If considering the passengers routines and getting ready for work, and knowing what we know about ourselves and getting out the door for work, what time would we like to be driving folks to work? We know that we all try to cut it as close as we can, and get away with still making it downtown, or where ever we need to be, but without wasting any time. The image of efficiency is to take the bus without any waiting time.
But just like a Mad magazine comic strip, if we are all making the same determinations at the same time, we invariably create our own hell. And so what I came to believe from the run from hell, was to note at what time was the point of no return for folks not able to make it the elevator to work before the clock strikes nine. And I found, down to the minute, that someone walking out their door at 8:22 a.m., in the avenues of 22 and 23, could not make it to work in time downtown. The last express passes by at 8:21 a.m., and my coach would fill to the brim before I even got to Park Presidio, which is around 14th Avenue. If someone walked out their door by 8:15 a.m. they stood a chance to make it to work on time, but they were still risking it. Indeed, the window of vulnerable time was actually about six minutes, which coincidentally was the headway between coaches, and that this time window seemed, at first, to be a plausible time to allow for getting downtown. It seems reasonable to make it downtown in 42 minutes from 22nd Avenue. But not when the system is challenged to peak capacity, when many are traveling in the same direction at the same time, to get to a destination that is within a few blocks of each other. The many new tall buildings downtown have made a mess of trying to catch a bus after 8:20 a.m. from the Avenues or from beyond Masonic Avenue. Pass-ups become frequent during this time frame as there is simply just not enough capacity to bring that large of a swarm of people at once to work by 9 a.m. on the dot.
And so I started looking at the passenger loads of busses that were to arrive downtown by 9a.m. And sure enough, the passenger load was very telling. A bus arriving downtown at 9:15 a.m. or 9:22 a.m. was much emptier that one scheduled to arrive on or before 9 a.m..
But crosstown routes were another matter. Crosstown coaches were less influenced by the peak period flux, but their drop offs at transfer points were critical for inbound downtown coaches. My leader, god bless him, was able to escape past the transfer points before those coaches dropped off their passengers trying to transfer to get downtown. And this transfer cost had a lot to do whether people could make it to work on time, or whether they stood waiting for a downtown bound coach that was already too crowded to take on any new transfer passengers.
I also came to believe that it might be impossible for scheduling to try to take all this in account and place extra busses during this witching hour. The bottom line I came to realize that if individuals found that they could not make the trip in a timely fashion, they would have to move up at least ten or twenty minutes to avoid the bind. The supposed injustice of this model is that at some point after 8 a.m., the time it would take to get where you needed to go was much longer than someone leaving the house at, say, 7:30 a.m.. And so, if there was some magic wand I could wave to business leaders to make the perception of city transit doing its job and running on time, it would be to stagger work start times in 15 minute increments, so that no one large group of people would be required to clock in at one specific time.
The patterns of going home do seem to support this idea. I noticed that although the start time for people going to work was relatively cut and dried, the time people leave work is spread out over a longer time frame, as people may do other tasks before they get on the bus, or that they could work a little bit longer than others, and that the dramatic impact was slightly lighter than in the morning. Also, because there was no deadline to get home in the afternoon as there was to get to work in the morning, that more relaxed attitude helped make a better environment for the bus driver in the p.m. rush. Usually. And my tip to those up and comers working downtown, or to those looking to ask for a raise: show up early and get a lot more work done when the office is quiet. And then relax towards the afternoon when everyone is just playing Galaga or surfing the ebay at their desks anyway. You may find your ride on the bus is much more pleasant when not on the ball and chain schedule of those arriving downtown by 9 a.m. I’ll bet your productivity would skyrocket if you came in two hours early to get stuff done without constant distraction. You would not have to do it every day, but you might be surprised at how much faster you go to sleep and how much easier your commute in the morning and afternoon might be if you stagger your self earlier. In San Francisco we do have sort of a split workforce. Many traders in the market, or manning the screens for trades are set on East Coast time and so they arrive early to work, and get off around 3 p.m. These guys do seem a lot happier than the ball and chain nine to fivers. And when they get on the bus in the morning, sometimes with tie in hand, you can’t always tell if they have had their coffee. But for those after 8 a.m., I would suggest that you get your coffee near your office if your breakfast routine is dragging you down before you go out the door. In any event, if your morning commute is not working, try something different. I have seen the creatures of habit that are just miserable. Those that are more adaptable seem to have a better go of it. And taking a Zen approach brings dividends.