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Muni: A Noob Does Public Transportation in San Francisco
If you're familiar with taking trains, the subway, and the bus, then you can ignore this post (or you can read it and snicker at me). If not, and you're going to be traveling to San Francisco any time soon, then here's how you use the Muni. That's San Francisco's city bus.
This isn't a backhanded way of bragging with my nose up in the air that "Oh mah gawd, I've hardly ever taken public transportation." I grew up in the Midwest where the only bus I ever rode was bright yellow and went from my house to that horrible place called "school." Now, I live in LA, and we know about public transportation in LA (wait, we have public transportation in LA?!?!?)
So traveling in San Francisco, I learned how to take the bus. The Bay Area public transportation system is extensive, efficient, and very friendly to the likes of me - a newbie to buses and a traveler.
You should know where you are and where you're going. You can either use the Muni's Trip Planner to type in starting and ending points to find out which line(s) to take, or you can be brilliant and use a route map or schedule. We ended up asking out hotel concierge (we're not very brilliant), who told us we needed to take the F line to get to the Ferry Building from Union Square. A one-line trip is easy. If you need to use multiple lines, well, that's the advanced class and I haven't gotten there yet. Okay, actually, it's easy. That's where the transfers will come in later.
Muni stops are obvious. Just make sure you're on the right side of the street and when a bus rolls up, make sure you're getting on the right one. Lots of buses stop fairly often at the same place. If you're obsessive like me, you can ask every person waiting at the stop, and confirm with the driver when he opens to door to let people on. F? Does it go to the Ferry Building? Is this the F Line?
Muni costs $1.50 for adults. If you have ID, then you can get the senior, youth, or disabled person discount, which means a ride costs you $0.50. You have to have exact change to put into the money box because the drivers don't take money or provide change. When you board, you also get one free "transfer." We'll get to the transfer later.
Some of the Muni buses look like they've been airlifted from another time and place. Thats because they have. Apparently, the bright orange one that we took is from Louisiana. The way it was rattling and shaking along the rails sure felt like it was from the 1800s.
At rush hour, the Muni gets very crowded. Actually, even when it's the middle of the day, the Muni is crowded. Just pray that everyone used Dial.
You got on through the front door, but don't try to exit that way otherwise you'll be fighting against all the riders who are trying to get on. Use the middle of back doors.
Your "transfer" is a slip of paper that lets you get back on any Muni before the time that's marked on the paper. If you're using more than one line to get somewhere, the transfer lets you get on that second bus. If you land at your final destination, then it gives you about an hour and a half. If you're efficient in your shopping, sightseeing, or whatever you're doing in the City, you could get back to homebase for free! Unfortunately, I got carried away at the Ferry Building Marketplace, so the transfer expired.
Oh well, $1.50 to get back is cheap.