Fillmore. Geary. Stockton. Mission. Polk. Van
Ness. The names of San Francisco's bus lines still come easily to my mind more
than half a decade after working at the city's transit agency. In my time
there, I religiously rode all 66 bus lines, stopwatch and clipboard in hand,
trying to find any way to make the buses run faster.
Trundling up, down, and around the city's
iconic hills from downtown to hipster mecca to beachfront village, I saw that the
freedom of movement enjoyed by San Franciscans, no matter their age, race,
income, or neighborhood, depends on the buses that roll through the city's
streets, like blood running through veins.
Seeing how basic bus service both empowers
and limits the lives of San Franciscans, I began to formulate my vision of an
ideal city: a place where all people have the freedoms and opportunities they
need to pursue their full potential. Over the years, I have found no better way
for city governments to work toward this ideal than to apply the lessons of
management science to do the things that really matter—keeping the schools
open, preventing crime, picking up the trash, and providing public transit, just
to name a few.
But improving the way cities are run can't
happen overnight. It will take a collective effort over years, decades even. By
definition building an ideal city should be impossible, but to me that's
precisely what makes it worth doing.
I think I'll start by getting those
buses to run on time.