Obit-lette: 38-Geary Ocean Beach

38 Geary Ocean Beach
Photo by Flickr user Jeremy Brooks

100 Muni StoriesIn 2009, several Muni lines got the axe. To further anthropomorphize our city transit system — and to be a bit silly about the cuts — we solicited Muni obituaries from our readers. We learned San Franciscans were more attached to their pet lines than we ever imagined, not just because of proximity or convenience. This part of Sara’s writeup, in its entirety below, says it all for me: “For me and my husband, that turn means we’re going home.”

The 38-Geary Ocean Beach was eliminated over the weekend along with other route segments. Here’s Sara’s obituary for it.

So we took what is probably our last ride on the 38 Geary Ocean Beach line Friday night — even waited a few extra moments in the dark and cold on Geary for it, turning our noses up at an earlier bus so that we could experience that heart-warming turn off at 33rd Avenue one last time. For me and my husband, that turn means we’re going home.

I suspect a lot of Geary riders hardly knew the Ocean Beach branch line existed, or if they did it was just as that annoying occasional bus that would suddenly and inexplicably turn off of Geary, just as they were approaching the end of the line. There was always a confused scramble for the exits just after the turn as riders found themselves suddenly traveling what they obviously thought was the wrong way. And inevitably, one old guy asking plaintively “Hey, does this bus go to the VA Hospital?”

It was my favorite bus line though, because it ran right by my front door on Balboa and carried me to and from all the busy spots on Geary where I needed to be. Also, it effectively doubled the bus service on what will now be a very quiet and poorly served residential stretch of Balboa. That especially matters to me because I work a late shift downtown, and there will now be fewer options and longer waits at midnight on Market street. Standing there under the streetlight with the other late-night stragglers, I always felt like I’d hit the jackpot when I saw the “Ocean Beach” sign on the front of the approaching bus.

Sure there is a Balboa bus, but it’s not terribly frequent. As Muni helpfully points out, I can take the regular Geary bus or the Fulton– only two blocks in either direction from Balboa– but they neglect to mention the fairly daunting hills involved or the size of those blocks. And I guess now they’re offering the rather piss-poor alternative of getting off the Geary at 33rd and waiting for an infrequent 18 bus to show up and take you down Balboa. But change buses to travel 10 blocks, and at midnight no less? No.

I was pleased to see another reader eulogize this line last week, because I figured nobody else cares. I’m well aware that my desire to see it continue is pretty selfish — I was often the only rider left by the time we reached my stop. But nevertheless, I’m going to miss you, 38 Ocean Beach.

Read last week’s eulogy for the 38-Geary Ocean Beach here.


  • Helene

    I certainly miss the 38-Ocean Beach as well. It was indeed a good line for those who live near that stretch of Balboa; I still feel like it doesn’t make sense that this branch was cut off instead of the 38-VA Hospital.

    • Ditto. Why this branch and not that branch?? And how exactly are the tourists gonna get to the cliff house with the 18 now going this way? Big mistake this one

    • It never made sense to me how the original TEP asked for the Ocean Beach branch to leave and have the 18 substitute for that area.

      What’s so wrong with cutting the VA hospital route and having a shuttle bus do the job? If the 38L can get you just one block from the hospital at 42nd & Geary, patients can simply wait 10-15 minutes for a shuttle bus.

      But even stranger is that Muni now has 38-Geary buses terminating at 33rd & Geary, which makes no sense. They promised more 38L buses, so why not shift those 33rd Avenue bound buses to 38L for even faster service?

  • Sara

    Good to see it’s not all Missionites reading this site.
    I will say, I have been reasonably impressed with both the frequency of the 18s on Balboa so far (although I’m still not tempted to change buses), and also with the improved late night service on the Fulton bus, which now stops at the same place where I catch the 31s and 38s on Market Street late at night. It’s a hike up the hill (as opposed to the hike down the hill from Geary), but as long as it’s not raining it at least improves my odds of getting home quickly.

  • Dexter Wong

    The Ocean Beach branch was the oldest part of the original B Geary streetcar line, created that way because the private Market St. Ry. (absorbed by Muni in 1944) already ran streetcars on outer Geary St., so the B line ended up on Balboa St. .(The original 31 streetcar ended at Balboa and 30th Ave. so it wouldn’t conflict with the B line.) Conversion to 38 bus in 1956 didn’t change a thing, the bus still ended on Balboa. The 38 line was not straightened out until the 1970s when 38 buses ran all the way to 48th and Pt. Lobos Ave. People complained so much that eventually Muni ran 38L to 48th and 38 to Ocean Beach. Well, times eventually change and the Ocean Beach branch became like an appendix, it was there but nobody knew what it was for.

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