There are 74 days of summer vacation for San Francisco’s public school students this year. For many families with working guardians, this means a patchwork of activities for city kids. There are spreadsheets that get passed around for coordinated summertime activities, and waitlists too. After I found myself without a job at the beginning of June, my kids, who are ages 6 and 8, got assigned the only readily available summer camp seats—with me. And with that, we have one main goal this season: ride every Muni line all the way, from terminus to terminus, until the start of the school year.
This project is directly inspired by San Francisco Chronicle journalists Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight, who embarked on a buffet of public transit on April 30, 2018. The scribes rode at least one stop on all 60 lines in a single day, completing a public transit marathon while capturing the awe and respect of transit nerds. (If you missed Total Muni 2018—or if you don’t know the history of Giants CEO Larry Baer’s previous Muni marathon experience, which inspired their own 24-hour journey—read all about it.)
What counts as a route, and what counts as a complete ride? Hartlaub and Knight had to ride 60 routes to finish their tour; express and rapid versions of lines didn’t count. We are using a slightly different rule set: A complete ride means traversing from one terminal stop to the other. We don’t have to go in both directions, and we don’t have to complete the ride in one trip, or even in the same day.
We don’t have to ride the regular and rapid versions of the same route (e.g., the 14 Mission and the 14R Mission), because they run along identical routes—the rapid just makes fewer stops. However, we do have to ride the 14X, because it follows a substantially different route.
Also, some lines have AX and BX routes as well, but for this project, one of the two will do. (For example, the 38-Geary has four versions: 38, 38R, 38AX, and 38BX, but we will count it as two for the purpose of this project, 38/38R and 38AX/38BX. This brings us to 70 daytime routes.)
What about night owls? You bet. There are seven owl routes (1 a.m. - 5 a.m. service), and I will ride those; for obvious reasons, my children will be exempt.
Another important note: I won’t write about fare hikes or bemoan what, if anything, SFMTA must fix. There are plenty of seasoned voices better qualified and already activated to push for better policies and grander visions. My kids and I are setting out to see for ourselves and to be a part of what Muni, and San Francisco, are today.
In the first 18 days of this public transit project, my kids and I have already completed 18 routes. Along the way we visited 10 different playgrounds and 10 different branches of San Francisco Public Library. We’ve shivered for 36 minutes at Ocean Beach waiting for the 23-Monterey, and we’ve walked halfway across the Golden Gate Bridge while eating Golden Gate Bridge cookies. We stood in line for 41 minutes to board the Powell Hyde cable car. We completed the entire 55-16th Street route in under 13 minutes.
Good or bad, dirty or clean, every Muni route has a tale. Hop aboard and follow us every Tuesday during our summertime transit journey.