US9 – When the Sunday sun shines down on San Francisco bay…

(which it didn’t. much, while we were there)

… and you realise you can’t make it anyway (Beautiful South)

Before our train ride north, we stayed in Sprog’s 2-week-old Cousin’s Parents’ next-door-Neighbours’ back-garden studio in the Mission district of San Francisco (thanks a mil!). We ate toasted marshmallows, called S’mores, on Sprog’s Cousin’s Parents’ rooftop. We travelled around the city using different means:

  • Walking – the cars were as gentle with us as they’d been in Aptos and Santa Cruz. But the junctions, traffic lighted, seem to allocate most of the crossing time in favour of cars. After a couple of days we realised it is better to walk up the side streets, where there are unlighted pedestrian crossings. It seems perverse to deter us from using the streets where there are most businesses trying to tempt us in. I bought a wonderful pink shirt with pineapples in a shirt shop on one of the side streets, though.

 pedestrian crossing sign San Francisco 818.JPG 

  • Cycling – we rented bikes on Haight St from an operation set up by the Parks and Recreation Department. (We found the Haight old and cold – we had to buy sweatshirts at the Arboretum – and set in its ways.) We visited Golden Gate Park (which like the Bois de la Cambre in Brussels has curvy roads running through it) and streets nearby. San Francisco is quite hilly when you’re cycling. Son-in-law’s Brother said he never feels as unsafe as when he cycles in the city. On the side streets we didn’t notice this.

cyclists panhandle San Francisco 818.JPG 

  • Buses –  long and unpredictable waits, rattly and low tech (if Brussels can have signs at the bus stop saying how long to the next one why can’t San Francisco?) and crowded. Infuriating that you have to manufacture the exact fare out of dollar notes and coins. Can’t a city as rich as this do better? The drivers were helpful, though.

 waiting for bus San Francisco 818.JPG 

  • Trams (streetcar) – stylish; ditto.

tram Embarcadero San Francisco 818.JPG  

You say to yourself that the sunk tram fallacy is not a fallacy – that the longer you have waited without a tram coming, the more likely it is that one will come soon – but the evidence contradicted this. 

  • Metro (BART) – Quick, frequent and comfortable. I love its 70s shape and typefaces.

public writing BART watch the gap San Francisco 818.JPG

train BART 24th & Mission San Francisco 818.JPG 

But SUCH A BUGGER to buy tickets from the automatic machines (no staffed ticket windows). The first time we thought it was us that was stupid. But look at the screen below. Imagine your aim is to buy three $4,50 tickets. What is your next move?

public transport BART ticket purchase screen San Francisco 818.JPG 

 (Once you actually manage to buy a ticket, the metro is $2,50/trip within the city while the buses are $2,75 – unless this is an on/off peak distinction, as in Seattle.)

  • Uber– sworn by by Daughter. I’ve been a resister – does it increase or decrease car mileage? – but I liked it, especially when we had a chatty driver. I missed not knowing the cost (but Daughter knew). In this land of the tip I liked not tipping.

Some updates on previous posts:

  • David Attenborough is, apparently, a non-driver (still a meagre haul – any more?) 
  • Not all the waiting rooms of American train stations are ordinary-looking – this is Seattle King Street, which could pass for a grand Russian station any day



Published by

Paul Hodson

Head of Unit "EnergyEfficiency" at European Commission, Directorate-General for Energy

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