How to keep things nice: Enforce rules. Be a train, not a bus.

Here are a set of tips on riding the SF MUNI from the tragic story of an 11 year old boy randomly stabbed by a vagrant while riding the bus in San Francisco. These tips could save your life. They would be comedic if they weren't true.
  1. Sit in the middle. The mentally unstable and homeless sit up front where they grope or panhandle at will. The hood rats sit in the back where they can punch people in the head on the way out just for kicks.
  2. Keep your purse jammed under your arm and the strap wrapped around your wrist, lest someone grabs it on the way out the door.
  3. If you listen to music, don't use the telltale white earbuds of an iPod - it's just asking for trouble. And never listen to music so loud that you can't tell what's happening around you.
  4. Finally, don't say anything to the three teenagers who are screaming at the top of their lungs, though they are just 2 feet from each other. To do so ensures you'll get jumped, and you won't get much help.

The MUNI bus system in San Francisco is a complete disaster. You are guaranteed to run into insane street people and misanthropic hoodlums.

Contrast this to Caltrain, the local commuter train system on the Peninsula. I've often felt unsafe on MUNI, but never even slightly threatened on Caltrain. Why? Caltrain has conductors. They roam the trains making sure people have correct tickets. They throw people off and fine them if they try to sneak free rides. They must be strict in enforcing rules and they patrol it with almost an air of tradition. You can't even put your feet up on the seats. That's disrepectful. That's how things are on trains.

Buses don't have this tradition. Nobody every yelled at you for putting your feet on a seat on a bus. In fact, if you give someone a the dirty look or talking-to they deserve for their behavior, you're liable to catch a beating. Why doesn't a bus driver have the same capacity to kick people out and command authority? They really should.

Damn it, people. Turns out you need law and order and authority to keep things from degenerating into anarchy. Or worse, MUNI. This applies to online communities as well. You need rules and restraint to keep bad things from happening. Like 11 year old children getting stabbed for no reason.