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America's Cup 2013: Getting around the events - Some tips and tricks

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Commentary: Last night's (July 4th) traffic situation in San Francisco, with hundreds of thousands of cars driving to and from the fireworks display along the SF waterfront, showed what we can expect during the America's Cup events, which officially began on July 4th and will continue through the Summer.

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My own excursion to view the fireworks by car was clean and quick, leaving from near the Golden Gate bridge, to a fireworks viewing area where you're so close you have to look UP to see them (a perfect and very secret location, by the way - don't even ask), and back home again, all well within two hours.

To get around by car during the AC a GPS, especially one with traffic updates, is a huge plus. But the trick is to ignore the GPS routing, other than for skirting what that little GPS voice is telling you, since most other GPSs are telling thousands of other drivers to use the same routes. If you pay close attention to small and one-way streets (San Francisco has tons of those), you can zip across the City quickly. Think Steve McQueen in Bullitt, but maybe without the car jumps.

And while I'm making movie references, here's another; As Robert Duvall* said in Apocalypse Now, "Charlie don't surf!", our parking meter enforcers don't sail. They could not care less why you are here. All they care about is ticketing and towing. So READ THE SIGNS! Including all the fine print. They can often be hard to find and hard to decipher, but always err on the side of prudence. If you aren't 100% certain the parking signs allow you to park there, don't.

And if the sign says that you can park until 4pm, you'd better be there by 3:59pm, because if you look around you'll see parking enforcement officers and tow trucks, lined up and ready to begin ticketing and towing by 4:01pm. And that is no joke. Of the major income sources in SF, tourism is #1, and parking fines and towing charges are #2. Towing charges will cost you hundreds of dollars, plus the better part of a day and night retrieving your car.

If your plans include parking somewhere miles away from the events, and taking a cab, bus or your bike for the rest of the way, again, read the parking signs carefully. Most residential areas in San Francisco require parking permits for the locals. The time limit for parking without a valid permit is two hours, and you can almost guarantee a hefty ticket if you exceed that limit. The same goes for street cleaning dates and times, which will add another ticket. And don't even think of even partially blocking a driveway. That can mean an expensive ticket AND tow.

I apologize if this scares anyone, but I'd rather scare you now than have you experience it the hard way. It's better to find a parking lot and spend a few bucks up-front than come back to find your car gone.

An upcoming article will discuss the options for bicyclists attending the America's Cup events.

* Some Robert Duvall trivia. He was also in Bullitt, playing the cab driver who is onscreen for maybe 20 seconds. Yeah, I know. I need some sleep.

Link to the America's Cup "People Plan", with maps showing public transportation and bike routes for the events:

http://www.sfmta.com/sites/default/files/People%20Plan%20-%2034th%20Amer...

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