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Summer of Muni: From the 56-Rutland to the 25-Treasure Island

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

Photos by Mc Allen

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.

This week in Summer of Muni, we completed 8 routes, riding 53 miles not counting our connecting trips on the 22, 48 or T, which we take from our Dogpatch home in order to transfer to our target route each day. This week’s routes: T-Third Street, 56-Rutland, 21 Hayes, 19 Polk, 27 Bryant, 12 Folsom, and 25 Treasure Island.

T-Third Street

Even though we ride the T-Third Street metro line almost daily, until last Sunday we had not been to the Sunnydale Station, the end of the line. Seeing as how this is our usual line, there’s not much to mention other than that, while rolling along Third Street, we chatted with the Muni operator; like most operators, she was perplexed by our quest, but wished us well.

56-Rutland

To catch a 56-Rutland bus, which follows a hilly but compact route between Candlestick Point Recreation Area and John McLaren Park, we waited at Leland Avenue underneath an awesome piece of public art, Street Life, created artist team Rebar, the creators of Parking Day, a sprouting sculpture made from recycled parking meter heads.

Our friendly Muni operator, Big T, dropped us off at Candlestick Point, where we explored the muddy shoreline of the bay for an hour, and he picked us up again to take us through the heart of Visitacion Valley. The 56 offered us tempting views of the meandering Visitacion Valley Greenway, which we plan to explore when we return for our visit to the neighborhood’s library branch.

37-Corbet

On Monday we took the trustworthy 22-Fillmore to Church and Market, where we transferred to the 37-Corbett, a bus route probably designed by copying the slime trial of a delirious snail loose on a scale model of Twin Peaks.

This is the bus to take to the Randall Museum, which is not only remarkable for its collection of live animals, art, science exhibits, a beautiful model railroad, but also its classes on pottery, painting, furniture making. Bonus: The museum doesn’t charge admission.

But it’s also closed on Monday so we sailed right by it.

Our ultimate destination was the Park Branch Library, and to get there we went around one and a half times on the route, pausing to eat a picnic lunch in a bus shelter on Parkridge while our operator took a break. The 37 may take a nearly nonsensically winding path through the Haight, Cole Valley, and Twin Peaks, but it also delivers jaw-dropping views of the city.

Park Branch Library, like almost every other library we’ve visited, is a thriving and active place, brimming with patrons. We chatted with the children’s librarian about our Muni challenge—who revealed that she had worked at every branch but one, Ingleside.

21-Hayes

From the library we strolled across the Panhandle and picked up a 21-Hayes bus, which rolls past Alamo Square and those famous Painted Ladies. We shared this ride with a group of German tourists mostly interested in where in the city they could eat the most meat, from what I could pick up on with my very rusty german. Both of my kids were heads down in newly borrowed books until we hit the Embarcadero terminus.

19-Polk

Wednesday we wrapped up the southern half of the 19-Polk bus, after we had bailed out to come home after a long day earlier in the month. The 19 begins at Ghirardelli Square and is the only bus that goes to the Hunters Point Shipyard. (John Waters reportedly rides this line often.) Although I doubt many tourists go all the way to Hunters Point, there’s still a good time to be had for kids at India Basin Shoreline Park, which has a fine playground and slopes shaded by willow trees looking over the Bay. The 19 bus is also the bus of choice going to Heron’s Head Park, among our favorite wild places in the city, and a popular spot for bird watchers.

27-Bryant

My kids, ages 6 and 8, hover between mildly excited and enthusiastic for most rides, but on Thursday, my youngest needed some persuading as we made our way to the Mission and the 27-Bryant terminus at Cesar Chavez and Bartlett.

From early in our ride I noticed a number of mobility-impaired people using the 27, which goes past St. Francis Hospital. Low-floor level boarding buses accommodate folks who have trouble getting around, required on Muni buses. We chatted with a guy reading a tattered paperback. He told us about his ambition to be a novelist himself some day.

As we stepped off the 27, a pickup truck illegally passing us clipped the bus’ rearview mirror. Yikes.

Our destination at that end of the line led us to Helen Wills Park, another in a long list of wonderful San Francisco playgrounds to visit.

12-Folsom

After wrapping up at Helen Wills Park, we jumped on the 12-Folsom, empty for the first two stops but gradually filling up at each stop. By the time we turned onto Sansome, the bus was packed with people. When asked what it was like to be on a bus that was so full, my daughter remarked, “You see a lot of butts and armpits.” Indeed.

Eventually we had the bus all to ourselves again. We went past an old favorite of ours, Anthony’s Cookies, and I vowed to return.

Treasure Island.

25-Treasure Island

For a Friday trip on the 25-Treasure Island, my kids and I were accompanied by my friend and fellow enthusiastic transit rider Thomas Rogers, as well as San Francisco Chronicle reporter and Total Muni 2018 conqueror Peter Hartlaub. We had no plan for what to do on Treasure Island when we arrived on the human-made island in the bay, but we were surprised to find a new, empty playground out by Avenue B, across the street from a remote restaurant called Mersea, an eatery cobbled together out of old shipping containers.

Although it was hard to tell exactly where the diners came from, there were plenty of them. We ate off a table fashioned from a container door and chatted about bus lines, newspapers, and media archives while my kids rolled around in the astroturf and sand trap on Mersea’s miniature golf course.

After about an hour and a half on Treasure Island, we boarded the 25 again, crossed the bridge, parted ways with our special guests, and grabbed root beer floats once we arrived back in the city’s mainland.

Another week in the books.