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Muni, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency: We Love It, We Hate It

Free Rides on Muni's 100th Anniversary


Muni, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency: We Love It, We Hate It

San Francisco's public transit agency, Muni, marks its 100th anniversary in 2012.

B. Koh

Muni, San Francisco's public transit system that we love to hate, is giving everyone free rides on Friday, December 28, 2012, in honor of its 100th birthday.

The free-ride day is the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's (SFMTA's) way to thank us even though we tend to take the service for granted and of course gripe when it hiccups. From 5 am on December 28 until 5 am on December 29, trips on all Muni vehicles, including cable cars, are free. To mark the historic day, Muni will run its very first streetcar (the restored San Francisco Municipal Railway car No. 1) and other historic trolleys on the F-Line that stretches between the Castro and Fisherman's Wharf.

San Francisco is often ahead of the rest of the United States, and so we were with Muni. When streetcar No. 1 inaugurated the transit service on December 28, 1912, Muni was the first publicly owned, major metropolitan transit system in the country. It now transports more than 200 million people per year, according to the agency. Passengers take a total of 700,000 trips a day on Muni, and 80 percent of them are San Francisco residents. The network has 63 bus routes, seven light rail lines, three cable car lines and the trolley F-Line.

Our pioneering mass transit system is the subject of several exhibits, all free:

In Transit
Through January 5, 2013 (closed Sundays, Mondays, Fridays)
More than 20 photographers display their shots of life intersecting with Muni, whether it's a San Francisco Giants fan celebrating atop a bus or characters hanging out in an underground Muni station.
At Harvey Milk Photo Center, 50 Scott Street, Duboce Park, San Francisco 94117. Free. Before you go, call (415) 554-9522 to check opening times.

The F-Line Inside-Out
Through January 5, 2013 (closed Sundays, Mondays, Fridays)
This joint photo exhibit celebrates the vintage trams from cities around the world which Muni has restored and pressed into service on its F-Line. Kevin Sheridan, whose father and grandfather worked for San Francisco transit systems, has colorful photos of the trolleys rumbling on their tracks, mostly at night. Photography instructor Tim Baskerville has focused on the gray-and-red, rattan-seated streetcar No. 1, which was built in San Francisco in 1912.
At Harvey Milk Photo Center, 50 Scott Street, Duboce Park, San Francisco 94117. Free. Before you go, call (415) 554-9522 to check opening times.

Cussed and Discussed: 100 Years of the Municipal Railway in San Francisco
Through January 24, 2013
Muni's "messy, glorious" history is explored from many angles, including politics, infrastructure, design and mechanics, personnel and ridership. The exhibit title comes from a banner that was hung on streetcar No. 1 on December 28, 1942, reading, "I have traveled 1,052,665 miles. I have carried 12,882,113 passengers. I have been cussed and discussed. But I still give the nation's cheapest ride."
At the San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin St., San Francisco 94102. Free.

San Francisco Railway Museum
Open Tuesdays-Sundays
If you don't know your streetcar from your cable car, come here. Use the replica of the motorman's platform to pretend you're running a 1911 trolley. Artifacts, audio-visual displays and historic photos, plus posters, T-shirts, calendars and other items featuring San Francisco's streetcars.
At 77 Steuart St., San Francisco 94105. Free.

Cable Car Museum
Open daily except January 1, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving & Christmas
Here in the bowels of the cable car system, marvel at the huge engines and cables that move the cars. Learn about the cable car's invention in San Francisco in 1873. There are three cable cars from the 1870s, grips, other tools and machinery, models, historic photos and a gift shop.
At 1201 Mason St., San Francisco 94108. Free.

Our relationship with Muni is so complex that it has spawned Muni Diaries, a website on which people can share their anecdotes and photos about "the great or not-so-great stuff happening on the bus." Founded by a couple of Muni regulars, the site is not affiliated with the SFMTA. It occasionally leaps offline and holds live shows, where riders present Muni-driven stories, poetry, music and testimonials.

In the 1850s, transit service in San Francisco was operated by private entrepreneurs and consisted of horse-drawn or steam-locomotive-powered rail lines. The cable car, invented in 1873 by Scottish immigrant Andrew Hallidie, gradually replaced them.

As electric streetcars were introduced and refined in the late 1800s and early 1900s, San Francisco's several privately-owned, competing transit operations were consolidated into a handful. San Franciscans were so outraged by the dominant company's corruption that they approved a bond measure in 1909 to start a public streetcar service--which is today's Muni. When car No. 1 took its first crowd of passengers from Kearny and Market streets, out on Geary Street and to Golden Gate Park, the ride cost a nickel.

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