Cable Car Interval Training

I have a love/hate relationship with MUNI. I love that they have allowed me to be a non-car owner. I hate that their schedules are erratic. I love that there’s a decent amount of interconnectivity between modes and routes, but hate the limitations of their ancillary routes.

One aspect of MUNI I will always love, is taking the California line cable car in to work. In comparison to riding the bus into the city center, the cable car has a completely different air and attitude about it. The operators are generally friendly and even the riders – yes, even those of us who haven’t yet had our morning coffee – are more apt to smile and exchange friendly banter. I don’t even mind taking it in during the wet season, when you have to wipe down the outside benches before sitting down. That said, I don’t take the cable car in very often, as it is not the most direct route for me, but this week I’ve had a yen for it. A yen for the jovial commeraderie that compensates for the lack of such in my currently stress-filled office. Yet my yen has been thwarted more often than not.

Apparently cable car service has been dramatically cut, forcing the fewer cars to speed up their routes. This means there is now little to NO wait time at the stop end of the line – as evidenced by all three times that I witnessed the car approaching the Van Ness stop, merely PAUSE, then take off on the return route, all while I waited out the light to cross the street to get to it!

The first day, I accepted my fate, and thought to wait for the next car. 15 minutes later I’d still not seen one crest the top of Nob Hill, so bailed for a bus option.

The second day, knowing how long it would be before another would arrive, I ran for it. The car had stopped at the light on Polk, so I figured I had a chance. With me at mid-block, the light changed, and the car pulled away. CURSES! I’d been so close, and the light was with me, so I decided to keep going for it (in heeled clogs, it must be noted). With no boarders at Larkin, the car merely slowed, but keep on rolling, with me still just – JUST – out of reach. The car would have a prolonged stop at Hyde, which gave me hope, so I continued my satchel-clutching, skirt-swaying, clog-clapping jog up the sidewalk. UP the sidewalk. UP the STEEP sidewalk. Alas, again JUST out of reach, it pulled away. Again with the curses, this time at high volume. Uhem.

The third day, again the non-stop at the Van Ness stop, but this time I had coffee in my hand, and no tolerance for running.

Today, I made it on.

As the car crested Hyde, I saw out of the corner of my eye, someone running for it. A heavy-set middle-aged man, right hand extended, was taking HIS turn at interval training. I called out to the front brakesman, and he obligingly slowed back down to allow the man to board, mid-motion. The operator chuckled at me, and I told him my previous morning’s 3-block scramble, and he apologized for not having seen me, and told me his name – Vince – and that if I hollered it out next time, he’d wait for me.

So, all you California-line cable car commuters – if handsome young Vince is at the brake helm, give him a shout out and he just might hold the chain for you! GOTTA love the cable car, because let me tell you, that would NOT happen with the bus.

4 Comments so far

  1. Nicolas (unregistered) on August 31st, 2006 @ 1:59 pm

    Well, you are at least fortunate that there are open seats/spots on your line to work (even if you can’t catch it). I live off of the Mason/Powell line and am passed up by the cable cars (full of tourists) every day and night. The only time I seem to be able to board is before 7am and after 11pm…

  2. Nancy (unregistered) on August 31st, 2006 @ 2:13 pm

    The California line is definately used more by local commuters. Whenever friends are visiting, I put them on THAT line for their cable car experience, and tell them to take a cab to the Wharf.

  3. Aaron B. Hockley (unregistered) on August 31st, 2006 @ 2:39 pm

    I’m curious… after missing the cable car for two days in a row, did you ever consider maybe you need to leave your house just a few minutes earlier? Or were you connecting from other transit?

  4. Nancy (unregistered) on August 31st, 2006 @ 2:45 pm

    Actually, all four morning commutes have been at varying times – the beauty of office flex-hours – but regardless, the cable car rarely adheres to a strict time schedule.
    It’s hit or miss, miss, miss.

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