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Summer of Muni: The beauty and brevity of the 39-Coit

A San Francisco dad and his two kids will attempt to ride every Muni line—from terminus to terminus—this summer

Inspired by San Francisco Chronicle journalists Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight, who embarked on a the entirety of Muni in a single day, one father and his two kids will ride every Muni line from end to end until the school year starts.

Kicking off this week of transit, the kids and I jumped on the 48-Quintara at noon to ride and headed east to the Great Highway. Alas, the 48 has an off-peak terminal at West Portal, and we had missed our chance to finish the 48. No matter, we could reconfigure our plans for the day—flexibility is a perk of our project because there’s always another route to try, always another bus to jump on.

The 48 will have to wait another day.

West Portal Station under construction for the Twin Peaks Tunnel project.

Heading to the West Portal Library, we hopped aboard the 57-Parkmerced. The 57 stop has been temporarily moved for the Twin Peaks Tunnel project—a $40-million effort that will refresh the 100-year-old, two-mile metro path underneath Twin Peaks. Here we found a bit of kindness: a handwritten note attached to a sign post, written by someone thanking a stranger for leaving their keys where they could be found. The note a small ray of sunshine in an overcast sky. Further, it’s nice to know not everyone relies on Nextdoor to communicate with neighbors.

Once on the bus, we settled in and watched the foggy scenes and traffic circles of southwestern San Francisco roll by.

There was a dreary gloom in the sky, which only intensified as we approached the Sloat Boulevard terminal. While on our layover, the bus operator mentioned an accident that had occurred at the same spot three hours prior: 69-year-old man Dmitry Scotkin had been struck by a car while crossing Sloat. At the time, his condition was unknown; we later learned that he died from his injuries. In a somber mood, we returned home the way we had come.

San Francisco Chronicle journalist Heather Knight.

Wednesday provided a chance for us to recharge our enthusiasm. We were joined on our day’s journey by Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle reporter and champion of Total Muni 2018. Knight, along with Peter Hartlaub, inspired my kids and I to take up our own summer-long challenge. The noted reporter brought along Chronicle photographer Liz Moughon who snapped a shot of me and my family riding the 39-Coit, which you can see here.

The five of us boarded the F-Market streetcar to the terminal of the 39-Coit. The 39 is among the shortest lines of the system, but is no less spectacular for it. It hauls itself up Telegraph Hill and, as one would expect, offers some of the system’s best views. Most notably, the line makes exceptionally tight turns—for example, the nearly 180-degree bend at Union and Montgomery, an intersection which in no way looks large enough for the maneuver, almost rivals the 22-Stanyan’s famous hairpin turn at Market and Clayton.

Talking Muni with Knight was plenty to keep up with. She knows transit—and then some. I did learn a bit more about just what an accomplishment Total Muni 2018 represents, not to mention what a haul it was. Knight and Hartlaub’s experiment was far from a sure thing, a million things could have gone wrong.

“When [Peter Hartlaub and I] first started talking about riding every Muni bus in one day, I was really dreading it and anticipated a truly miserable time,” said Knight. ”But it turned out to be one of my favorite days of my career. Muni operated pretty smoothly, much better than I thought it would.”

She added, “As much as we like to complain about Muni and San Francisco itself, they’re both pretty great.”

As for the line we were riding together, Knight says it’s one of her favorites.

“It was nice to ride the entirety of the 39-Coit with you and your kids,” she said. “Your Total Muni method is so much more relaxing and gives you time to really look around and appreciate what you’re seeing. Jumping on and off buses 60 times in one day is a totally different and more stressful experience.”

After riding the 39 to the city’s famed tower, we took a walk through the park underneath the Art Deco behemoth, lounged on benches, and soaked up some sun. My kids ran around the lawn and through the undergrowth while the photographer chased them every which way. Mischievous as usual, they swiped her sunglasses and brought them to me.

After parting ways with Heather, Liz tagged along with us for a visit to the Joe DiMaggio Playground and the North Beach Library, both of which underwent spectacular renovations a few years back. Eventually, my kids ran out of steam and headfirst into a sour mood. We were ready to head home.

After consulting Nextbus, I discovered that—much to my thrill—the most expedient route was by Cable Car. We boarded the Powell-Mason line at Columbus and Greenwich for our trip back to Market Street. Though it means that we need to come back for the last 1,500 feet up to the Bay Street turnaround, I counted the day a roaring success.

43-Masonic and 8-Bayshore

Thursday we drove (yes, drove) to City College just so we could ride the final two miles of the 43-Masonic, which we abandoned previously. At the end of the 43, near a house with a cow on the roof, is the Crocker Amazon Playground (aka, the Purple Park Playground). The variety and playability of the structures, which are noted for their purple hues, earned an A grade from both my kids. Following playtime, we hopped on the 8-Bayshore back to Phelan Avenue.


Friday, we resolved to hit the 41-Union, which is a bus that has no midday service, running only in the morning and evening. We started the afternoon on the 22-Fillmore, and spent a lazy hour at the Golden Gate Valley Branch Library, which, by the way, celebrates its hundredth anniversary this year. Though smaller than most branches, its Arts and Crafts architecture is stunning, and the sunshine that lands just perfectly in the children’s section makes an ideal setting for afternoon reading.

We arrived at Lyon and Baker at the appointed time (4:09) for the first inbound bus, a nearly brand-new coach with only 1000 miles on the odometer, and took up our accustomed seats at the back row. Union Street, Columbus Avenue, Clay, Davis, Beale, and—finally—Howard.

Another week in the books.