected by the weather. Today was sunny and windy, but not windy in the Monterey Pine forests. 

11 February 2015

Do you know the way to the Presidio?

Getting to work. We all have to get there from home unless we work from home. We have our routine commute or possibly two ways to get there (driving some days and bus others, or biking some days and walking others).

But what do you do if your office is relocated or you start a new job in a new location? How do you get to your new office - especially if it's a place you have rarely been to before.  Namely, do you know the way to the Presidio?

Signpost to transit in the Presidio. Note that restrooms could be transit, just not the kind I'm talking about.
Image: Raquel Lonas
Answer: You are ripe for trying out all the options:

  • driving
  • transit
  • biking
  • carpooling
  • walking
You should try a mix of modes depending on the day of the week, the time of day, and of course how long and how comfortable each mode. You're also up for trying different routes for any of these modes. Weather even plays into which modes to use, especially for walking and biking.

My friend Anne Franklin, who lives in the Mission, previously commuted to Potrero Hill. Recently her packaging design firm, DDW, relocated to the Presidio. The Presidio is a beautiful place - really a park, but it's far away from the Mission, and has limited transit access.

Before the office move, she walked to work, and occasionally take transit. Anne does not own a car. So how should she get to work from 18th St and Valencia? So far she's tried three options: Muni via the 33 & 43, the PresidiGo shuttle, and taking the 33 and walking through the Presidio.
A PresidiGo shuttle and a Muni bus in the Presidio. Image: Presidio Trust
I've made a new poll for folks to vote for the best way to commute between the Mission. Please vote for what you think would be the best: a combination of fastest, most comfortable and not too expensive or frustrating. You can find the poll on the web site version of Urban Life Signs in the right column.

Below is a list of the three ways Anne has tried out for getting to work, then several other ways to consider.

A: Muni-Muni - Take Muni the whole way. 33-Stanyan then transfer to the 43-Masonic and into the Presidio
This route requires a transfer at the intersection of Haight and Clayton. Cross Haight then Clayton. Then wait for the 43-Masonic
View from 43-Masonic bus passing through the Presdio. Image Pawel D via Yelp.com

B: PresidiGo - Take BART to Embarcadero Station. Transfer to the PresidiGO shuttle and on to the Presidio.
Requires a short walk to the 16th St Mission station. Going down to the platform and a short wait for a train. Then get off at busy Embarcadero Station and go to the surface to the nearby PresidiGo shuttle stop on Drumm at California at the Hyatt Regency.

01 February 2015

Third Street 2nd Transbay Tube is the Charm?

Having a Second Transbay Tube is a great and welcome prospect. The tube would bring better access, reliability, and resiliency to Downtown San Francisco's transportation network. In November we learned that BART is actively studying the idea of a second Transbay Tube (see PDF presentation). Several articles and opinion pieces have covered the critical issues of station locations, alignments, cost, funding, environmental issues, etc.

Image: Urban Life Signs
I have to note that the map used to show the basic idea bears an uncanny resemblance to one of the alignments I studied and proposed in my June 2013 piece, "Poll: Where Should BART Go in SoMa?" True, no specific alignment has been selected - and many will be considered an analyzed. However, as you can see in the map, especially the closeup map, the alignment shown follows the Third St/Geary alignment that I considered back in 2013 for my "Poll: Where should BART go in SoMa?" piece.
Image: BART via SF Examiner
Even Mayor Ed Lee has come out supporting a Second Transbay Tube, in his "Shared Prosperity: Affordability Directives" document, which is very encouraging. The Mayor said, "We will begin a regional conversation with my fellow Mayors in the East Bay, Supervisor Scott Wiener, and the BART Board about a second BART tube from Mission Bay to the East Bay." (emphasis added).

Likewise, according to Streetsblog, the new Oakland mayor, Libby Schaaf is on board for a second tube saying, "It will not be cheap… I think it will really reduce congestion. I hella love Oakland, but we do need to think regionally, and it would make a lot of sense for the region.” Even Alameda is on board for a new tube the Public Works Director, Bob Haun, saying he is ready to work with BART on placing a station on the island.

I have my own thoughts on whether a Second Transbay Tube should go through Mission Bay, but let's set that aside for a later discussion. What's interesting is that the 3rd St/Geary alignment (or 3rd St/Union Square alignment as I originally called it) is the rough alignment shown on the map - and it passes through Mission Bay, with a probable stop at Third St and King. Mayor Lee calling out Mission Bay seems to show that he thinks it's important that whatever alignment is chosen should go through there. I wonder if he's considered the capacity constraints of Embarcadero and Montgomery, and that a second tube would do well to help alleviate some of that constraint and also connect to the Transbay Center.

Image: BART