By GARRETT MCAULIFFE
It was on the 49 Van Ness-Mission that Hatim Mansori sat less than two weeks ago, slumped and bleeding and attended to by fellow passengers, as his assailant jumped off at 19th and Mission streets, according to police.
The 11-year-old Mansori returned home Friday according to media reports, but said earlier he feared leaving with his attacker still at large. Police released a sketch of the suspect Friday, which you can find here.
“After that incident, I would certainly think twice before letting a child of mine ride,” said Ruben Lopez, 73, who lives in the Mission and rode the 49 on Saturday. “And certainly not let them sit in the back.”
Lopez and other riders interviewed on the 49 Van Ness-Mission Saturday expressed disbelief and consternation over the stabbing, many relating their own encounters with violence or intimidation on what is one of Muni’s 15 busiest routes. Others said they still felt safe, and considered the attack on the 11-year-old boy an isolated occurrence.
The Municipal Transportation Agency reported its lowest incidence of crimes last year on buses, with fewer than 1,000 for the first time in five years.
The 49 begins its southward journey in the relative quiet and affluence of the Marina district where Mansori goes to school at the Marina Middle School. He was riding Muni to his home off Alemany Boulevard when the attack took place. He had just finished baseball practice and it was his first ride alone, his mother has told reporters.
At Chestnut Street and Van Ness Avenue on Saturday, a few blocks away from Mansori’s school, a woman climbed aboard the near-empty bus.
“I feel safe,” said Steph Feiring. “But the drivers get spit on, attacked. They’re not appreciated at all. I think people are spoiled here.”
A middle-aged man, sitting in the shadows of the double bus’s accordion-like midsection, said he’d been punched in the shoulder just a week earlier while riding the 38-Geary line after he had accidentally stepped on a man’s shoe.
“I could not believe what a jerk,” said the man, who asked not to be named. “That guy hit me so hard. There’s absolutely degrading behavior all the time.”
Across the aisle, a woman sitting with her 11-year-old daughter, spoke of her reluctance to ride Muni.
“You have nutcases in the back and the front,” said the woman, gesturing towards a scruffy-looking man sitting alone and muttering to himself in the section designated for elderly and disabled passengers. “You kind of don’t have much choice.”
The woman, who only revealed that she was in her late 40s, said her daughter was scared to ride the bus in San Francisco. When asked if she would ever let her daughter ride alone, she emphatically replied “No way.”
“In New York, people stand up if one guy is abusive,” she said. “They’re more verbal. People here just ignore it. All I’m saying is people should stand together more.”
Her daughter mentioned how much nicer the buses were in Massachusetts and Philadelphia, a theme for other passengers who also talked about more pleasant bus rides in other cities.
As the bus continued loping along the wide swath of Van Ness Avenue, June-Friday McNeil, 39, sat holding her newborn daughter.
“This is a sketchy bus,” she said, adding that she rarely rode the 49. “I think most people avoid the back.”
As we crossed Market and veered onto Mission Street’s more chaotic corridor, crowds began piling in at 16th Street.
At the back sat Jacob, 21, with a small Pomeranian in his lap.
“There’s lots of crazy people around, but more on the streets than in the bus,” he said refusing to divulge his last name. “The police said there was no interaction, but that kid must have said something or looked at him,” he continued, referring to Mansori.
Nearby, Michelle Schueel, 27, said she didn’t feel intimidated at all riding the 49.
“I see these people every day. It’s the Muni po-po [police] I’m scared of.”
“Kids shouldn’t have to ride buses unsupervised,” she said. ” It’s the city’s fault. They cut mental health facilities too.
“These people have no institutions to take care of them,” she continued, trailing off as she disembarked at 20th Street, a block past where Mansori’s assailant had gotten off.