43 Folders

Back to Work

Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

Join us via RSS, iTunes, or at 5by5.tv.

”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Taking (some of) the chaos out of public transit

Nextbus Screen ShotNextBus provides real-time, per-stop predictions for several public transit systems across the U.S. (view all); we San Franciscans who rely on MUNI are fortunate enough to get accurate arrival times for any stop on the light rail line (F, J, K, L, M, N or S) as well as all stops along the mighty, ambling, urine-soaked 22-Fillmore line (don’t laugh: it stops a couple of blocks from Bottom of the Hill).

Unlike the speculative “schedules” that MUNI publishes, NextBus “uses satellite technology and advanced computer modeling to track vehicles on their routes.” So no guessing, standing in the rain, or watching as the last streetcar of the night pulls out of the station without you in it. As someone who lives 1/2 a block from a stop, I can tell you this actually, really works. And, inexplicably, hardly anyone I know seems to know about and use it.

Tip 1: Get it on your mobile

The truly great hack is using NextBus on your mobile phone or PDA. I highly recommend bookmarking your favorite stops on your phone; nothing’s better than sitting in your favorite bar and confidently stalking the last train of the night with the comfort of a chilled beverage.

Tip 2: Get it on your desktop

The best real-world, day-to-day use is mostly for the folks who live or work within quick walking distance of a NextBus-covered line. Over time, you can watch the prediction for your stop (or just stare the cool Java map of the whole system) and suss out how long it takes you to get from your originating point to the stop. Within a week or so, you’ll be a total jedi, arriving for your streetcar right as it pulls into your intersection.

Spotty as MUNI can be sometimes, NextBus makes it start to seem like a fairly sane way to get around. So, make some bookmarks, test your walk time, and unlock the hidden order in your local transit system.

Jamison's picture

While the stations signs are...

While the stations signs are great (especially when waiting at a Judah stop in the sunset) I find the website pretty much useless. The time it takes to visit nextmuni.com has probably caused me to miss a train.

The website needs a complete overhaul: why when I go to nextmuni.com (and I mean nextmuni.com, the MUNI specific version of nextbus.com) do I first need to select my state (you cannot simply select Muni from transit system list, because until you select a state MUNI is not included in the list). Nor does it take into account the peculiar design of the Market Street Subway in which the J, K, L, M, N, J, and S Metro lines all share 5-9 stations in common, so someone going from Embarcadero to West Portal might prefer to see the K, L and M trains all together rather then going through the process three times by which time they've missed their train.

I also think the signs need to be better located in the stations, specifically not buried so you must first go down into the stations to see them, even the ones on surface shelters are only located on one side of the shelter so you can't see them if you're coming from the wrong direction. The signs should be placed so that they are clearly visible from the street as you approach the shelter or subway entrance. This is especially important in area's where a number of different lines converge and you have different options you can choose from. Downtown is a perfect example where I've opted to take the MUNI Metro home only to find when I get down a few levels to the tunnel there is a backup and I've got a 15-20 minute wait, not an uncommon happening on game days, that I could have avoided by waiting for a surface F-Market train had I known what the times were going to be like.

I've probably griped enough, and all these issues may just be due to current budget constraints that will be addressed with that $2 million MUNI just got to expand NextBus.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


Subscribe with Google Reader

Subscribe on Netvibes

Add to Technorati Favorites

Subscribe on Pageflakes

Add RSS feed

The Podcast Feed


Merlin used to crank. He’s not cranking any more.

This is an essay about family, priorities, and Shakey’s Pizza, and it’s probably the best thing he’s written. »

Scared Shitless

Merlin’s scared. You’re scared. Everybody is scared.

This is the video of Merlin’s keynote at Webstock 2011. The one where he cried. You should watch it. »