Muni: Rare, Beautiful, Endangered?


Photo by Todd Gilens

Most people think of buses as ubiquitous and utilitarian, but artist Todd Gilens is turning that idea on its head. Gilens has wrapped four Muni buses in beautiful pictures of endangered species that are currently roaming the streets of San Francisco. In his project, EndangerBus (Muni Diaries is a partner), Gilens is hoping that people will see public transportation in a different light.

Infusing art into everyday life is an idea that Gilens has used in many of his projects — he has designed and installed sloped bike racks on Market and Sixth that were inspired by the street plans of Treasure Island. For EndangerBus, Gilens was inspired when he learned about SFMTA’s “Transit Effectiveness Project.”

The project measured “maintenance, driving efficiencies, ridership statistics, the bread and butter of transportation engineers work. But no one was discussing aesthetics, or what wider impacts and meanings transit has,” Gilens wrote about his project. “It seemed to me that an assessment of effectiveness should include these criteria too.”

Instead of thinking about buses an advertising space, Gilens wondered if buses can be a vehicle for visual impact. “We use buses without thinking, like using a paper towel, but what if we used images to transform the bus, to give an emotive quality to buses?”

Gilens raised money to wrap four buses in photographs of the Brown PelicansCoho SalmonSalt Marsh Harvest Mouse and Mission Blue Butterfly.

See the making of the EndangerBuses:

The four buses will be in operation until at least April, rotating through different lines. If you are wondering where you can catch one, check out the real time bus tracker that Gilens created with GreenInfo Network on the EndangerBus.org website:

Have you spotted one of these buses? What do you think about Gilens’s idea to transform the bus into something more than a simple vehicle?

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