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Summer of Muni: Nearing the finish line

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

Photo 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.

N-Owl

I started my latest owl trip by driving—yes, driving—across the city to Great Highway, parking at Noriega, and walking against the wind roaring off the ocean to La Playa and Judah. A little after 1 a.m., the N-Owl bus picked me up and pulled away from the stop right behind the last N train returning to the yard, having completed its final run of the evening. I was the only passenger aboard as the coach made its way through the Sunset to Cole Valley (past an old apartment of mine), and, unlike the N-Judah trains during normal hours, detoured on Haight Street to Fillmore.

Once the bus hit Market Street, a man boarded and made a half-hearted attempt to show an alleged transfer, which was waved off casually by the driver. Owls seem to be fare-optional rides, from what I can tell. As we made our way down Market, a couple of regulars who knew the driver came on board and started teasing him about rowdy passengers who would be boarding on later trips in the evening.

At Seventh and Market, we came upon police tape blocking the sidewalk and a man in handcuffs sitting on the curb. Perhaps a dozen SFPD officers were on the scene. A number of passengers and the operator speculated about what might have happened with no clear answers.

Whatever it was, it had no bearing on the progress of our bus, and we continued on with most of the passengers exiting at Montgomery or Embarcadero stations. At Fourth and King, I transferred to the 91 Owl and headed home. At this point, I’m officially and emotionally done with the Owls.

All told, the after-hours trips clocked in at under an hour. (You can read all about the other Owl rides here.)

7-Haight Noriega

The next morning, my kids and I had to return to the end of Noriega to reclaim the family car, which was in a street-cleaning spot. Our bus for this errand, the 7-Haight Noriega, was waiting for us underneath the new Transbay Transit Center, which had its opening festivities on Saturday.

My kids and I passed everything I had passed just hours before in the opposite direction, but now in broad daylight. Fifty-five minutes after we started, we were at the 7 terminal.

After checking on the car, we headed over the sandy berm and onto Ocean Beach. We played in the surf until I could wait no longer for coffee—a necessity from the previous night of Owl riding. Fortunately, Devil’s Teeth Baking Company was close by (46th Avenue and Noriega) so I grabbed caffeine while the kids ate shark-shaped cookies.

The fog burned off and the sun came out at Ortega Branch Library, the 24th library we’ve visited in our attempt to visit every SF public library. (There are 30 in all.) Jolted by the coffee, I watched the bumblebees buzzing by while my kids read their fresh haul of books on the fake rocks of the playground behind the library.

9R-San Bruno Rapid

Tuesday we rode three separate buses of the 9R-San Bruno Rapid line. From Steuart and Market we rode to Spear and Market—at trip of about 200 feet—and then switched to the 9R outbound to Sunnydale Developments. En route we met an older gentleman wearing a knee brace and using a cane. I asked if he was healing well.

“No, I don’t think so,” he said. “Ligaments: Busted. Cartilage: Gone. I think it’s only getting worse from here.”

He told us he started riding Muni at the age of six years of age, cutting his teeth on the lines that went though his childhood neighborhood, the Fillmore.

“I learned every nook and cranny of this city, every sidewalk and every street” riding the buses.

He later went on to teach for 20 years at McAteer High School.

“You have to love children and love people to be a good teacher.”

He said he ended his tenure when he started to burn out.

“Better to step aside when you start to burn out, plenty of teachers keep going well afterward.”

After our new friend exited the bus, we slogged through Portola, Bayview, and finally to the end of its route. Our operator had a layover there, and so we jumped off and boarded the next 9R, which we took back to Visitacion Valley, where we visited yet another branch library before heading home.

We will have until Sunday to finish the Muni bus remaining lines to complete my summer transit challenge. Fingers crossed.