Muni’s mysterious yellow dots on the ground finally explained

yellow dots muni diaries

You’ve seen the yellow dots on the pavement all over San Francisco and wondered what they are, so the SFMTA blog finally offered a pretty interesting explanation! From the SFMTA blog:

Among Muni staff, these modified circles tend to go by nicknames — tadpoles, frying pans, hamburgers and pancakes…They help operators time their acceleration properly as their electric trolley poles and train pantographs pass through the “breakers” that connect different sections of wire. The arms and gaps on the circles indicate which vehicles they apply to, based on the vehicle type (short or long trolley bus) and the direction of approach.

Commenter Robert Parks, geeking out over the transit trivia, offered a more in-depth explanation of why some of the dots look split while others are filled:

In the picture: you have filled dots with a tail (pancake), and a split dot with a tail (hamburger).

These are variations on the basic marks. A filled circle with no tail indicates that the breaker (the insulator in the overhead) belongs to the 40′ trolley that is approaching the dot in a straight direction.



A split dot indicates that the breaker belongs to a 60′ trolley artic, also moving in the straight direction in the lane.

The tail points towards the trolley crossing the lane at an angle…in this case the trolley turning from southbound 11th to outbound Mission.

Since the marks for the turning 40′ trolley are doubled, the operator would know that it is a long breaker, not just a short crossing or isolator.



Out of view below the foreground is the doubled turning breaker for the 60′ trolley.

An unfilled circle is the target point for a 40′ trolley to trigger an overhead switch using the inductive coil (which is activated by pressing the turn signal). An unfilled circle with “TA” in front of it means it is the target point for a 60′ trolley.

Mystery solved!

Photo by SFMTA Blog. Featured photo by Muni Doug.

Muni News: SFMTA cracks down on drivers abusing breaks, bus stop consolidation on Van Ness

powell station muni diaries jachristian feat

This week in Muni news:

Muni slams brakes on drivers abusing breaks. SF Examiner’s Joe Fitzgerald reports that Muni is cracking down on drivers who take excessive breaks, as witnessed by a bus full of passengers on the 9-San Bruno waiting for their driver to get a meal at McDonald’s.

Muni to kick off construction of Twin Peaks tunnel in August. Hoodline reports that the Twin Peaks Tunnel Trackway Improvement project is coming our way this summer. The main purpose is seismic retrofitting to improve stability. Bus shuttles will be in service during the shutdown.

Man waiting for Muni gets knifed in the neck. Bad news. SFist reports that a man waiting for the bus in the Castro was stabbed by another man who walked up to him. He is recovering.

Nine Muni stops on Van Ness to be consolidated. The Examiner reports that nine stops will be eliminated for the bus transit rapid project on Van Ness, affecting the 47, 49, and 91. You can meet the experts (in this case, Michael Schwartz from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority) to learn more next Wednesday.

Photo by @jachristian

Bernal dads race Muni-themed car for 16 hours

bernal dads muni race car

Taking “dadcore” to the next level, a group of dads in Bernal Heights hacked their 1991 Volvo station wagon into a Muni-themed race car and drove it around the track in a 16-hour race over the weekend. Why? More like, why not??!

“We’ve always raced Volvo wagons, which are obviously rather bus-like. But when it came time to build a new car, we ended up with an old Volvo that just happened to be… Muni gray. Once we realized that, it took about one nanosecond for everyone the team to agree that a Muni race car was the way to go,” says Todd Lappin, one of the Bernal Dads, whom you may also know from Bernalwood.

Read more

Hey artists, here’s a chance to put your art on Muni

sf beautiful art muni diaries

SF Beautiful and the SFMTA are once again calling for artists to submit their work for a chance to be featured inside Muni buses. The Second Annual Muni Art Project is calling for artists to submit original art that will be reproduced for display in 100 Muni buses, doubling the number of buses from last year’s project. A committee will pick finalists and we, the public, will get to vote for the winning artist.

Hat tip to rider Deirdre O for the heads up!

Submissions are due June 17th by 6pm. Here are the submission details.

You may remember seeing some of the great art work from last year’s contest on your daily commute:

Ariel Dunitz-Johnson
ariel dunitz johnson muni diaries art

Phillip Hua:
phillip hua muni diaries art

Reynaldo R. Cayetano Jr.:
reynaldo cayetano muni diaries art

Andria Lo:
andria lo muni diaries art

Todd Berman:
todd berman muni diaries art

Self Driving Muni Buses Among Ideas in SF’s Grant Application

muni diaries market street

Could self-driving Muni buses be in our future? San Francisco is among the seven finalists applying for a $50 million grant to change the future of transportation, according to the Examiner. Proposed in the plan are self-driving buses, driverless Lyft and Uber cars, and ideas for new affordable housing now that we can get more cars off the streets.

More from the Examiner:

Per The City’s plan, autonomous buses would be connected to each other via wireless technology to avoid collisions, shared bikes would dot The City, and taxis, Uber and Lyft vehicles would ferry commuters in groups without drivers.

The City would own a fleet of electric vehicles, and neighborhood shuttles would connect bus lines to homes in less dense outer neighborhoods.

This future may also include transforming parking garages into affordable housing.

Ultimately, at least 10 percent of San Francisco’s car use would shift to “sharing” rides, or taking transit.

The grant comes from U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx via the agency’s Smart City Challenge. The agency will be choosing the winning city in the next few weeks.

You can see more details of the city’s proposal. Quick question though: without drivers, who will be left to tell us how to hold on to a transfer the correct way?

h/t: SFist.

Muni wires light up outside SFGate office

A video posted by @sfgate on

It’s not every day that news happens right outside the news office. The Muni wires outside the SFGate office were causing a loud “boom” and fireworks flashed every time an older bus passed by. Above is the video from SFGate’s Instagram account.

Then “the entire @sfgate staff watched the Muni crew fix the wires that were causing the big booms.”

A video posted by @sfgate on


On a separate note, if you haven’t heard about the plan to “flood San Francisco with news of homelessness,” led by the Chronicle in collaboration with just about all the news outlets in the city, check out The New York Times story here.

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