How To Survive San Francisco’s Public Transportation System!

Visiting San Francisco? Just moved here? I’d like to say having a car here is easy and effective, but it’s not. However, neither is our public transportation system, mainly MUNI and BART. So, here are some helpful hints on how to get it done!

1. First and foremost: Never trust Next Bus!

A seasoned MUNI rider is annoyed but never shocked when you’re waiting for the bus and the NextBus abruptly shifts from arriving in 2 mins to 22 mins.

2. Enjoy MUNI’s Inspirational Messages

Sometimes a MUNI bus will flash a message where the typical route would be listed. However, MUNI, instead of wishing equality for all, why don’t you just try showing up on time so the people can actually get to their equality marches!

3. Don’t bother to ask the driver’s for directions or help.

The drivers are about as helpful as this sign.

4. Bring exact change if you’re paying on the bus and always get a transfer!

Transfers are technically only good for 90 minutes, but every once in a while a driver will give you a transfer thats good for all day and you will feel like you just won the lottery. (Note: In doing this, they are probably not being nice as much as they are too lazy to cut individual time based transfers.)

5. If you see someone in a wheelchair on your bus, get off and walk. It will be faster!

We’ve got a lot of hills in SF. In fact, I bet if someone in a wheel chair was to race the 49 line down Van Ness- they could catch some air and fly past the bus. But, the real problem here is not the wheelchair but MUNI’s wheerchair lift which makes a lot of unnecessary noise and gets stuck most of the time causing you to be late.

6. “Step Down!”

When you want to exit a bus, you should wait until the bus arrives at the stop and then you need to step down onto the stairs to open the doors. If you are clearly a tourist, you get a one time free pass and a rider will usually yell out “Step down” to you as you stare at the doors and our seconds away from panic. If you are an old Chinese woman who has rode the bus for 30 years, you don’t get a free pass and at this point we’re tired of hearing you scream out “Driver Backdooooooooor!”

7. “Right Side Steps Going Down!”

Often the driver announces “right side stairs going down” when the light rail vehicle exits the tunnel. And, often you can’t understand it. However, this doesn’t stop me from delighting in a game of “watch that unsuspecting rider get startled when the stairs they are standing on start to move down now!” It has brought me endless chuckles.

8. BART trains are more reliable than MUNI. (When they’re not on strike!)

Though, you should keep your eyes pealed on either system. You never know when you might get attacked by a naked acrobatic on top of the fare machines on your way home from work!

9. Bonus BART Feature: You can kill time on your commute by playing “Name That Stain!”

While some BART cars have been overhauled, many still feature BART’S signature stain laden seats, some with bacteria that scientists have traced back to the 1980’s.

10. You can’t drive in the tunnel!

While you can drive on top of light rail tracks that are above ground, you can never drive in the tunnel and once every so often someone tries and doesn’t get very far.

11. Tourists are confused by BART ticket machines.

If it’s your first time and especially if you’re an European tourist at SFO weary after a long flight or you’re just panicking because some person with no teeth is at Powell station trying to sell you an old transfer while you’re slowly navigating the 1970s technology— BART machines will take a while on your first go at it. Save extra time!

12. The historic F line is worth a trip! Just cancel all your appointments.

From the Castro to the Wharf, the F line operates on historic street cars. If you’re visiting you should definitely block 6 hours and 42 minutes out of your day to take a ride on this. Seriously, the car is actually powered by a little hamster in a wheel.

13. Have a video recording device handy at all times!

This is just another Tuesday morning for commuters on the 30 Stockton. Don’t be jealous!

14. Avoid Rush Hour!

Go get happy hour drinks or a Starbucks coffee or anything that keeps you from having to get on MUNI during the rush hour. You will usually have to wait for several trains to pass before you can hop on and there will always be one asshole who pushes their way “in” the train but then blocks the doors from closing, forcing us all to hear that screeching stuck door sound!

15. Embrace your favorite line!

Well, it may not be your favorite line but it’s the one that you have to take regularly so you mind as well embrace it, you have no other choice! Do what I do, connect on a deeper level to your MUNI line. I did. I wrote a haiku about my experiences on the 22 Fillmore. Here it is:

Packed In Like Sardines
Learned New Curse Words From PreTeens
Face Slapped With Big Weave.

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