Muni Stories From Your Mayoral Candidates

It's A Routine Flight For This Bird Tonight
Photo by Mike Dillon

So, there’s a mayoral election coming up in San Francisco on Nov. 8. Do the candidates actually ride Muni? And do they deal with the craziness on Muni just like the rest of us? Today, we save you from the policy-position heaviness and bring you the mayoral candidates as transit riders just like you and me. Check out what they have to say. And read Part 2 here.

Muni Diaries: How often do you ride Muni, and which line(s) do you ride? Do you have a favorite?

Cesar Ascarrunz: I ride Muni a few times a month to get around in the Mission. The lines I most frequently use are the 14-Mission and 49-Van Ness. These are my favorite since I always run into someone I know and who wants to share their concerns about the city to me.

John Avalos: I ride my bike more often than I ride Muni, but I generally take Muni about five times a week. My favorite line has got to be the J-Church, because I love the view coming through Noe Valley into Dolores Park.

Terry Baum: I usually take at least one round trip on Muni every day. A really hectic day can be three! I live at Douglass and 21st St., so I ride the 48 going up or down to 24th St., the 24 going up and down Castro and Divis, and the Muni Metro from the Castro Station — or the F, if it’s there waiting. I’ll take the 35-Eureka up the hill from Castro and Market — if it’s there waiting around the corner. If I can’t see it, I won’t wait for it. Once, I didn’t see it, but the LED info at the bus stop said it was coming. 7 minutes…5 minutes….3 minutes….it’s arriving… the suspense was thrilling… then the sign said that the 35 was there! But it wasn’t! Then the sign went back to saying it would be there in 27 minutes. I walked up the hill.

I’m quite fond of the J-Church, because it goes through people’s backyards and above Dolores Park with that beautiful view of the city and the Bay. Actually, from the top of Dolores Park, that horrible giant One Rincon Hill tower lines up with the towers of the Bay Bridge and looks pretty good! (That’s the only point from which it looks good.) I do greatly enjoy the F, if the traffic isn’t too bad.

I live in a neighborhood of steep hills. I’m 64 and can still easily walk up and down them. But I’ve often thought that when it got too difficult to walk, I would have to move to a flatter part of San Francisco. The 35, 48, and 24 are just not that frequent and reliable for me to plan my life around. The 35 is scheduled only every 1/2 hour! If the buses around me really came every 10 minutes, I could stay where I am.

David Chiu: I usually ride Muni several times a week. When I don’t ride my bike (particularly when it rains), I often take the 47 or the 49 to get to City Hall, and the 1-California to get across my supervisorial district. However, my favorite trips in my district involve riding the cable cars up and down San Francisco’s famous hills.

Bevan Dufty: Six streetcar lines and the F-Line stop within 2-3 blocks of my Lower Haight flat, so I love the trains. I catch the bus and ride the 22, 24, and 5 most frequently. I have never ridden the 14 without a crazy experience. Call me crazy.

Tony Hall: I ride the M,L, and K/T lines 3-4 times a week between my home near Forest Hill station and downtown.

Dennis Herrera: I ride the T often. I have always been a fan of our light rail here in the city. I believe it is a clean, quick, and reliable way to get around. Even when other parts of Muni, like the buses, have had their problems, the light rail has been a consistently easy and pleasant way to get around.

Phil Ting: I’m a recovering N-Judah commuter. Before I had children, I took the N-Judah every day from the Sunset to Downtown. Now, I’m a personal Muni driver for my children — 70 percent of the time, I’m on time. I ride Muni 2-3 times a week to go to meetings and events primarily in and around downtown.

David Villa-Lobos: Maybe a couple of times per month, and usually it’s the number 19 Polk line.

Leland Yee: Though I rode Muni frequently as a kid, I now don’t get the opportunity as frequently given my commute back and forth to the Capitol in Sacramento. But when I do ride Muni, I take the N-Judah in from the Sunset — just as the rest of my family does. In fact, my son doesn’t drive and takes the N-Judah every day. I also applaud my campaign and state staff for their reliance on public transit — not one staffer on my campaign or in my San Francisco district office uses their car to get to work.

Muni Diaries: What’s the most memorable thing that’s happened to you on Muni?

Cesar Ascarrunz: I have ridden Muni many times. I have had very great experiences. Many people have come up to me and thanked me for the work I am doing. I have had seniors and homeless people thank me for my events that they have directly benefited from. This makes me feel that I need to continue to help San Francisco because it is needed so much. I always get the best and happiest bus drivers as well. My memories of Muni have been positive.

John Avalos: I rode Muni to my wedding. My wife and I were getting married at the California Club on Clay Street, and we got ready together at the Cathedral Hill Hotel. We stepped up into the bus and everyone clapped. (See all the other happy couples we captured on Muni Diaries)

Terry Baum: Once, I ran into a friend who I’d been estranged from for a long time. The seat next to me was the only vacant seat, and she sat down in it. I’m sure she would have sat somewhere else, if it had been available. It was very awkward at first, but the ride was long enough for us to loosen up a little and exchange phone numbers. That was the beginning of our reconciliation. That’s the wonderful thing about public transit. You’re thrown together with the rest of San Francisco. You encounter all kinds of people you’d never meet otherwise. This time, I ran into an important person from my past.

Another favorite special ride was on the F, after an evening of dancing to blues near Fisherman’s Wharf. Riding all around the Embarcadero and up Market, seeing the city at night, never having to change to get from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Castro — that was wonderful. Another favorite unique ride was after the one time I went to the Black and White Ball in Civic Center. It ended at 2 a.m. There was a Muni bus waiting on Market and Van Ness. Of course, the whole bus was filled with revelers from the ball. The party continued all the way home. The combination of going to a ball and riding the bus home seemed so San Francisco!

I must say, as long as I don’t have to wait too long and I can get a seat, I’m very happy to be on the bus or the Metro. The wait is the most important issue. I know that people complain all the time about the buses being slow. But once I’m on, I’m happy. Riding Muni is time-out time. Sometimes I read but generally I’m people-watching — sometimes covertly in the reflection in the window. If it’s Christmas Eve or the Giants have just won the World Series, there’s a feeling of being part of a community celebration that’s so wonderful. I know that scary or disturbing incidents happen on the bus, but I’ve never witnessed anything like that.

David Chiu: During my time as a criminal prosecutor, I rode the 19-Polk most days to work at the Hall of Justice. During one of my trials, the defendant asked the judge if he could have back the ax he had wielded against his victim, so he could protect himself on Muni. It took me some time before I stopped looking over my shoulder while on Muni buses.

Bevan Dufty: I remember riding a crowded 49 Van Ness, a young woman boarded after me at McAllister. We were towards the front, and there was no way to move back. Two guys on separate sides of the bus started beckoning for her attention; one had a boombox and was crooning off-key. Afraid to start a beef, I asked her to switch places so I could engross her in conversation and block the commentary. She had just finished Hastings and was studying for the bar exam. I told her that I was a city supervisor and that I was embarrassed to feel so powerless. As we kept talking, they got bored and she got to her destination. After that, I began an unending hissy fit to have SFPD officers ride buses. Wait till I’m mayor. Even if it’s my security detail, we will be visible.

Tony Hall: In the late 80s, I was on the L train coming home from downtown and the woman sitting beside went into labor in the middle of the ride. The train was stopped and emergency services were promptly called to retrieve the mother-to-be and take her to the hospital.

Dennis Herrera: I was on the 22-Fillmore a few years ago when three buses in a row broke down right in front of me. I couldn’t believe it!

Phil Ting: Last week on N-Judah, a woman standing on train accidentally had her purse brush up against a man sitting down with dark sunglasses. I’m not sure whether he had taken his medication but he started yelling at the woman to stop touching him and to get out of his face.

Thankfully, a young man stepped in and asked the gentleman to calm down and sit down, at which point sunglass man stood up and asked him if he wanted to take it outside at 8 a.m. in the morning. Fearing this situation would escalate, I stepped in and asked sunglass man to sit down and calm down. He ignored me but finally decided he wanted to finish his ride and sit down. Not sure why something about Muni brings out the fight in people.

David Villa-Lobos: I organized senior-disabled San Franciscans in a well publicized effort/hearing to stop the removal of Muni stops/shelters. And the relocation or replacement of already removed shelters.

Leland Yee: Whenever I get on Muni, it triggers a memory from my childhood of riding home on the 30-Stockton every day sitting next to… chickens.

Hey, Senator Yee said it, not us! Was it this chicken on Senator Yee’s bus?

Check back later this week to learn a more about what these candidates for mayor of San Francisco think about Muni.



  1. Beth W.

    These are AWESOME. Can’t wait for more!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

    • Tara

      Thanks, Beth. We had a fun time putting it together!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

      • jeff

        Seriously, WTF down-voting a comment like Tara’s? SMH.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

        • Tara

          Someone perhaps does not find these awesome.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. Kristin

    “Quick” “reliable” “easy” “pleasant”? He just lost my vote. Our system needs to be fixed.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  3. Chris

    I am a regular MUNI rider on many of the lines, and I have never, ever, not ONE TIME seen ANY of these politicians on a bus or streetcar. I love the ones saying they ride “often” or “3-4 times a week”. This let’s me know who not to vote for b/c I’m not voting for blatant liars.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  4. Richard Boyle

    I’m an average MUNI rider dependent upon MUNI’s service to get me places that are just a bit too far for me to go on foot; and I don’t have a car. A lot of people like to gripe about MUNI, but my experience as a 40-year San Francisco resident has shown that there’s really no that much to gripe about. It’s an excellent public transport system, but like most things in life it’s not perfect. In sum, I think MUNI’s does an outstanding job. My favorite line is the F – I like those trams from other places in the world, especially the one from Japan.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  5. JR

    What happened to Ed Lee? Doesn’t he get equal time?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Tara

      We reached out to Ed and his campaign, but we haven’t heard back.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. jou baur

    @Phil Ting,

    Sounds like this guy just got out of prison and still had his,’ Respect me or else,’ mode on.
    One guy I spoke with told me that no one had better bump him!

    When I commented about rush hour, crowded buses, and bumps, etc… he repeated much more forcibly, “No one had better bump me or it’s on!”

    I shut up while I could and just figured he be back inside in days… if he ever got out.

    A certain amount of that attitude may be necessary inside to prevent being taken advantage of, but it should NOT follow the person out.

    Yet, it does.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  7. fermata

    I can attest to seeing & speaking to Bevan Dufty on a 49 Van Ness bus about a year ago, for what it’s worth.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. A Dea

    It’s obvious these politicians are out of touch with Muni, using it significantly less than the average commuter does. Not so surprisingly, none had a single recommendation to improve it, all stating that they had favorable memories. Well, it’s obvious the system is broken – on-time performance is less than 73% and passengers are afraid for their lives.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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