Today’s Custom News Hour: 11/5/15


Persian Gulf May Become Too Hot For Humans via CBS News

What you need to know: Regardless of whether you agree with the idea well-founded scientific consensus that humans have influenced climate change, it’s undeniable that global warming is happening. Proof: the Persian Gulf, home to desert countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Qatar, is quickly becoming inhospitable even to people who’ve adapted over years to accommodate the extreme heat.

Why does this matter: There aren’t many places on Earth that are completely off-limits, outside of polar regions, African Sahara, and the Australian Outback. Expanding hot zones will put more pressure on other regions, both environmentally and politically, and will heighten the resource crunch that a booming population with dwindling arable land is likely to face. If nothing else, the prospect of a mass migration of Muslims should galvanize conservatives to invest more in sustainable solutions, as the brown wave seems the only future they fear (despite the fact that constant immigration has underpinned American society for…ever).

Greenland is Melting Away via New York Times

What you need to know: Holy new media, Batman! The New York Times’ interactive pieces, as this August 22 piece on Palestinian shantytowns illustrates, truly takes journalism into the modern day. This article is a deep dive (no pun intended) into the process of collecting scientific data to measure rising sea levels, and is complete with looping video, reactive zooming, and unique storytelling narratives. Though I can’t say I fully understand the science behind the story, it’s still enjoyable to learn about the trials and tribulations of remote field research and the complications that arise from accepting governmental grants.


What Began as a Get Together for Bernie Fans Has Become a Three-Week Dance Party Called Bernie Man” via The Stranger

What you need to know: “Local promoter/real estate broker Cody Morrison didn’t set out to create a massive series of political dance parties. A few weeks ago, he just thought he’d throw a little get-together where friends listen to records and chip in a few bucks to that yelling candidate with the fizzy hair. Cody started pulling together the event, friends RSVPed, then a few more people caught wind of it, and within a few days there were thousands of people interested in attending.”

Why is this important: Aside from the hilarious name, the concept of creating cultural experiences around politics is critical for engaging young, disinterested voters. I had a particularly exciting induction into campaign politics, since 2008 turned out to be a universal watershed moment. However, the stark difference from past campaigns motivated me to write my thesis, “Why Youth Don’t Vote,” which has now made me acutely aware of the ways media and culture disenfranchise young people.

The article doesn’t note that the event is occurring in Seattle, where Black Lives Matter protesters famously interrupted a Bernie rally to encourage him to address systemic racial inequality. His reply, publishing a thoughtful multi-pronged approach on his website, showed his commitment to taking citizens’ issues seriously, but was received with a mixed reception. Some said that his quick turnaround showed an effective call-and-response attitude emblematic of a true representative, and others said that it’s concerning that he didn’t already have such a platform. I’m still voting for him, but I’m curious as to see what happens during the rallies.


#distrosnack via 500 Startups

What you need to know: #distrosnack is a short digest of growth-related articles and tips, curated by the 500 Startups team. As I’m learning, newsletters are surprisingly one of the most effective ways to parse the deluge of industry news. For example, in one recent #distrosnack, 500 partner Tristan Pollack summarizes the four key lessons e-commerce companies can learn from viral marketplaces like Silk Road, the notorious dark web hub for illicit activity. While my company is B2B (business to business), not B2C (business to consumer), there are always insights to be gleaned by evaluating existing functions through new perspectives.


Hip-Hop and the 1977 New York City Blackout via Columbia Journalism

What you need to know: The author posits that the 1977 NYC Blackout played a pivotal role in cultivating the East Coast hip-hop scene by expanding access of turntables and other electronics to aspiring DJs (through albeit questionable means). While a direct correlation can’t be confirmed, the notion that hip-hop as an art form gained traction from looting is both an ironic and deeply meaningful idea.

Notorious RGB via Tumblr

What you need to know: An entire Tumblr exists to exalt the great Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and now the authors have taken the next logical step and released a book. Although it’s hard to track back to the original posts prior to the book release, I recommend pursuing the Tumblr anyway as an opportunity to unearth an enormous amount of material about this inspirational and powerful woman.

“Marty Was Always My Best Friend”: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Love Story via Jezebel

What you need to know: Martin Ginsburg, RBG’s college sweetheart turned husband of nearly 60 years, passed away from cancer five years ago. This sweet tribute to their relationship, released in the aforementioned Notorious RBG book, is a behind-the-scenes story that probably will make you cry. Read at your own risk.

‘NPR Voice’ Has Taken Over the Airways via New York Times

What you need to know: “This American Life” host Ira Glass is responsible for one of the most popular and poignant radio shows on air today. Since radio relies entirely on vocal inflection and tone to communicate emotion, it would seem that Glass’ signature speech patterns would be one key to TAL’s success. Not so much, according to NYT’s Teddy Wayne, who argues that the tone in fact comes across as disingenuous. “How could I be deceiving you, the catch in the voice, the exposed seam in a sweater or the actor cracking up during an outtake asks, when I’m vulnerably baring my … flaws?”

Why is this important: It’s not, really, and the article doesn’t give much credence to the idea that maybe Glass (and other “colloquial” hosts) are onto something with this new type of speech. While it’s interesting to note the departure from traditional (often male-dominated) manners of speaking, journalists should be pushed to describe what consequence results from what they report. Otherwise, this click-bait just wasted one of my ten free NYT articles of the month (previous link re: this NYT editorial).
That being said, this clip makes the same case as Wayne, but in less than a minute, far more successfully, and actually funny even to an NPR fan. Fire, meet fire.

Today’s Custom News Hour: 10/29/15


“Larry David Played Bernie Sanders on SNL and It Was Fantastic” via TIME

What you need to know: Larry David (Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm) is a comic genius. He’s so skilled that he singlehandedly helped SNL, a show that’s basically running on fumes at this point, seem both clever and relevant again. Larry David is comedy’s version of Bernie Sanders (or is the the other way around?) so the choice of role couldn’t have been more perfect. Sanders / David 2016!

Hawaii Declares State of Emergency over Homelessness Crisis via NBC News

What you need to know: “Hawaii saw a 23 percent increase in its unsheltered homeless population between 2014 and 2015, and a 46 percent increase in the number of unsheltered families, said Scott Morishige, state homelessness coordinator.”

Why this is important: The sharp increase in homelessness is pretty startling, and it’s symbolic of a larger problem plaguing America. Without integrated social services, mental health facilities, and free retraining opportunities, it’s extremely difficult for displaced families to get back on their feet.

That being said, I’d be interested in learning how many of the affected population are voluntarily homeless, since the Hawaiian climate and vibe definitely invite surf bums and long-term backpackers. Living in Berkeley has made me cynical about the motives of certain demographics (i.e. street punk / trust fund kids from Marin or Maine).


How Doctors Take Women’s Pain Less Seriously via The Atlantic

What you need to know: “Nationwide, men wait an average of 49 minutes before receiving an analgesic for acute abdominal pain. Women wait an average of 65 minutes for the same thing. Rachel waited somewhere between 90 minutes and two hours.”

The article centers around the author’s wife’s visit to the ER, where the couple had rushed after the onset of ovarian torsion, a debilitatingly painful and potentially life-threatening condition. Despite the existence of a real emergency, she was dismissed by ER doctors and nurses and unable to get the immediate care she required, until her insistent husband corralled a doctor and forced her to take a second look.

Why this is important: I’ve written about how health care coverage negatively impacts women, but this emergency example strikes a much deeper nerve. Women, despite being portrayed as weak and dainty, have tremendous pain thresholds as a result of the constant hormonal stresses put on our bodies. When a woman complains about acute pain (particularly abdominal), it’s a strong signal that doctors should take note, as it’s likely an exception and not the rule.

What to do next: Rather than attacking Planned Parenthood, Congress needs to pass a budget that supports expanded research for gynecology and birth control alternatives. For example, male birth control would reduce the physical burden on women and allows men to finally take some real responsibility for their part in reproduction, but clinical trials have lagged due to the lack of funding. The solution would be easy to implement, extremely effective, and with limited side effects, but both Big Pharma and social convention have lobbied against it.

It’s unethical, irresponsible, and in direct violation of the Hippocratic Oath for physicians to minimize internal pain, which constitutes the majority of female-specific problems. Without comprehensive reform, however, women risk losing key organs and maybe even their life because the medical community has agreed to look the other way.

“California school becomes first to lose chairs for standing desks” via CBS News

What you need to know: A San Rafael, CA elementary school has now almost completely converted to standing desks, as a way to promote good health, active lifestyles, and an acceptance that children are fidgety.

Why this is important: Obesity is spreading across America like a fast food plague. Actions taken today can help safeguard children against future health issues associated with a lack of activity or exercise.


How to Ask for Introductions (to Investors, Potential Employers, Etc.) via Dave Schappell

What you need to know: The people who you want endorsing you or your product / company / idea / etc. are likely to be pretty busy – after all, if they’re good enough for you, they’re probably good enough for a lot of others as well. How do you avoid wasting their time? Schappell points out two easy rules to follow:

1) “Make sure that I know you and/or your product well enough to make the intro.”
2) “Make it very easy for me to make the introduction. In fact, make it idiot-proof.”

Why this is important: Referrals are critical in business, but developing those referrals is an art in and of itself. Be sure to ask only people who will lend legitimacy to you or your brand, and then honor those who agree by making the process extremely simple and quick. You want them essentially to be giving their stamp of approval, not writing your marketing material themselves.

17 Thoughts Literally Everyone Has While Networking via Levo League

What you need to know: Though this is a light fluff piece, it’s pretty spot on and particularly pertinent for introverts and young professionals. Networking is a learned skill, but it becomes easier when you have 1) an objective for talking to someone and 2) something to share in return.

My advice: Identify what you’re trying to get out of a networking event before you go. If it’s a job opportunity or career advice, find out who you need to talk to and try to approach them early on. If it’s a way to learn more about a specific community, then give yourself a time limit and chat with as many people as possible. Pro-tip: networking beers are almost always your best friends, but keep it to one or two.


Meadow – Medical Marijuana Delivery Service

What you need to know: I’m a big fan of clean lines, bold colors, and simple interfaces. So of course, I’m a fan of Meadow’s UI. Regardless of whether you approve of marijuana or not, you can’t deny that good design can make anything look legit and desirable. Though the actual check-out experience and delivery time could be improved, those are relatively easy problems to fix. Give them a few months, and I’m sure that Meadow will blossom. (Note: I am not a Meadow user, just an admirer.)

Living Room via Dribble

“There are so many things that I have yet to learn,” I thought, staring in awe at this incredibly detailed illustration. I’ve been learning how to design graphics by copying my favorite work on Dribbble, so I can certainly appreciate the attention that went into this – the shadow through the window, the gradient on the lights, even the shading on the lampshades. This is an excellent example of how talented graphic designers can have a significant impact on their product’s success, and in my opinion, this caliber of work would justify the big bucks.


Wild Willy’s Hot Springs, CA via Flickr: Jennifer Frederick

On our recent trip to Bishop, my boyfriend introduced the group to Wild Willy’s (or Crowley’s) hot springs. Accessible only to those in the know by way of a rough rocky road and a long wooden path, the springs remain pleasantly private despite their public nature. We visited twice: once during the day to the pool pictured above, and another time at night to the larger pool downstream. Both times were incredible, which is unsurprising considering its picturesque setting in the Sierra Nevada. For climbers, adventurers, and hot springs enthusiasts, Wild Willy’s is not to be missed.

Temple Crag, CA via Instagram: Rafaela Rodriguez

Based on my assessment of “tourist v. traveler,” my friend Rafaela is a real traveler. She’s visited and lived all over the world, from the bustling metropolises of Mexico City, Tel Aviv, and Los Angeles to sleepy towns in rural Uganda, Kenya, and Nicaragua. She’s committed herself to the ups and downs of the human condition, and yet? She’s driven by the outdoors, and has seized every opportunity – both domestic and abroad – to expand her love and awe of the Earth. As a climber and hiker, she is always seeking a new adventure, and it’s that spirit that brings us this beautiful image of Temple Crag. This site is actually not too far from Wild Willy’s (relatively speaking), but there are so many things to see in that area that two separate trips might be necessary. Thanks for the inspiration, Rafaela!

Conversation Starters v.1

1. I think the reason that people speak to children and dogs in the way that they do is because they feel that these creatures don’t understand through words alone that the adult is conveying love. Through facial expressions and intonation, they ensure that the creature receives the love, or at least strongly feels something positive.

…Which makes it interesting when you hear adults speak that way to one another. I wonder if relationships that incorporate a lot of baby talk actually have an issue with low self-esteem (assuming that only a child-like person would date them) and a certain lack of respect of the partner (for the same reason).

2. I also wonder whether presidential campaigns should exist. Imagine there were no chief executive or president, but rather multiple people in charge of multiple decisions, dissecting the president’s role into its constituent parts, then relegating those to the heads of the committees responsible for dealing with specific issues. Sure, there might still be several president-like positions emerging in the absence, but those roles will be more localized and thus more responsive to the demands of the people.

It seems wasteful to dedicate several years (nearly half of our political careers, since campaigns begin two years out!) to merely deciding the next person who can get things done. Let’s just get things done every day. At the end of the evening, we might not know who will lead next, but at least we’ll have accomplished something, making the existence of a president a fading necessity.

3. Is it time for a revolution? Gun violence, environmental catastrophe, sexual health, incarceration rates, education – everything seems to be under attack. I understand that conservatives, who currently control the most important legislative branches in the country, are doing everything that they can do to undermine the government (as is the rallying cry of their party). But even to build their own case, they have to draw the line at what “success” would look like.

What constitutes a valid governmental action? Is it providing the groundwork for a safe, healthy, and educated population and the infrastructure necessary to help that happen? If so, why are we bailing out banks and privatizing healthcare and defunding education programs and allowing legions of Americans to live in food deserts? I don’t understand how things got to be so dire in the States, but considering the whole world has ignited into revolution, we’d be ignorant to think there’s not a more dramatic scene yet to come.

Use these conversation starters at your next dinner party, date, or business meeting and let me know what happens!


Planned Parenthood: The Republican Final Frontier

After today’s announcement that House Republicans had passed a bill proposing to defund Planned Parenthood, a community resource millions of women depend on, I went a little ballistic. Here’s a censored version of what I posted to Facebook:

“Are you f—— kidding me?

Women’s health is so precious and complicated that it requires its own department, and yet women are still singularly responsible – emotionally, physically, and financially – for their birth control, prenatal health, pregnancy, and abortions.

House Republicans need to wake the f— up and realize that a poor single mother (because her deadbeat boyfriend ran out or because her miserly boss refuses to pay her at the same rate as a male counterpart) needs certain key services to provide quality care to her children, the same kids Republicans refused to let her abort or let a gay couple adopt because of “family values.” With the middle class shrinking and the upper class a total sausage fest, more and more women are experiencing frightening wage stagnation despite the uptick in their cost of living, making Planned Parenthood an increasingly necessary function.

I’m so sick of the misogyny that blocks the research of male birth control and strips low-cost healthcare options from women, so that women are forced to get painful birth control treatments or side-effects (because men don’t like wearing condoms) and if not, it’s the woman who pays by getting pregnant. I don’t want to bleed money (in the form of outrageous co-pays) for getting birth control – I want to GET paid for not contributing to increasing demands on the earth’s diminishing resources and allowing men to relinquish any responsibility for being half of the equation.

F— that. Republicans have never made me as infuriated as they have now. If you want to make a difference, don’t just watch the debates – PARTICIPATE IN THE NEXT ELECTION. America might be going to s— but that doesn’t mean we can’t course-correct.”

The post was received by an outpouring of support, with several friends chiming in with their own thoughts on what we, as a generation, could be doing to increase resistance to neoconservative ideology. I am grateful for my community, several of whom are employed in actively pushing society in the direction of progress. But I’m a Berkeley grad who lives in the Bay Area – my statement might be read as preaching to the choir (though “ranting” would admittedly be a more apt description).

The Republican proposal is extremely troubling, as it’s emblematic of the poisonous attack the GOP has waged on everyone who is not a rich, white male. However, more alarming than that is the fact that much of the country remains firmly on the GOP’s side, soaking in the battery acid that is FOX News and spewing out vitriol at anyone who questions pre-conceived “American” ideals. Deemphasizing education and community-building, Republicans have sequestered their followers in a cone of ignorance, fortifying mental resistance to rational and empathetic responses.

Fact: For many women, Planned Parenthood is a critical piece of the reproductive cycle, a cycle for which men deny responsibility, despite the very real biological fact that women don’t impregnate themselves. But for fundamental conservatives, who eschew birth control, women’s health, and common decency, it’s a harder sell to convince them of the efficacy of the program, which, as a prominent healthcare provider, shouldn’t need any extra proof of its functionality. That being said, while rhetoric and clever logic can satiate the liberal’s need for justice, the most effective persuasion is in case studies.

Though I once volunteered with Planned Parenthood, I don’t have any PP stories of my own. What I do have is a deep discontent with the way the medical community treats women’s health. For example, when I first got birth control (and for the two years that followed), I was under my parent’s – then employer’s – insurance. At $50, my co-pay was still higher than anyone else I had spoken with, but it was manageable. I’ll admit: I took healthcare for granted, because thankfully I was relatively healthy during that time.

This January, though, I switched to my own plan, and therefore was responsible for both the mounting co-pays and premiums. I have medical insurance through Kaiser Permanente, a “luxury” that is somewhat subsidized by the state government. Even so, my plan only allows me three hospital visits a year at “just” $60 a visit, after which I have to pay full price for any treatment I receive. To put that into perspective, that means that I could go to the hospital three times in the entire year and still be on the hook to pay $1668, or $556 per visit on average. And that’s the cheapest plan.

Recently, I began having severe and unrelenting pain in my stomach and abdomen. Having used up two of my three visits (both on gynecological issues, because having birth control comes with its own bag of surprises), I had to make a choice: do I make my final appointment with internal medicine or ob/gyn? I opted for the ob/gyn, but after a mixup in scheduling (partially my fault), I was rescheduled to meet with a nurse practitioner, not a doctor as I had originally intended. I love nurses, but with my problem lasting more than six months at this point, I wanted as experienced a physician as I could find. After all, isn’t that why I paid the same amount for the co-pay?

In explaining this to the receptionist, and certainly feeling her resentment for having to do extra administrative work, I was on the verge of tears. My health is incredibly important to me, but I had to delay treatment for this long and juggle priorities because healthcare is just too expensive to “indulge” in regularly. My financial situation might not always be as dire as it is now, but it’s very telling to know that the second I slip into questionable liquidity, I could lose both my health and my insurance in one fell swoop.

Of course, the tests came up inconclusive, meaning if I really want to know what’s happening, I have to schedule yet another appointment, which from now on will be full-price. My doctor was very empathetic and shared a few other low-cost resources, but she too shook her head at the futility of the healthcare system at actually addressing long-term health.

And that’s why Planned Parenthood matters. When nearly 100% of your doctor’s visits relate to your vagina, you shouldn’t have to make a choice about whether you can afford to go to the hospital. When you’re forced to be solely responsible for our civilization’s reproductive health, you need to have peace of mind that you can get quality care regardless of your insurance plan. It’s a compounded injury that a man makes more money, doesn’t have to birth a child, and also doesn’t have to spend all of his annual hospital visits on birth-related issues. Men aren’t even beholden to pitch in for his girlfriend/wife/mistress’ care; let’s not even get started on child care and alimony. But it’s one slight that men can help remedy, by not actively defunding organizations that provide equal treatment for women.

I demand that same freedom of options for women, and in case you haven’t been listening, freedom is Planned Parenthood. 

4 Quick Tips on Staying Water-Positive (a.k.a. “El Niño Won’t Save Us If We Don’t Save Ourselves”)

An El Niño winter is good news for California, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to solve all of our problems. In fact, due to the fragility of dehydrated root systems and crumbling soil, we’re at an increased risk for flooding, wind damage, and mudslides. Therefore, it’s incredibly important to manage water flow and dispersion.

  1. Make sure your building has at least one large rain barrel. If you live in a single-family home, two or three is even better. If set up correctly, they can replace tap water for several indoor and outdoor purposes throughout the year (reducing your water bill in a time when utility companies are trying to figure out how to use economics to punish water-abusive behavior).
  2. If you can, strip concrete in your backyard and/or driveway and replace it with bricks or other porous material. This will allow more rainwater to enter the underlying aquifer, meaning a larger buffer against future droughts.
  3. Plant trees! I understand the hesitation to landscape while in a drought, but the upcoming storms downplay that concern. Done correctly (i.e. establishing simple homemade drip irrigation and support systems), planting trees and other organic material can help keep the ground from becoming oversaturated, and yields benefits when California is again covered in trees!
  4. Continue to limit water consumption throughout the winter. If we keep treating water like a feast-or-famine commodity, we have to prepare ourselves for the consequences of running out of water within our lifetime. I’ve severely limited my water consumption already, so it’s extremely frustrating to witness others leave taps running, take hour-long showers, and in general ignore the fact that we’re in crisis and TOGETHER need to take serious steps to mitigate our impact on the earth.

This, combined with my earlier tips on reducing your carbon footprint, can be read as a cheat sheet at sustainability. So flex your power – knowledge! – and do your part to literally “save the world.” I can promise you (unless your job is related to solving major humanitarian, medical, or ecological problems) this is a necessary and fundamental step that underpins any future developments, and we won’t get anywhere unless we cover the basics first.

By Way of Introduction (Windmill Project Update, Vol. 1)

Once again, I find myself embarking upon a grand journey. Luckily, this time I can leave my 70L backpack behind, because this journey is all in the mind. Yes, family and friends, I’m talking about the exciting adventure of professional development!

Hear ye, hear ye: I now proclaim that by the start of 2016, I want to be working as a UX (User Experience) Designer.

But first, there’s a lot of other work to do. Fortunately, I’m already on the right path. As the marketing and design analyst for MentorCloud, I have the chance to hone my skills, test out theories, and apply lessons from the countless UX blogs and design-thinking books that I’ve been devouring. I’m in the process of designing our new website, and am masochistically looking forward to showcasing the evolution of failed ideas once the finished product goes live.

Along the way to learning the ins and outs of UX, I’ll also be polishing my UI chops (a critical companion to UX), as well as mastering the fundamentals of HTML and CSS. Combined with my existing knowledge of content writing and business development, the ideal outcome is to become a wholly component front-end designer. In some future world, I would work with a client to position their product in the market, craft a compelling voice, mock up collateral options, design an appealing and appropriate user experience, and then make it all happen via code. Seems ambitious? Not to me.

As a result of this voracious appetite for knowledge, I come across a daily handful of recommended reading, useful tips, and general tidbits I’d like to share with the broader community. While I’ve recently begun to share these on Twitter (shameless plug: follow me!), some articles require a bit more than 140 characters to respond to in enough depth. Hence, I bring to you: the Windmill Project Updates, a quick way to check in on what I’ve been learning and hopefully learn something new yourself.

(The categories will be as follows: marketing, business development, content, UI, UX, HTML, CSS. Topics unrelated to the front-end development world can also be found on this blog, but won’t be tagged as belonging to the “Windmill Project Update” series.)

Monday | August 3, 2015

“What Japanese Etiquette Can Tell Us About Good UX Design” (FastCompany)

Anticipation of the other’s needs: The host should respond to guest’s needs before the latter feels such need himself.
Flexibility to the situation: Refers to the appropriate amount of formality or casualness respectively.
Understatement: The host should not display his efforts, in order to create a natural feeling for the guest.

Japan has earned its reputation as a technological powerhouse, a model for serene, effortless beauty, and a worldwide leader in hospitality. While the design relationship between the first two has received ample attention by the tech community, the importance of the third attribute has been overlooked. This FastCo article addresses that by highlighting a practical framework for measuring the true functionality of your website, using human-human relationships as a base. By reimagining visitors to a website as guests in a home, designers are reminded to create simpler, more intuitive experiences that result not only in high conversion rates, but also brand loyalty and increased retention. Developing an emotional relationship with a user is tough, but worth the wait; using the Japanese hospitality framework at the very least reduces friction and improves likelihood of a positive impression of your site, and at best provides you with repeat customers and a strong word-of-mouth marketing strategy.

Bay Area Public Transit Needs Tech Solutions (a.k.a. Why Uber and Lyft Win)

I’m a die-hard public transit advocate. I travel cheap and as such pride myself on the various (sometimes creative) alternatives I’ve taken in order to avoid taxis. Living in the East Bay and traveling to San Francisco frequently, I rely on a combination of BART, MUNI, AC Transit, biking, and walking to get around. With the exception of a few police-related brutalities, I’d say public transit is worth the wait and hassle in the long run.

However, with Uber and Lyft providing (relatively) low-cost and on-demand services, the argument for public transit has weakened. While I used to gently berate my friends for jumping in a cab instead of taking a convenient bus line home, I now must hold my tongue, as splitting a car can sometimes be cheaper than the $2.25 MUNI fare. With the frequency of breakdowns and delays on BART (not to mention the unintuitive hours of operation), it’s not inconceivable to justify a $40 Uber to the airport. While cost might still be an incentive to take public transit for now, the business trend of racing to the bottom indicates that more affordable options might well be on the horizon.

(I’ll be focusing on San Francisco for the purposes of this article, but this problem is evident throughout the rest of the Bay Area as well. Despite growing up in the suburbs of San Jose, I rarely took any form of public transit until I moved to Berkeley, and only then because I had a free AC Transit pass subsidized by the university. CalTrain was prohibitively expensive, the closest BART station was 40 minutes away in Fremont, and the local bus lines were eschewed in favor of carpools and bike rides. While urban centers should certainly be the first to adopt widespread transit lines, suburbs should be taking note as well.)

The city understands this. Programs like SFEIR (San Francisco Entrepreneurship in Residence) provide an opportunity for startups to bid for government contracts, applying tech solutions to areas of bureaucratic inefficiency. Innovate SF has a whole section dedicated to efforts by the SF Mayor’s Office to draw in subject-matter experts to resolve persistent bugs in the system.

Third-party consultants are also getting involved in this public-private partnership. Bayes Impact commits data scientists to studying and consulting on major infrastructure problems, then translating those findings into actionable items for governments and NGOs. Design consultants IDEO created OpenIDEO to apply design-thinking principles to global humanitarian issues and crowd-source relevant solutions from around the world. With all of these powerful minds at work, shouldn’t we see some drastic improvements to the infrastructure problems that plague tech’s heartlands?

And yet, it’s impossible to book a court date to appeal a CalTrain fare evasion ticket. It takes a week of waiting to begin to contest a hand-written MUNI ticket, which needs to be submitted within the three-week window. Meters and scanners are routinely broken, trains are habitually late, buses break down in the same busy intersections time after time. The experience of riding public transit has become one of unpredictable adventure, which isn’t amenable to the older, younger, or more affluent – which is becoming a larger subset of the population, due to increased rent and decreased low-income housing in the Bay Area.

I constantly encourage friends and family to take public transit, but recently it hasn’t been as effective. When my family from India visited, they were uncertain about the safety, route, and timings of the bus lines, opting to take Uber around the traffic-plagued city instead. To put that decision into perspective: taking autos, trains, and buses in India is actually an adventure, one that I feel unsafe embarking upon without another member of my family onboard. If my relatives feel an equivalent level of concern with San Francisco’s buses, which belong to one of the most progressive and tech-friendly governments in the world, isn’t that alarming and indicative of a larger problem?

With fewer riders and higher costs, administrators are failing to make their product compelling or adaptive to today’s environment. I understand that governments, particularly those in California, are operating on limited budgets. But that strain also comes from crippling inefficiency, loss of potential profits from land tax, and a horrifying amount of waste in resources, time, and management. Subcontracting tech companies, or better yet encouraging tech founders to invest in programs like Marc Benioff’s 1:1:1 Model, is a good start in highlighting the need for innovation in these critical spaces.

But it’s not going to happen if the public and private sectors fail to work together. In a fight between the two, the private sector will unequivocally trounce its opposition, a result we’re already seeing with the declining quality of public goods and increasing privatization and individualization of everything else. As East Bay Express explains in this must-read article, “BART’s Big Gift to Wealthy Corporations:”

…Experts say the biggest beneficiaries of the BART system — large corporations and real estate owners around the stations, especially in downtown San Francisco — have paid virtually nothing toward BART’s costs during the past several decades. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. BART has the authority under California law to seek revenue from more progressive sources, such as taxing the increase in land values its system has helped create. If BART tapped into this major revenue stream, it could reduce fares for riders, build out the system, minimize its dependence on difficult-to-obtain federal grants, and avoid the labor-management conflicts over the budget that precipitated the strike.

According to Robert Cervero, a professor of urban and regional planning at UC Berkeley, BART has failed to tap into potentially enormous streams of funding since it was built in the early 1970s. One of the biggest funding sources for the system’s initial construction and expansion should have been special real estate taxes levied on property owners who then experienced enormous land value increases after BART stations were built. BART, a publicly funded transit system, created huge windfall profits for the owners of land and buildings near train stations, particularly in downtown San Francisco.

If San Francisco wants to truly combat the deleterious effects of skyrocketing COL and forced emigration, it needs to protect the services of the underprivileged by encouraging community buy-in. When you see people of all ages, colors, status, and wealth, riding public transit won’t be a symbol of poverty or a method of last-resort. Rather, it’ll be a signal that San Francisco cares about its residents enough to provide a low-cost alternative to getting around, to reduce the number of cars on the road (and relatedly, the incidences of lung cancer and bike/pedestrian fatalities), and to break down barriers to accessing the rest of the wonderful, dynamic Bay Area.