Muni Rider Profile: Pamela Moye Revisits the 28-19th Avenue

IMG_1182.jpgPamela Moye rides the 28-19th Avenue. 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 a great story! However I safely and enjoyably biked around LA, commuting to work, running errands, grocery trips and summer rides to the beach. The drivers are less attentive to cyclists, but you can definitely find safe side streets and hold your own!

  • LA transit is the best kept secret from native Angelenos. When my car was destroyed in a wreck, I relied on it in the weeks before I left to return to SF, and even living wayyyyyyy out in Venice Beach, I found I could get around semi-ok, since the buses had their own HOV lanes and so on. Still, it was not a lot of fun as LA is so spread out anyway.

  • Nick

    I think anyone who hasn’t had to deal with Muni for the last 8 years is going to be happy about it.

    For a different perspective, try an interview with someone who has to take Muni at odd hours. I was working nights recently and the whole MUNI experience after 1am was pretty disturbing. Here’s some highlights:

    -The subway station officially closes at 1AM. They start calling “last trains” around 12:35PM. Often people are left stranded as early as 12:40
    while the digital display indicates more trains are in the queue (they’re not).

    -When you walk back up to Market Street at 1am, the wait is supposed to be 30 minutes for a surface bus. My experience was anywhere between 45 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes for a bus to arrive. Not fun if you are tired and just want to get some sleep.

    -Between 2AM and 3AM, there are a lot of drunk people and street hustlers out. Most people take cabs and disappear.

    -After 3AM the city gets real quiet. If you have enough energy left the best way home is by bike.

  • When I’m out on a run, often I run back east on Fillmore Street, where I often come across the 22. The bus will pass, then I’ll catch it, then it’ll pass, then I’ll catch it…. eventually I pull away, and by the time I’m on 16th Street heading home, I’ve left it behind.

    And I’m a slow runner: typically 8 minute miles when I’m moving, not counting time waiting at lights.

    And this is the best case scenerio: I and the bus start side-by-side. Off-hours, show up at a stop at a random time, and it’ll likely be 10 minutes or more before you ever see the bus. On foot, there’s no waiting.

    So I won’t even compare bike-versus-bus. If I can beat MUNI on foot, that’s not a very potent endorsement of the efficacy of our expensive public transit system.

  • judy jackson

    Pamela,are you the daughter of Phiilip and Maureen Moye and the granddaughter of Dorothy Moye? If so I have been trying for a while to find your family on the web and would LOVE to talk to you. I am your Dad”s first cousin, the last born child of your Mom’s sister Betty Barnes. Please let me know one way or another,the last I knew your family was living in Idaho.Sincerely,Judy Jackson

  • Ron Hampton

    Hey Pam, just trying to catch up with those first members of the IFHS Scholastic Team. 20 yrs its been going on and I thought I would give the sponsors of it a look at our first group and what they are doing now. Contact me in IF, but not at the school since both Hatch and I are finally retired. Ghosts of the past can jump out anytime can’t they.

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