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The San Francisco Municipal Railway (SF Muni) is the public transit system for the city and county of San Franciscomarker, Californiamarker. In 2006, it served with an operating budget of about $700 million. In terms of ridership, Muni is the seventh largest transit system in the United Statesmarker, with 210,848,310 rides in 2006.


A cable car at California and Market Streets
Muni is an integral part of public transit in the City of San Francisco, operating 365 days a year and connecting with regional transportation services, such as Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), SamTrans, and AC Transit. Its network consists of 54 bus lines, 17 trolley bus lines, 7 light rail lines (known as the Muni Metro), 3 cable car linesmarker, and a heritage streetcar line known as the F Market & Wharves. Many weekday riders are commuters, as the daytime weekday population in San Francisco exceeds its normal residential population. Muni shares four metro stations with BART, which can lead to confusion amongst visitors. Travelers can connect to San Francisco International Airportmarker and Oakland International Airportmarker via BART.

Several routes operate 24 hours a day, such as the 38 Geary. 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 most routes through NextBus, allowing for easier predictions of arrival times.

Most bus lines are scheduled to operate every five to fifteen minutes during peak hours, every five to twenty minutes middays, about every ten to twenty minutes from 9 pm to midnight, and roughly every half hour for the late night "owl" routes. On weekends, most Muni bus lines are scheduled to run every ten to twenty minutes. However, complaints of unreliability, especially on less-often-served lines and older (pre-battery backup) trolleybus lines, are a system-wide problem. A February 20, 2007, article in the San Francisco Chronicle noted that Muni was not able to meet its modest goal of 85% voter-demanded on-time service.

All Muni lines run roughly inside San Francisco city limits, with the exception of several lines that serve some locations in the northern part of neighboring Daly Citymarker, and the 76 Marin Headlands line to the Marin Headlandsmarker area on Sundays and various holidays. Most intercity connections are provided by BART and Caltrain heavy rail, AC Transit buses at the Transbay Terminalmarker and Golden Gate Transit and SamTrans downtown.

Bus and car stops throughout the city vary from Metro stations with raised platforms in the subway and at the more heavily used surface stops, to small shelters to signposts to simply a yellow stripe on a utility pole or on the road surface.

Name and Logo

Old Muni logo
Muni is short for the "Municipal" in "San Francisco Municipal Railway" and is not an acronym; thus, when it is written in plain text, only Muni (not MUNI) is correct. However, many San Franciscans, including some of those who work for Muni, write it MUNI. The Muni Metro is often called "the train" or "the streetcar".

The F Market & Wharves line is referred to by Muni as a "historic streetcar line" rather than as a "heritage railway".

Muni's logo is a stylized, trademarked "worm" version of the word "MUNI". This logo was designed by San Francisco-based graphic designer Walter Landor in the mid-1970s.

Route names

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 generally refer to the street encompassing the plurality of the line. This does not mean that the line runs solely on that street (e.g., the 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 (Powell-Mason, Powell-Hyde and California). However, Muni maps abbreviate the cable car route names to PM, PH and C, and they are given route numbers 59, 60 and 61, respectively, for use within Muni operations.


Fares are $2 for adults and $0.75 for seniors over 65, youth aged 5-17, and disabled persons. 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 machine-printed on thicker tag stock at subway stations and a few outdoor stops such as the one at San Francisco State Universitymarker, any of which can be checked by fare inspectors. These transfer receipts allow travel on almost any Muni vehicle for at least 90 minutes but no more than 2 hours from the time of issue. The exception to this is for cable car lines which require a $5.00 one-way fare with no transfers unless the rider has a Fast Pass. This monthly pass is $55 for adults ("Fast Pass"), $30 for low-income residents ("Life Line Pass"), or $15 for youth and seniors. Persons with disabilities who have obtained a Regional Transit Connection discount card may purchase a $15 disabled monthly sticker. Fast Passes are valid on all Muni lines, including cable cars, as well as (adult passes only) on BART rides entirely within San Francisco (between Embarcaderomarker and Balboa Parkmarker). Other passes and stickers are valid on all Muni lines, including cable cars, but not on BART (with the exception of BART-Plus 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 Candlestick Parkmarker during football games. They are $10 for adults, $7 for children and seniors, and $5 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.

Muni has partially implemented a dual-mode smart card payment system known as TransLink. The transponders have been in use since at least 2004 and are officially in the testing stages. TransLink was expected to be rolled out in summer 2008 on Muni, but this expansion has suffered delays. Both BART and Caltrain plan to utilize the TransLink system.

Special service

Muni operates 16 express lines, 4 limited-service (semi-express) lines, and 12 Owl lines, which run between 1 am and 5 am. During sporting events, additional lines go to Candlestick Parkmarker.

Express lines only run during peak hours (with the sole exception of the 9X Bayshore Express); during mornings they run towards downtown (the Financial Districtmarker) 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.

Limited-service lines provide 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). All limited buses have an "L" following the line's number.


Muni operates about 1,000 vehicles: diesel, electric, and hybrid electric transit buses, light rail vehicles, streetcars, historic streetcars, and cable cars. 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 come from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoirmarker in Yosemite National Parkmarker.

In 2006, Muni purchased 86 hybrid electric transit buses from Orion Bus Industries that are diesel-fueled but feature lower emissions and 19% reduced fuel consumption.

All Muni lines except for cable cars are wheelchair accessible. All bus lines have bicycle racks, but streetcars and cable cars do not.

The longest Muni line is the 91 Owl, a nighttime-only route that blends several other routes together, while the longest daytime route is the 29 Sunset. The shortest route is the 89 Laguna Honda at . The steepest grade climbed by Muni vehicle is 23.1% by a diesel bus on the 67 Bernal Heights line, 22.8% by a trolleybus on the 24 Divisadero line, and 21% by a cable car on the Powell-Hyde line.

The busiest Muni bus line is the 38 Geary, which travels in the east–west direction along the Geary corridor, and has an average speed of only . Door to door, it takes over 50 minutes to traverse the distance from the Richmond Districtmarker to the Transbay Terminalmarker when operating on schedule.

At Powell and Market Streets and California and Market Streets, three types of rail gauges come within a few hundred feet of each other: Bay Area Rapid Transit's broad gauge (which is underground in the lower level of the tunnels), Muni Metro's (also underground in the upper level of the tunnels), and the San Francisco cable car system'smarker narrow gauge (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 tracks to travel between its regular route and the storage facility near Balboa Park Stationmarker.


The Muni Metro system map.
Note the combination of the K and the T lines.
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. Mr. Ford makes $298,000 a year, and is San Francisco's highest paid public employee.


Early years

Muni has its origins in the period following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. 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. In 1909, voters approved a municipal rail line down Geary. Three years later in 1912, the city declined to renew the franchise that bestowed cable car operator Geary Street, Park & Ocean Railway the privilege of operating on Geary Street, and converted the line into a municipal electric streetcar line, the first line of Muni.

Muni soon started on a large building program. On December 29, 1914, the new Stockton Street Tunnel under Nob Hillmarker opened, allowing streetcars from downtown to go to North Beach and the new Marina Districtmarker. On February 3, 1918, the Twin Peaks Tunnelmarker opened, making the southwestern quarter of the city available for development. On October 21, 1928, the Sunset Tunnelmarker opened, bringing the N Judah streetcar line to the Sunset Districtmarker. These improvements plunged Muni into direct competition with the URR on 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".

1940s: The first trolleybuses

In 1941, Muni introduced its first trolleybus line, the R-Howard line. By 1944 the Market Street Railway Company, successor to the URR, was in financial difficulties. Thus, at 5 am on September 29, 1944, Muni acquired its commercial competitor. Along with the routes and equipment, Muni adopted its competitor's more expensive seven-cent fare.

1970s and '80s: Construction and reorganization

In 1970, construction began on the Muni Metro system below Market Street, the same time when Muni was having a severe diesel bus crisis. In 1982, the cable car system was shut down for 18 months for rebuilding, and there were massive line reorganizations due to diesel bus issues. The F line was reintroduced in 1983 as a heritage railway. Initially designed as a temporary tourist attraction to make up for the closure of the cable car lines, the F has become a permanent fixture.

1990s: the "Muni Meltdown"

During the late 1990s, with aging equipment and poor management, Muni developed a reputation for abysmal service. San Francisco residents responded in 1996 by organizing Rescue Muni, a transit riders association. In an effort to improve service, Muni began to replace its troublesome fleet of Boeing-Vertol streetcars with newer Italian Breda streetcars. In 1998, San Francisco residents witnessed a protracted malfunction of Muni Metro during the switch to automatic train control, culminating in an event that is known as the Muni Meltdown. The decade old fleet of New Flyer trolleybuses were mostly replaced with ETI Skoda trolleybuses in the early 2000s. Likewise, the diesel bus fleet saw an infusion of 45 new NABI buses from AC Transit in 1999.


On October 8, 2007, SFMTA's notable cable car signs were awarded the AdWheel Award as the best in print promotion by the American Public Transportation Association. Nathaniel Ford, executive director of Muni, said that the "marketing group has done an outstanding job making the key boarding areas more attractive and inviting for residents and our guests."

On November 15, 2007, city officials announced that they were looking into the possibility of adding double-decker buses to the Muni fleet, which would be operating mostly on the 38 Geary and the 14 Mission routes. The test period started on December 12, 2007, and ended on January 8, 2008.

On December 1, 2007, Mayor Gavin Newsom announced that the entire city fleet, including all of Muni buses, are henceforth powered with biodiesel, a combination of petroleum diesel fuel and biofuel, to reduce carbon emissions. Muni's current hybrid bus fleet currently runs on biodiesel.

System expansion

Construction on a sixth light rail line from Caltrain Depotmarker in Mission Bay 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 Candlestick Parkmarker.

A further underground expansion for the T line is being planned. Dubbed the Central Subway, four proposed new underground stations at Moscone Centermarker, Marketmarker and Stockton Streets, Union Squaremarker, and Chinatownmarker are being studied for a possible target date of 2016. A future extension into North Beach and Fisherman's Wharf or to the Marina Districtmarker and The Presidiomarker may be built in a third phase. This project is expected to cost about $1.4 billion. A critical problem with the proposed subway is that the stations will be much narrower and shorter in comparison to existing Muni Metro stations on Market Street; ridership projections reveal that the line will run at near capacity from the start of operations with little or no ability to increase capacity. Some activists have 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 Districtmarker. Currently, a bus rapid transit ("BRT") line is being planned for Geary Boulevard, possibly as a precursor to a light rail line.

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 Embarcaderomarker from Fisherman's Wharf to the Caltrain station at 4th and King Streets in 2008, 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 stationmarker, 6-Parnassus service to West Portal Stationmarker, 33-Stanyan service across Potrero Hillmarker to Third Street, 45-Union-Stockton service to the Letterman Digital Arts Centermarker in the Presidiomarker 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 Hospitalmarker. Other lines that may be electrified are the 2-Clement, 27-Bryant, 43-Masonic and 71-Haight-Noriega.

However, the average speed of Muni vehicles has been slowly declining over the years due to increasing vehicular congestion and is now merely per hour. In response, Muni has launched plans to make its transit vehicles move faster through the city. The Transit Effectiveness Project was launched in May 2006 to take a comprehensive look at the entire Muni system and to see where service can be improved or streamlined to provide faster and more reliable service. Twenty-five 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 since then. 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.


  • 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 Muni from its inception through 1980. Currently out of print, but used copies are frequently available through booksellers specializing in transportation and railroads.

See also


  2. Proposed System Map
  3. TEP Draft Proposals to transform Muni
  4. Summary Table of Frequencies
  5. Major Muni revamp released, plans would eliminate some routes
  6. TEP Page 1 Overview

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