Posts Tagged ‘muni’

Nuni transit-themed street art hides secret messages

July 24th, 2015

Some unusual transit-themed street art has appeared around the city recently. Perhaps you’ve seen it? For example, I spotted this odd BART ticket (actually a sticker) a while back:

Nuni Bdank ticket

Today I stumbled across this unofficial ad at a Muni stop:

Nuni ad

A little googling revealed that these are the works of “Nuni,” who apparently goes by @therealnuni on Instagram.

The street art clearly contains some kind of hidden messages, seemingly written in an alien language. Obviously I had to crack the code.

My “aha!” moment was when I remembered playing Commander Keen as a kid, deciphering the Standard Galactic Alphabet on a piece of paper as I went. The Nuni “cipher” works the same way: it’s English words written in a different alphabet.

Cracking it is only a matter of finding a few common words and applying your hangman and/or Wheel of Fortune expertise to work backwards to discover the whole alphabet. The first thing to decode is the word “Nuni” itself:

Many of the messages are exactly what you’d expect them to be. For example, what does it say on a BART ticket in the blue box at the top? Yup, that’s what the encoded message says too.

I’ve managed to crack 21 out of 26 letters in the alphabet so far. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but if you get stuck feel free to shoot me an email — my address is in the sidebar.

Sincerely yours,

52nd annual Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest

July 10th, 2015

Earlier today was Muni’s annual(-ish) Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest. What is a Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest, you ask? It’s a two-part contest where “amateurs” (non-Muni employees) compete, and a second part where cable car operators compete.

The rules for each part are very different. The amateur competition allows music, dancers, and apparently bribing the crowd with free Giants merchandise. This part takes place on a standalone bell outside the cable car.

The cable car operator competition takes place inside a cable car that was somehow transported to Union Square. This is the main part of the event, and only bell ringing is allowed. I’ve posted videos of the top two bell ringing champions below.


Coming in at second place, here’s previous champion Trini Whittaker:


Here’s first place winner Byron Cobb:

Finally, here’s a few photos from the event:

Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest 2015 Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest 2015 Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest 2015 Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest 2015

Narrow streets, remixed

May 8th, 2015

Over at Steve Dombek’s Narrow Streets SF website, he proposes undoing America’s 20th century mistake of building ultra-wide streets here in San Francisco. Instead, the land would be sold off to build new housing, and we’d be left with traditional (or “narrow”) streets like you find in the rest of the world.

Naturally, this idea caught some buzz in the press given SF’s current housing shortages.

To look at one example, here’s Dombek’s plan for McAllister with before and after diagrams:

Seems like a nice plan, right? You get rid of the (largely wasted) space and put in new housing and retail.

But here’s the thing: where will all the money go from selling the land and the subsequent property tax? Well, that’s where my proposal comes in. Before the new structures get built, let’s dig a cut and cover subway underneath them.

I’m not sure McAllister Street would be the best fit for a subway, but to borrow Dombek’s diagram for illustrative purposes it could look something like this:

Personally my choice would be to build Muni Metro subways under a narrowed down South Van Ness and 19th Ave. to make up for Muni’s awful north/south service, and a new BART subway under a narrowed Geary Street. But those are just details.

The important point here is this: this is a way to kill two birds with one stone. And although I like birds, narrow streets with new subways is a win/win in my book. We can get this right.

Meta Muni shelter

August 1st, 2014

Meta Muni stop

At some point recently, the ad on a Muni shelter at 16th and Valencia was replaced by a painting. But not just any painting, no — this one depicts what’s behind it. The trash can, the Muni map, the Well’s Fargo, etc.

Though I should point out that the guy in the painting was not, in fact, waiting for the bus when I took this photo. That would have been a little too weird.

Update: On Twitter, Factory 1 Design kindly provided details. This is part of a project called Art City, which is renting billboard space for the purpose of displaying art.

The piece at 16th and Valencia is by Oakland-based painter Brett Amory. See his work and others in the Art City series here.

New BART trains don’t address boarding issue

March 8th, 2014

The new BART train cars will have lots of improvements over the current ones. But there’s one boarding issue that they didn’t quite tackle.

See what’s missing from their design, as pictured above?

You may have to take a step back, so to speak, in order to notice. Consider how people board BART trains: commuters and other frequent riders wait in a line or small group on the station platform near where the train’s doors stop when it pulls into the station. Generally they let other passengers off first before anyone gets on.

Or at least, they try to. On current BART trains it’s difficult to tell if there’s someone waiting to exit before you get on, because the trains are designed like this:

Now Boarding

As you can see from Todd Lappin’s above photo, there aren’t windows next to the doors. This means you can be standing on the platform, unable to see an exiting passenger before you try to board. Not exactly a well thought out design.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Van Ness Muni Metro Station

As the above photo by Roshan Vyas illustrates, even when Muni Metro’s doors are open you can still see the people inside. You can wait for them to get off before shoving your way on — or not, like certain impolite Muni passengers at rush hour. But either way at least there isn’t a wall at a crucial point in the train car exterior.

BART’s new trains narrow this boarding blind spot, but they don’t eliminate it. Look at all this wasted space:

I understand there needs to be a place for a map and maybe some ads on the trains, but this isn’t the place for it. There shouldn’t be a need to pick between faster boarding and information — both goals are attainable without sacrificing one for the other.

Trader Joe’s Muni Metro line

December 28th, 2012


The express checkout at the Stonestown Trader Joe’s features a painting of a Muni Metro train. After noticing the painting, it immediately raised two questions in my mind:

  1. Why would an artist choose Muni to represent speed?
  2. Where would this “TJ” route go?

While I won’t attempt to answer the first question, I’d like to speculate on the second. The TJ Metro line has to connect all five Trader Joe’s locations in the city. That’s no easy task.

My panel of subway experts concluded that the TJ route will consist of the following:

Outbound stop is Stonestown. Trains head inbound along existing M line through West Portal and Forest Hill. A switch in the Twin Peaks tunnel takes TJ trains to a new side tunnel heading north under Masonic to an underground station at Geary.

Inbound trains continue north, turning east to a new California Street subway tunnel. All trains stop at a station under Hyde and California. From here there are two inbound routes. TJ-N trains head north under Hyde street to a terminal at Bay Street. TJ-S trains head south under Hyde to a connection at Civic Center, continuing under 8th St. to a terminal at Bryant.

Sounds good, does it not? I’m getting hungry for cheap wine and frozen pizza just thinking about this. Better get digging, Trader Joe. I have a shovel and a ladder you can borrow.

Muni wishes you a Happy Halloween

May 14th, 2012

Happy Halloween!

While an educated observer might note that Halloween was, like, six months ago or something, there hasn’t been a compelling reason to stop celebrating. Muni certainly hasn’t, as seen above.

In the immortal words of Ministry, “Everyday is Halloween.” So why not celebrate? Put on that costume and break out your flask, it’s time to Trick-or-Treat, Muni style.


July 26th, 2011


Spotted at Church St. Station.

Open letter: Nat Ford’s severance package

June 22nd, 2011

To the mayor and city supervisors:

Since we’ve decided to honor former SFMTA director Nat Ford’s $384,000 severance package, I would like to propose that we provide these funds in the form of a pre-loaded Clipper card.

Please note that funds on a Clipper card are not refundable, and can only be used for transit.

Thank you,

Eric Gregory

Escalator temporarily stairs at Church St.

June 21st, 2011

Broken escalator

Broken escalator

“An escalator can never break, it can only become stairs. You will never see an escalator out of order sign, just ‘escalator temporarily stairs — sorry for the convenience.’”

- Mitch Hedberg

It’s already been fixed, but the other day the handrail came off the guide rail at Church St. station. Interestingly, the rubber rail is VERY heavy. There’s a wheel at the top moves the handrail (perhaps there’s another at the bottom) but for the most part it looks like it just slides on a rail. Who knew?