Man vs. Muni: Van Ness monster claims a victim

Its lumbering pace is legendary, its ridership sometimes sketchier than an old haggis. But despite the twin menaces of double-parked trucks and maliciously timed traffic lights, the 47 bus still managed to eke out a win.

There is a reason that San Francisco wants to invest $180 million (!) to install bus-rapid transit vehicles on Van Ness Avenue.

Click on the photo at right to view a slideshow of Man vs. Muni.

That project, set to feature heavy-duty buses traveling down Van Ness, will carve out grade-separated lanes strictly for public transportation vehicles. Transit advocates are salivating over this prospect. Muni buses crawl down the busy thoroughfare under the current conditions, languishing at lengthy traffic signals while dodging delivery trucks and a slew of other vehicles on U.S. Highway 101.

Having been stranded many times by the slow-moving buses on Van Ness Avenue, I decided to take on the 47-Van Ness in a footrace from Pine Street to McAllister Street, hoping to avoid my first two-game losing streak in the latest installment of our Man vs. Muni series.

12:41 p.m. – Examiner photographer Mike Koozmin and I depart from the Pine Street bus stop, two minutes before the 47-Van Ness is set to arrive. Yes, I’m aware that the middle of the day is hardly the best time to gauge traffic conditions on Van Ness, but it’s too dark to take photos during the evening commute. A perfect science, this is not.

12:42 p.m. – We move on to Bush Street, and I hear a loud clanging noise. Thinking Koozmin might have accidentally dropped his camera, I glance backward, only to realize its debris falling from a nearby construction site. Nothing like the threat of paralysis to get you moving against Muni.

12:44 p.m. – Koozmin is flying ahead of me, capturing photos of a double-parked delivery truck near Post Street. He seems particularly gleeful that we chose this route, as it complies nicely with his personal protocol for Man vs. Muni: Only downhill courses.

12:45 p.m. – We get the first glimpse of the 47-Van Ness a few blocks back as we make our way to Geary Street. Hoping to put some much-needed distance between me and the bus, I pick up the pace slightly to try and beat the light (OK, “slightly” might be a bit of an understatement, but Koozmin grabbed my collar before I broke into an all-out sprint). It doesn’t matter anyway, as we don’t get there in time.

12:47 p.m. – We pass Ellis Street, still maintaining a slim lead over the 47. For some reason, Koozmin managed to convince me that there would be heavy traffic on Van Ness at this point of the day. There is none, which is worrisome, because the 47 has a clear path to get me. I think he made this argument strictly because he didn’t want to wake up early.

12:48 p.m. – As we move on toward Eddy Street, I catch the first glimpse of City Hall — the ending point of this race. With the finish in sight, I’m still ahead of the 47, but it’s gaining rapidly on me.

12:49 p.m. – Just a few hundred feet from my destination, I get passed by the 47-Van Ness near Golden Gate Avenue. My only hope now is that some deranged lunatic boards the bus and stalls service for a few minutes. Considering some of the folks I’ve met on the 47, that scenario doesn’t sound too outlandish.

12:50 p.m. – As I wait in anguish on the north side of McAllister Street, the 47 drops off its passengers at the bus stop on the south side, mere inches (actually about 60 feet) in front of me. I immediately begin devising ways to justify calling this race a “tie,” as we both arrived at McAllister Street at the same time, technically.

1:35 p.m. – Upon my return to The Examiner office, I begin detailing the race situation and offer up my explanations for the tie. My colleagues cruelly laugh at this concocted story, arguing with me that I clearly lost under the definitions of the competition. I reluctantly accept their not-so-constructive criticism and deal with the fact that I’m now on my first losing streak against Muni.

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