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The San Francisco Municipal Railway, or Muni as it is commonly known, is the public transit system for the city and county of San Francisco, California. In 2000, it served 46.7 square miles with an operating budget of $380.9 million. In terms of ridership, Muni is the 7th largest transit agency in the United States. In 2002, ridership amongst all forms of transit totaled 233,015,740 persons, with markedly decreased ridership on weekends.


Muni is an integral part of public transit throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, operating 365 days a year and connecting with regional services such as BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and AC Transit. Many weekday riders are commuters, as the daytime weekday population in San Francisco exceeds its normal residential population. Muni shares some stations with BART, which can lead to confusion amongst visitors. Travelers can connect to San Francisco International Airport and nearby Oakland International Airport via BART.

The Muni network consists of the following lines:

  • 55 bus lines (several using articulated buses);
  • 16 trolley bus lines (several using articulated buses)
  • 5 light rail lines. These lines, collectively known as Muni Metro, run articulated light rail vehicles. The lines include underground, grade-separated, and street-running portions
  • 3 cable car lines; see article San Francisco cable car system
  • 1 streetcar line (using heritage streetcars) known as the F Market

Selected routes and/or alternate routes operate 24 hours a day; during the overnight hours (between 1:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m.), most parts of the city are connected by Owl buses that usually operate with 30 minute headways. Muni routes operate on a schedule, and the frequency of service varies at various times of day. Trip planning has been made easier by the implementation of GPS monitoring for some routes through NextBus, allowing more informed ETAs.

Muni offers more frequent service than most other public transit agencies in the United States. Most bus lines are scheduled to operate at 5 to 15 minute headways during peak hours, every 5 to 20 minutes mid-days, and about every 10 to 20 minutes from 9 p.m. to midnight. On weekends most Muni bus lines run every 10 to 20 minutes. However, there have been complaints of unreliability, especially on less-often-served lines and older (pre-battery backup) trolleybus lines.

All Muni lines run roughly inside San Francisco city limits, except for occasional Sunday and Holiday service via the 76-line to the Marin Headlands area, a popular hiking and biking destination, the 14-Mission, which runs on Mission Street, and the 28-19th Avenue, 28L-19th Avenue Limited, and the 54-Felton, which run to the Daly City BART station. Most intercity connections are provided by BART and Caltrain heavy rail, AC Transit buses at the Transbay Terminal and Golden Gate Transit and SamTrans downtown.

Bus and car stops throughout the city vary from Metro car stations with raised platforms in the subway and at the more heavily used surface stops, to small shelters, to simple signs, to nothing more than a yellow stripe across the tracks, on a utility pole, or on the roadway.


As of September 2005, fares are $1.50 for adults and $0.50 for seniors over 65, youth aged 5-17, and disabled persons. Fares were increased in 2003 in the face of municipal and state budget cuts, and again in 2005. Proof-of-payment (POP) is handled through a transfer slip, either a piece of newsprint-like paper, torn to indicate expiration time (buses and streetcar) or print on thicker, card-board-like paper (at subway stations and a few outdoor stops such as San Francisco State University), any of which can potentially be checked by fare inspectors. Frequent riders can get a monthly pass for $45 for adults ("Fast Pass®") or $10 for youth and seniors; persons with disabilities who have obtained a Regional Transit Connection discount card may purchase a $10 disabled monthly sticker. Fast Passes are valid on all Muni lines, including cable cars, as well as on BART rides entirely inside San Francisco (between Embarcadero and Balboa Park). Other passes and stickers are valid on all Muni lines, including cable cars, but not on BART (with the exception of BART-Plus[1] ticket types).

Cable car fare is $5 per trip, with no transfers issued or accepted. "Passports" are folding scratch-off passes that can be purchased by mail, or at various places throughout the city; they are good on all regular-service lines without surcharge, including cable cars, and cost $11 for a 1-day pass, $18 for a 3-day pass, or $24 for a 7-day pass.

Special round-trip fares are set for buses going to Monster Park, or now known as Candlestick Park during football games. They are $7 for adults, $5 for children and seniors, and $3 for anyone with a pass. Riders are given a special pass once they pay the fare, which they can then use on the return-trip from the park.[2]. These fares also increased on September 1, 2005.

Special service[]

Muni operates 16 express lines, 4 lines limited service (semi-express) lines, and 12 Owl lines. During sporting events, additional lines go to Monster Park.

Most of the express lines only run during peak hours; during mornings they run towards Downtown and during the evening they run away from Downtown. All express lines have an "X", "AX", or "BX" following the line's number. Longer lines are divided into A and B Expresses. The B Express line is shorter and has stops that are closer to Downtown, while the A Express makes stops further away from Downtown and will make few or no stops in the area where the B Express stops.

The 14, 28, 38 and 71 lines all have buses providing limited service along their routes. They make fewer stops than the standard line in order to provide for faster travel, but stops are interspersed at greater intervals along the entire line (as opposed to the expresses, which make frequent local stops near the origin and destination, but not in the middle). Some of them run all day long and on weekends, unlike express buses. All limited buses have an "L" following the line's number.

Owl service runs from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. There is Owl service along the 5, 14, 22, 24, 38 and 108 lines, and as bus service along the L and N rail lines, along with a few bus odd trips along the K and M rail lines. Two additional lines which combine several daytime lines, the 90 and 91, only operate during Owl hours.

During football games, the special routes 9X, 28X, 47X, and 86 run to Monster Park. Note that these routes are not standard express routes and that the 9X that runs during football games is not the same as the normal 9X route. The 9X, 28X, and 47X follow roughly the same routes as the 9, 28, and 47, respectively, and then continue towards Monster Park. The 86 is a shuttle service that only runs between San Bruno Avenue and the park.


Muni operates about 1,000 vehicles: diesel, electric, and hybrid electric transit buses, light rail vehicles known as Muni Metro streetcars that run both under and above ground, PCC streetcars running on the F Market heritage line, and the San Francisco cable car system which is a tourist icon for the city. Many buses are diesel powered, but more than 300 are zero-emissions trolleybuses powered by overhead electrical wires. The electricity to run all of Muni's trolleybuses and streetcars comes from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park.

In 2006, Muni purchased 86 hybrid electric transit buses from Orion Bus Industries that are diesel fueled but feature very low emissions and 35% reduced fuel consumption due to their regenerative electrical braking.

All Muni lines except for Cable Cars and the 41 Union are wheelchair accessible. Nearly all bus lines have bicycle racks, but streetcars, Muni Metro lines, and Cable Cars do not.

The longest Muni line is the 24.1 mile 91-owl, a nighttime only route that blends several other routes together, and during the day the longest route is the 17.4 mile 29 Sunset. The shortest route is the 89 Laguna Honda at .6 miles. The steepest grade climbed by Muni vehicle is 23.1% by a diesel bus on the 67 line, 22.8% by a trolleybus on the 24 line, and 21% by a cable car on the Powell-Hyde line.

The busiest Muni bus line is the 38-Geary, which travels 6.5 miles in the east-west direction along the Geary corridor, and has an average speed of only 8 mph[3]. Door-to-door, it takes over 50 minutes to traverse the 6.5 mile distance from the originating terminal (in the Richmond District) to the destination terminal (Transbay Transit Terminal)[4].

Two interesting intersections of note: Powell and Market Streets and California and Market Streets. At these two points, three types of rail gauges come within a few hundred feet of each other: Bay Area Rapid Transit's 5 feet, 6 inch (1.676 m) broad gauge (which is underground in the lower tunnels), Muni Metro's standard gauge (also underground in the upper tunnels), and the San Francisco cable car system's (narrow gauge, 1067 mm (3'6"))(at street level a few hundred feet away to the north of Market Street in both cases). The F Market heritage railway is also present here, at street level on Market Street. The rail lines, however, do not physically intersect.

The F Market and Wharves line uses the same standard gauge as the Muni Metro, and in fact uses the J Church line to travel between its regular route and the storage facility.


Since the passage of Proposition E in November 1999, Muni has been part of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA), a semi-independent city agency created by that ballot measure. The agency, which includes the Department of Parking and Traffic and the Parking Authority, is governed by a seven-member Board of Directors appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Board of Supervisors. The executive director and CEO of the MTA is Nathaniel P. Ford, Sr., who previously served as general manager and CEO of MARTA, and before that, as a manager for BART.


Muni has its origins in the period following the great San Francisco earthquake. Up until then the city had been served by a number of commercial horsecar, cable car and electric streetcar operators. Many of these had been amalgamated into the United Railroads of San Francisco (URR) company. However the city acquired the still independent cable car operator Geary Street, Park & Ocean Railway, and in 1912 converted its line into an electric streetcar line.

The Muni soon started on a large building program. On December 29, 1914, the new Stockton Street Tunnel under Nob Hill carried the streetcars from Downtown through North Beach and to the new Marina District]]. On February 3, 1918, the Twin Peaks Tunnel opened, making the southwestern quarter of the city available for development. On October 21, 1928, the Sunset Tunnel opened, bringing the N Judah streetcar line to the Sunset District.

This plunged the Muni into direct competition with the URR the entire length of Market Street. The two operators each operated their own pair of rail tracks down that thoroughfare, which came to be known as the 'roar of the four'.

By World War II, the Market Street Railway Company, successor to the URR, was in financial difficulties, and in 1944 the Muni acquired its commercial competitor.

During the late 1990s, amid aging equipment and allegedly poor management, Muni developed a reputation for declining service. San Francisco residents responded in 1996 by organizing Rescue Muni, a transit riders association. Infrastructure has since improved. Muni's previous Boeing streetcars were criticized as being unreliable, and are now replaced by newer Italian Breda streetcars. Muni's previous non-ADA compliant Flyer trolleybuses were replaced with ETI-Skoda[5] trolleybuses in the early 2000's; the trolleybus manufacturer is now defunct[6].

System expansion[]

Construction on a sixth light rail line from the Caltrain Depot to Visitacion Valley (and Bayview/Hunters Point) was completed in December 2006. The new line, named the T Third Street, consists of 19 new high-platform stations at street-level, including at least one within walking distance of Monster Park. The line was supposed to connect the Bayshore Caltrain station with light rail, but Caltrain failed to notify Muni about a reconfiguration that it did to the Bayshore station; which would have resulted in a modification to the new light rail line. This will force the light rail line to have its current terminus at Sunnydale Avenue for a few years, but it is hoped that the new Muni line will eventually connect to the Bayshore station in the near future[7].

A further underground expansion for the T-line is being planned. Dubbed the Central Subway, four proposed new underground stations at Moscone Center, Market Street and Stockton Street, Union Square, and Chinatown are being studied for a possible target date of 2016. A future extension into North Beach and Fisherman's Wharf or to the Marina District and The Presidio may be built in a third phase.

Many activists have sharply criticized these long-term plans as catering to the needs of visitors at the expense of city residents, asserting that Muni's resources would be better spent on a seventh light rail line running along (or under) Geary Boulevard into the densely populated Richmond District.

Expected smaller changes to service include rerouting the 22 Fillmore and extending either the 30 Stockton or 45 Union-Stockton into Mission Bay when the area becomes developed, and a new E Embarcadero historic streetcar line is expected to begin operation along the Embarcadero from Fisherman's Wharf to the Caltrain station at 4th and King Streets in 2007, with a possible future extension into Mission Bay.

Additionally, there are plans to expand trolleybus service in several parts of the city. Several extensions to existing trolleybus lines are planned, including 14 Mission service to the Daly City BART station, 6 Parnassus service to West Portal Station, 33 Stanyan service across Potrero Hill to Third Street, 45 Union-Stockton service to the Letterman Digital Arts Center in the Presidio and 24 Divisadero service into the former Hunters Point shipyard. Other expansion plans include electrification of some diesel bus lines, with the most likely lines for conversion being the 9 San Bruno, 10 Townsend and 47 Van Ness. Electrification of the 10 Townsend line would likely be joined by an extension of the line across Potrero Hill to San Francisco General Hospital. Other lines that may be electrified are the 2 Clement, 27 Bryant, 43 Masonic and 71 Haight-Noriega. [8]

Overall, the MUNI system is not expanding because the entire city is already well served by the current routes. However the average speed of MUNI vehicles has been slowly declining over the years due to increasing vehicular congestion. Therefore, MUNI has launched plans to make its transit vehicles move faster through the city. The Transit Effectiveness Project launched in May 2006 to take a comprehensive look at the entire MUNI system to see where service can be improved or streamlined to provide faster and more reliable service. 25 years have passed since the last comprehensive review and travel patterns have changed, traffic congestion has increased, operating costs have risen and on-time performance has dropped. Automatic passenger counters will help to provide an accurate picture of where riders get on and off. In addition, bus rapid transit is currently being proposed on the Geary and Van Ness corridors.

Usage notes[]

The main logo on trains and buses are a stylized, trademarked "worm" version of the word "MUNI." [9] Muni is short for "Municipal" of "San Francisco Municipal Railway," so written in plaintext, only Muni (not MUNI) is correct; however, many San Franciscans including those who work for Muni write it MUNI and so this has become widely accepted. The Muni Metro is often called: "the train," "the underground," or "the streetcar" along with many others.

"Muni" in popular usage usually refers to both the streetcars and the busses as in "Do you know where the nearest Muni stop/station is?" Some natives believe it is a usage error to refer to Muni as "the Muni;" when used, it generally refers to the Muni Metro.

Some people use the term streetcar or trolley for cable car or vice versa. The terms actually have distinct meanings; if one asks a driver for directions to the trolley when one really wants a cable car, one may receive the wrong directions. There have also been observed uses of the term bus for Light Rail Vehicle, indicating that the term bus may be becoming generic in current local usage.

The heritage railway (F-Market and Wharves line) is referred to by Muni as a "historic streetcar line" rather than as a "heritage railway." One could reasonably argue that the cable cars are also a "heritage railway."

All Muni routes, except the cable cars, have two parts to the name, and are most often referred to by both. For example, the "1-California." The word(s) on the end refer, in general, to the street encompassing the plurality of the line. This does not mean that the line runs solely on that street (e.g., 1-California runs on Sacramento and Clay Streets east of Pacific Heights). Bus and trolleybus lines have number designations, rail lines have letters and the three cable car lines are typically referred to by name only (California, Powell/Hyde, and Powell/Mason), but Muni maps abbreviate their names to C, PH, and PM, respectively. Direction on bus, trolleybus, and rail lines is identified as "inbound" or "outbound". Generally speaking, the inbound direction is toward downtown and the outbound direction is away from downtown. Inbound and outbound directions for crosstown and neighborhood lines is less intuitive.

Most express bus lines run to downtown in the morning, and from downtown in the evening. All express bus lines have an "X" suffix to the numeric part of the line name, to identify it as an express route (except for the 88-B.A.R.T. Shuttle, which has a short express portion; nevertheless, it is identified on the official Muni Map in red, the express color). If there is an additional letter before the "X," it identifies the location of the local zone, in decreasing distance from downtown (i.e., "B" will have its local stops and terminus closer to downtown than "A"). Thus, the 1BX-California "B" Express has a local stop zone along California Street in Pacific Heights and Inner Richmond, farther east than the 1AX-California "A" Express's Outer Richmond local zone.

Limited stop bus lines run along the most congested routes, and stop only at the major intersections and transfer points along the way, covering at least most of the route and not deviating from it. Limited buses on most lines run in both directions at commute times, and some run on weekends as well. All limited bus lines have the one-letter suffix "L" added to the numeric part of the line name as well as the word "Limited". For example, the 38L-Geary Limited follows the same route as the 38 Geary, but with more widely spaced stops.


  • Perles, Anthony, with John McKane, Tom Matoff, and Peter Straus, The People's Railway: The History of the Municipal Railway in San Francisco. Glendale: Interurban Press, 1981. ISBN 0916374424. A detailed, illustrated history of the San Francisco Municipal Railway from its inception through 1980. Currently out of print, but used copies are frequently available through booksellers specializing in transportation and railroads.

See also[]


  1. BART Plus Tickets. BART. Retrieved on January 1, 2007.
  2. Candlestick Park and other Special Event Fares. San Francisco Municipal Railway. Retrieved on June 12, 2006.
  3. The Year in Review, Geary BRT. San Francisco Richmond Review. Retrieved on December 31, 2006.
  4. 38 Geary Inbound Schedule. Retrieved on December 31, 2006.
  5. Czech Prime Minister to Visit Trolley Bus Assembly Plant This Tuesday. San Francisco Municipal Railway. Retrieved on January 1, 2007.
  6. Trolley bus maker hits the brakes -- Historic Skoda Ostrov calls it quits after almost half a century. Prague Post. Retrieved on July 15, 2004.
  7. Third Street Light Rail/Central Subway. San Francisco Cityscape. Retrieved on June 13, 2006.
  8. Short Range Transit Plan (SRTP). San Francisco Municipal Railway. Retrieved on August 31, 2006.
  9. Muni Logo. Transit 511. Retrieved on June 13, 2006.

External links[]


San Francisco Municipal Railway
Muni Metro J ChurchK InglesideL TaravalM Ocean ViewN JudahS Castro ShuttleT Third Street
Other Muni services Cable carsF Market streetcarList of all Muni bus and rail lines
Muni Metro stations EmbarcaderoMontgomeryPowellCivic CenterVan NessChurchCastroForest HillWest Portal
Muni Metro system features Market Street SubwayTwin Peaks TunnelSunset Tunnel
Current projects Third Street Light Rail ProjectCentral SubwayE Embarcadero streetcar
Connecting buses AC TransitGolden Gate TransitSamTrans
Connecting rail services Bay Area Rapid TransitCaltrain
Other information Rescue MuniKey System