“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

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.

— Tedde Tsang