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The Trolleybus of Happy Destiny

The Trolleybus of Happy Destiny

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The Trolleybus of Happy Destiny

189 pages
2 hours
Jul 9, 2018


This is the Third Installment of Getting Around in San Francisco Public Transit: The Dao of Doug 3, The Trolleybus of Happy (not crappy) Destiny--Dao roughly translated as a way or manner of living, following the path of transit operator Driver Doug for his 19 years at Muni. There is so much to know about how to ride a bus, a streetcar, a cable car in San Francisco! Come take a vicarious journey with Driver Doug and get in the Zen about how to move about our world class transit system. Indeed, there are some horror stories to be told about not knowing how to ask the right question in getting to your bed and breakfast or Air bnb host. No longer constrained to the boutique hotels by Union Square or the Post and Sutter Street corridor, visitors are now free-range 'chickens,' clucking up in Ashbury Heights, above the Castro, or even in the Visitation Valley.

Going in the wrong direction for twenty minutes, or taking the wrong bus can mean missing sunset on the Golden Gate Bridge or being stuck in commute traffic on the freeway instead of whooshing down the peninsula to Silicon Valley. We are surrounded by water on all three sides of our compact city border, so asking, "Do you go to the bay?" is answered in the affirmative, but you could end up at Land's End, not Fisherman's Wharf.

Ocean Beach is a good five miles from North Beach, and 'the terminal' is lost upon many without saying, 'The Transbay,' 'The Ferry,' or 'CalTrain Terminal.' Come take a ride in Driver Doug's trolleybus, (don't be taken on one) and get there faster and funnier than being blocked in the turn lane facing Compulsive Honking Syndrome from a clueless motorist unable to look up from his device!

We transit operators know how to sit back and watch the show, and not get trapped. The signals pre-empt green for our coaches and we can blaze a trail at a smooth pace, knowing not to speed up and get trapped at a red light. Meet strange and wonderful bozos (or boas) onboard our service animal policy. Black ducks, birds of paradise, all creatures great and small, and animals too! Put your tongue in cheek, at the sweet spot, and know how to get the answer, not the Muni stare unto that far off place not unlike Hell in a hand basket; Chinatown, or a rock and a hard place----Make the Alcatraz Rock tour on time!

Jul 9, 2018

About the author

Douglas Griggs Transit Operator at SFMTA driverdoug2002@yahoo.com Experience Transit Operator at SFMTA December 1998 - Present (19 years 6 months) Trolley operator, electric buses: Skoda ETI, articulated Skoda, and articulated North American Flyer trolley. Expert operator and Line Trainer for new hires. 8 years Safe Driving Award. Ambassador Training completed on 22 Fillmore Line. Qualified on 1969 GM Motorcoach, 1976 Flyer Trolley, and 1956 Marmon-Herrington Trolleybus. Author, "Finding Zen in San Francisco Transit" at Balboa Press September 2016 - Present (2 months) Re-created 206 page 55,000 word book with 12 illustrations, highlighting being a transit operator in San Francisco as a new updated edition from first publication in January of 2013. Voice over Talent at Voices.com 2007 - Present (9 years) Created audio voice overs for PSA's, telephone greeting message systems, radio ID's, character voices. Extensive editing of Hourly seminars for non-profits and 12 step recovery programs. Projects Keeping Zen in San Francisco Transit: A Line Trainer's Guide January 2015 to Present Members:Douglas Griggs The Dao of Doug 2: The Art of Driving a Bus: Keeping Zen in San Francisco Transit: A Line Trainer's Guide. Balboa Press: 186 pages, copyright January 21, 2015 Continues exposition about issues in San Francisco Transit. Chapters include Island versus Curb stops on Market Street, reducing transfer cost, Scheduling and Range Sheets, Tips on passing air brake test and choosing a run. One key to a smooth ride: knowing that it is not a bus, but a person driving a bus. Keeping Zen in San Francisco Transit Members:Douglas Griggs, Jackie Cohen, John Jeffrey McGinnis, Mark Arellanes Languages Spanish Cantonese Summary Current Transit Operator and also Driver Guide and Tour Bus Endorsements, CA to present. Commended by several Mayors as driver guide during Conference of Mayors Line Trainer Qualified, Over ten years safe driving, Expert Operator Broadcasting Announcer, KBIA-FM - National Public Radio, Columbia, MO 1980 - 1985 Part-time positions hosting shows for the Curators of the University of Missouri. 100,000 watt NPR affiliate with the Journalism School at UMC All Things Considered - NPR delayed broadcast with three segment format clock and two local pitches to local newsroom. Last Radio Show - Late night jazz show. Programmed and selected music, timed airplay lengths, delivered weather an ad-libbed introductions. Adventures in Good Music - with NPR host, Karl Haas, Accent on Music; World of Music - Segued and back-announced classical albums, announced weather, community billboards, PSA's, Pitched to newsroom live, on the hour with :30 and :60 dead-roll themed music beds. Specialties: Commissioned Officer 1982 Officer Candidate School, Marine Corps Development and Education Command, Quantico, VA 1981 BA University of Missouri - Econ minor Dean's Honor Roll Skills & Expertise Public Speaking Public Relations Editing Social Media Customer Service Budgets Strategic Planning Training Microsoft Word Event Planning Creative Writing Marketing Copywriting Teaching Marketing Strategy Copy Editing Event Management Fundraising Facebook Community Outreach Management Photography Nonprofits Social Media Marketing Social Networking Broadcast Transit Operations Transportation Education University of Missouri-Columbia BA English, Econ English, 1979 - 1981 Grade: Dean's Honor Roll Activities and Societies: Marching Mizzou Washington University in St. Louis Associate of Arts (A.A.), Concurrent with Broadcast Center, Clayton, MO, 1977 - 1979 Activities and Societies: Kappa Sigma Fraternity Interests mountain bike riding, photography, swimming, movie going, day hikes Certifications Class B California Driver's License with Airbrake Endorsement and VTT California Department of Motor Vehicles Publications The Dao of Doug 2: The Art of Driving a Bus -or- Keeping Zen in San Francisco Transit: A Line Trainer's Guide Balboa Press January 21, 2015 Authors: Douglas Griggs Book talks about what it takes to be a trolley operator in a large dense city. Book based upon 19 years of service as a transit electric bus operator for the SFMTA. Volunteer Experience Barista Bar Back at Castro Country Club April 2015 - December 2015 I volunteer behind coffee bar counter to serve addicts and alcoholics attending 12 Step Meetings at this Alano Club. The Castro Country Club is designed primarily for the the Gay Community and is sponsored by the SF Aids Foundation. I also volunteer at Folsom Street Events so that this 501c 3 organization can receive funds to continue in service.

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The Trolleybus of Happy Destiny - Douglas Meriwether

The Trolleybus of Happy Destiny


Douglas Meriwether

‘Driver Doug’

Smashwords Edition

Copyright: © Douglas Meriwether 2018

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.

The author of this book does not dispense medical advice or prescribe the use of any technique as a form of treatment for physical, emotional, or medical problems without the advice of a physician, either directly or indirectly. The intent of the author is only to offer information of a general nature to help you in your quest for emotional and spiritual well- being. In the event you use any of the information in this book for yourself, which is your constitutional right, the author and the publisher assume no responsibility for your actions.

Any people depicted in stock imagery provided by Thinkstock are models, and such images are being used for illustrative purposes only.

Certain stock imagery: Thinkstock.

Books by Douglas Meriwether

The Dao of Doug: The Art of Driving a Bus OR Finding Zen in San Francisco Transit: A Bus Driver’s Perspective

The Dao of Doug 2: the Art of Driving a Bus: Keeping Zen in San Francisco Transit: a Line Trainer's Guide

The Trolleybus of Happy Destiny

Contact at:



To all those who take mass transit on a regular basis, those who have encouraged me to write my story, and the hundreds of family and friends who know someone who drives a bus for a living.

Table of Contents

Alpha Dog

Rider Alert

The Squeaky Wheel

A Rose by any Name

Tree Trimming

Tree Trimming - Poem

Great Expectations

Summertime in the City

Kitty Corner

One-Armed Bandit

Past Half Way

The Sisters of Charity

Sakude !

Retarder Control

Bus Bunching

Pass on the Left

Tagging the Coach

Drug Roll

Flu Shot

The Complaint Department

Leading Green

Quid Pro Quo

Driverless Cars

Night Park

Safe than Sorry (Be Ready to Move)

Safe than Sorry (Friday the 13th)

Pudding Pants

Transmitter Ball

Twenty Questions

Ferry Plaza

The Weird Curve

The Fulton 500

Let it Settle

Scuff Left

Game Boy

Timed Transfers

The New Fare Box

The New Radio System

Helter-Skelter Shelter: Rear Door Boarding

Powerless on Post

Taxi Patterns

Hitting Hard

Water Truck


Recycling Day on the Bus

Muni Bathrooms

Compulsive Honking Syndrome

Lane Closed

Gate Hopper

Stop Request: Old Dog, New Tricks

Behind the Yellow Line


Blind Spot

Vision Zero

SF Railway Museum & Gift Shop

Alamo Square


Why be a Driver?

End of the Line

About the Author

Other books by Douglas Meriwether

Alpha Dog

People watching is the greatest job benefit of being a transit operator in the Bagdad-by-the-Bay. Friends and family always ask about the great benefits a civil service worker must have in being a government employee. I usually mention the post office as having the best, defined contribution plan or pension. But in the day-to-day flow of ants moving to and from the anthill that are the skyscrapers built on the bones of boats in the bay downtown, it isn’t a column of numbers in the year-to-date tab on a paycheck that is a job perk in being a bus driver over and in the arteries flowing from the heart of San Francisco that make for daily job benefits behind the wheel. The benefit is not being stuck inside an office. It is feeling as though you are on the outside. And yet when the fog is freezing the bones, the wind is whipping through your layers, the bus is like a shelter from the elements. To comfort those at the mercy of the weather, it becomes important to stop close to the alpha dog in the queue on the sidewalk, so all can enter the bus as soon possible, without blockage at the gate.

Visitors are easy to spot as the alpha dog always holds all the transit passports in their hand for the group. They usually follow at the end of the queue. When a large family passes by the fare box without paying, the alpha comes up the steps at the end with the fares. Sometimes, a large group passes, and there is no alpha with no fare! To keep my ambassador role as a representative of the city, I don’t say anything. When I do, they usually have their fare, buried in the back of their backpack. This is another example of how we fail the city. No one assumes responsibility to inform visitors on how to ride, where to stand, or how to validate their pass.

A fare only becomes valid once the month and the day or days are scratched off on the passport sheet, which is not unlike a lottery scratcher ticket. Fortunately, the 21 Hayes is a great bus line, which permits the time to teach visitors. Other arterial lines are not such. Rear door boarding is allowed and little time for conversation is allowed between the rider and the driver. Crosstown buses are best for enlightenment and understanding.

Many times the person asking the questions is in front, and the ticket holder is at the rear. I can usually tell who they are. If they are asking a question I don’t understand, I ask them where they are going. If they can’t answer this, I then switch over to intuitive mode and say yes and ask them to step up. When this fails, I beckon them with my hand.

When this fails, it is because I have put too much expectation and hesitation in my voice, and I have to let it go. A simple nod is all I need. Then, if it turns out they are going the wrong way, there is usually a better transfer point down the line that will get them on the right bus with less confusion. I need to remember when I was new to the city and I did not know inbound from outbound because tall hills or the fog, make it impossible to know which way is downtown or east v. west.

Talking to just one person, the alpha dog as Zen Master, best to keep the herd in line!

Rider Alert

Nothing is more disconcerting than seeing people waiting for a streetcar that isn’t coming. Especially in the afternoon when the fog is rolling in and visitors are caught in shorts and without a jacket. If you plan to visit San Francisco between the Fourth of July and Labor Day, prepare for early spring-winter conditions. Even though century mark temps are only a few miles away from San Fran’s city limits, maritime conditions prevail in the city. Mark Twain’s phrase, The coldest winter I ever spent was the summer I spent in San Francisco. applies to July and August in the city. If you are dying of the heat back east and in our Central Valley, then do come and enjoy our natural air-conditioning! I am familiar with the challenge of packing in hot weather back home, going to ‘sunny’ California, but not here between the ocean and the bay in the late summer.

When I do the 21 Hayes, I travel down Market Street and see all the tourists waiting for the streetcar to take them to Fisherman’s Wharf. They pack in to the cars like sardines and creep towards the Ferry Plaza. Little do they know, they can take any bus or trolley down the street to Kearny and take an 8 to Chinatown, Coit Tower, and then Pier 39. The 19 Polk at Hyde on Market is a great way to start site seeing at Aquatic Park at the end of Van Ness.

Any disruption on the rails can block the track and cause a large queue of intending passengers on the islands on Market Street, particularly at Fifth, Fourth, and Main. It is at these times it pays to take a 6, 21, or 31 to Ferry Plaza and transfer to the ‘E’ Embarcadero streetcar. An 8X crossing Market at Third to Kearny is a great crosstown ‘shuttle’ to pier 39 and helps to clear the islands and get you moving to have fun.

The SFMTA posts Rider Alert signs in red and white, or orange, to let you know when stops and streets are closed to traffic. Its important to notice these a day or two before an event. Indeed, many who find a never again attitude about transit is because of a lack of communication about rider alerts. This is where an Amber alert type message can and should be adapted to our smart phones and with GPS technology developed by Tech and driverless car coding. 

Rather than stymie new creative GPS tech, Muni should work with Tech community to track not only their own ride share cars, but with buses. This would open up bus stops to ride share pickups when no buses are arriving or departing. Minutes go by where it is safe to use a bus zone, and this priceless curbside real estate can be easily shared with GPS tech. So too, could the large tour bus shuttles also be included with this zone sharing. The key here is transit is being looked at as a unified body of vehicles, not separate entities fighting and blocking each other. Geo-fencing is a great aspect to deny boarding in certain critical choke points.

As a governmental body, our transit department just had another resignation, and now brings the vacant manager positions to eight. Coordination is lost. Creative new ideas are vacant because self-preservation mode is on, and no bigger picture can be established, much less horizon goals of integration as a whole.

Eventually, Rider Alerts could be all done electronically from an application rather than to have to manually park a vehicle and go out and attach a laminated alert sign to a bus shelter. The labor to then go ahead and remove all the signs would be a thing of the past: remember, with a sense of community, anyone lacking a smart phone could be instructed by those nearby who do have a transit app on their phones. I ask all the time when I am at a shelter with others who are on their phones.

When Rider Alerts, Next Bus arriving times, and trip template suggestions all match to real time GPS and bus timetables. Interactive GPS system can suggest changes to avoid congestion and blocking at transit stops. This is really an exciting time to be in a manager position to integrate stoplights, trip tracking, and headway adjustments between Ride shares, driverless tech, and transit schedules. Transit Metro Control (TMC) need not be in the dark about conditions and buses. It can see what Rideshare customers see, inclusive of buses, including the Silicon Valley shuttles.

Being in the Zen means asking others about Rider Alerts and Next Bus arriving times when I am without the phone or application to be in the know. The same goes for tourists on the islands waiting to go to the Wharf!

The Squeaky Wheel

Gets the grease, as the saying goes. Most of us doubt we can make a difference. In rare instances, however, one person can affect change on a large scale. In the following four cases, one change is created by one passenger being persistent, and another by using political capital as Mayor, to meet his own need. The other two examples are rare cases when city Supervisors step-in to make transit change. More often than not, nothing happens.

Our new trolleys have a redesigned seating area in the front of the bus. Seating bays for wheelchairs appear more prominent, and there is a padded paddle with a drop down handhold allowing for placing a leg in an outstretched position without blocking the aisle risking a hit from a passing passenger. A passenger can stand erect without sitting, and be protected from getting hit in the aisle. I have asked passengers and operators if they have ever used or seen anyone use this device. No one has.

But I know who got this piece of equipment added. She also did it without any call to engineers, capital equipment procurement, planning or project management! She persistently made a passenger service request over and over and over every time she boarded

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