polis: a collective blog about cities worldwide

A View from the Bus Yard

by Min Li Chan

"The Yard," a strangely captivating photo-essay by Marcin Wichary, offers a behind-the-scenes (and at times behind-the-wheel) glimpse of San Francisco's MUNI bus yard. As we commute each day — absorbed with mobile phones, thoughts racing toward the day ahead — most of us are oblivious to the operational details that Wichary's tour brings into focus.

On the front-end: the complexity of the driver's console, the choreography of bus routes, the sensors that detect when the bus doors open, the unified network of contactless transit payment cards, not to mention the bike racks, wheelchair-access capabilities and recordings that announce the next stop — just to name a few parts of an intricate system that helps us reach our destinations. On the back-end: the  continuous coordination of repairs, maintenance work and protocols to make the buses not only functional, but as environmentally friendly as possible. I was struck by the intensely physical and intricately mechanical nature of the bus system — its wheels, brakepads, switches, knobs and levers.

Are urban buses heading toward a new future of touchscreen displays and levitating superconductor fluidity? Or are they constrained by their compact routes, requiring frequent stops and short bursts, never allowing for the elegant lines of the high-speed train?
Credits: Photos by Marcin Wichary.

+ share