“Metro Rider Profile”:Pamela Moye Revisits the 28-19th Avenue

(Editor’s note: "Muni Rider Profile" is a somewhat regular series at San Francisco Streetsblog, which is just what the title suggests.  Because this profiled person has moved to L.A. and is riding our Metro system, I thought I’d include it here.  If you want to see more of this kind of story, please let us know in the comments section.)

IMG_1182.jpgPamela Moye rides the 28-19th Avenue in San Francisco. Photo: Michael Rhodes

Riding
the 28-19th Avenue northbound towards the Richmond on a recent weekday
afternoon, Pamela Moye has almost nothing but good things to say about
Muni.

Aside from the occasional long wait for an M-Ocean View
train, Moye, a schoolteacher, said her experience with Muni has been
overwhelmingly positive.

"I love public transportation in San Francisco," said Moye. "It’s super easy."

What
accounts for Moye’s sunny appraisal of Muni, a system that’s subject to
near-universal griping among San Franciscans? Moye, it turns out,
benefits from the perspective of being a former San Francisco resident
who now lives in Los Angeles, car-free.

"People think I’m
crazy for riding the bus in LA," she said. Though she doesn’t agree
with that assessment, Moye said she knows far fewer people who ride
transit in her new home than in San Francisco.

Moye left San
Francisco in 2002 to pursue a teaching job after attending San
Francisco State. She was back in town on the day we spoke to complete
work on her degree seven years later, and was happy to reminisce about
her days living on 5th Avenue and Geary.

"Living in San
Francisco turned me into a non-car owner," she said. The cost and
hassle of parking, insurance, and gas pushed her towards giving up her
vehicle, and she hasn’t looked back.

After growing up in
Idaho, she found the bus her key to exploring San Francisco. "Riding
the bus is a great way to learn a city," said Moye. When she arrived
here, she said, if she had a free afternoon, "I would just get on a bus
and ride."

Now, when friends and family ask for suggestions
on what to do during visits to San Francisco, Moye tells them to take
the 38-Geary from one end of the line to the other, from ocean to bay,
one of the best ways to see a broad cross-section of the city. (Jane
Jacobs wrote about taking a similar approach to learning New York City
when she first arrived, randomly choosing subway lines to ride to new
neighborhoods every week.)

Moye has continued this practice
in Los Angeles, a city (and region) famed for its dependence on the
automobile, though it has increasingly focused on expanding transit service.

Moye
said she always felt secure riding buses here. "I never saw anything, I
always felt completely safe," she said, noting that she often rode the
bus late at night.

Los Angeles’ bus system
seems to produce more unusual tales in general, according to Moye.
Citing her favorite strange story, Moye said she "noticed two homeless
women chatting away, and I thought, ‘it’s great that they’ve befriended
each other.’"

"Then one of them moved away when a seat opened up, and I realized they were actually both talking to themselves."

Of course, "strange is relative," said Moye.

LA’s network of rapid buses and light rail lines has served her
fairly well, she said, but she still misses San Francisco, where the
main drawback was the cost of living. And while she’s now a dedicated car-free Angeleno, traveling by bicycle in
LA is still too intimidating. "San Francisco seems safer for bicycling.
It’s just not really enjoyable in LA."

As
she heads towards her final destination near Clement Street, it’s
tempting to hear her praise for Muni as the nostalgia of someone seeing
through rose-colored glasses. Still, it’s good to be reminded that this
city can reshape how people think about transportation in a way that
lasts long after they leave its dense, 47-square miles.

  • This is perhaps the most positive (or least negative) I’ve ever seen a NorCal Writer be about LA, so cheers to Streetsblog SF for that. Nonetheless, I feel they might have overemphasized the bad things Ms. Moye has to say about her experiences here; not that there isn’t plenty to criticize here, it’s just that the positives seem to be lost in the fray. For instance, it would have been nice to elaborate on exactly how “LA’s network of rapid buses and light rail lines has served her fairly well”. And while I can understand how biking in LA may be daunting at first, it is managable – and at times even pleasant – once you get used to it and know what routes to take. LA doesn’t have the greatest infrastructure for bikes, but there is a great riding community here; if Pamela were to go on a few rides I imagine her view of biking here would improve a bit. And in regards to the bus riders who were talking to themselves, I suspect the reason she never saw that up north is because all the “strange” people had long since been priced out of San Francisco.

    I suppose the lesson to be drawn from this is that it is possible to build a bus system that people are proud of. We need to fix the holes in our rail system, but we also need to have a bus system that works quickly and effectively.

    Maybe Streetsblog LA can do a follow up piece on Pamela sometime in the future. I hope she continues to have a decent experience on the LA Metro.

  • I have also lived in both cities, but it is not smart to compare Los Angeles to San Francisco, the true comparison is to compare the Bay Area with Los Angeles, not just San Francisco city proper. Using that perspective, the differences are actually minor. Outside of the urban cores of San Francisco and Oakland, transit’s share in the Bay Area is comparable to greater Los Angeles, and it is outside of these cores where most of the people live and where most of the jobs are (Silicon Valley). If like me, you live downtown in either city, the transit options are good in both places.

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