I’m not handling the city very well. I think, really, a week is enough for me. A week a month.

It’s noisy. The road noise is incessant; I go to sleep to it, I wake up to it. I walk to and from work through it. At work, it’s almost quiet… No; not really. Sirens and honks filter up from the street; a constant backdrop to every action, every thought.

I’m in my room. It’s a fine place, I guess. Four walls, a new mattress.

There’s a repair place across the street and a bar downstairs. A busy intersection is right there.

The noise never stops.

Perhaps I’m not hydrating enough.

I’m constantly thinking about transportation; why transportation fails in the city.

I have a really hard time with crosswalks. I always have. I have never understood why cars should have the right of way, anywhere. People that are walking should have the right of way. It angers me to have to wait for the cars to go by. You! Alone in your car! Why aren’t you on public transportation?

San Francisco seems to have an interesting idea in the Critical Mass phenomena. Don’t get me wrong; I think those bicyclists as a crowd are a bunch of arrogant, self-centered bullies. But the idea that something other than cars should have precedence in the city center is obvious. The something, of course, should be people. If the city must revolve around traffic, and it must, it should revolve around foot traffic. And bicycles, maybe.

One luxury tax of which I’m hugely in favor is the congestion tax such as European cities have posed and New York is (apparently) moving to. Put the money towards public transportation.

San Francisco’s public transportation system doesn’t support itself. Given the clear ridership, one would have to wonder how the system could not be supporting itself.

Here’s why; a lot of people ride for free.

There are several ways that people ride for free a lot.

My first clue that the system wasn’t serious about generating revenue was on the second day I was here. I went to ride on one of the antique trolleys that run down Market Street. I boarded and flashed my FastPass.

I bought my weekly FastPass my first day here. $15 a month, all you can eat public transportation. Except the cable cars; you have to pay $1 extra to ride those. At the beginning of the month, though, you can buy a monthly FastPass for $45; no cable car surcharge with the monthly pass.

The person behind me on the step, apparently a tourist, fumbled for money and apologized to the driver.

“I’m sorry, I don’t have correct change.”

“That’s okay, the box is broken.”

The driver gestured to the money-box thing. It was covered in brown paper and tape.

I sighed. They were running the car like normal, lots of people on and off, transit system paying for the driver, the electricity, the maintenance on the car… And they weren’t collecting money. They weren’t collecting money so emphatically that they had taken the time to completely cover the box with brown paper. They don’t make change, anyway… Someone could have gone to the office place and picked up a $10 metal box with a hole in the lid. Instead, they just didn’t collect money.

I could tell the driver didn’t care.

After that, I started to notice that a lot of the drivers don’t seem pay any attention to the people getting on the bus and whether they pay or not. Often, it seems, they can’t be bothered to glance up to see a FastPass. You could wave anything, even your hand, and that would be good for at least 50% of the rides.  To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve seen many people put money in the boxes.

I’m not sure if the issue is that the drivers don’t want to challenge people for the fare (a reasonable position, IMHO), or if they think that transportation should be free, or what.

I wonder.

A little research might be in order. I mean, that’s my empirical and biased perception, so far. A thesis. Right?

But the problem isn’t limited to the people driving; it comes from above. Yesterday morning, a gasoline tanker going through a major road interchange known as the MacArther Maze collided with a bridge abutment, burst into flames, and destroyed ramps linking two major road arteries with a third. The negative impact on traffic patterns is expected to last for months; it’ll be six weeks to several months before they can get the steel to start the repairs. What do the local public transportation authorities do? Throw a free day! So today, public transportation in the bay area is free; bus, train, or ferry. That costs someone a little money, I’d guess. It’s not just free.

The guy who ran into the bridge abutment? He has a prior felony drug record. I guess I’m okay with that part, all in all. Further reading, though, shows that you can get your tractor-trailer hazmat license to drive tankers full of gasoline as long as you haven’t been convicted for murder, rape, or arson (among other things) in the last seven years. That’s for a conviction; you can have a more recent arson charge as long as you were acquitted. Federal regulations.

The noise!