SFGate: Some Don’t Take Muni Because They’re Scared of Poor People

Photo by juicyrai

The real reason some people don’t take the bus is because they don’t like poor people, according to an SFGate opinion piece. You might take Muni trains or BART, but if you’re scared of poor people, you won’t ride the surface buses, we’re told. This sounded a little implausible to me, given that Muni runs 80 routes and only six of them are metro lines (aka “Muni trains”). So people really don’t need to go anywhere outside of those six metro lines? The writer reached this conclusion through careful observation of her bus-taking experience.

I watch people’s faces when they see me waiting at a bus stop. Many of them, especially drivers, look at me like I’m doing something vaguely unsavory – like I’m drinking out of a paper bag or flashing “designer” watches for sale.

To many people, taking the bus is on the same level as these activities. It’s interesting to ask people why they won’t take it. Usually their objections seem practical, at least on the surface: The bus is “slow” or it’s “always late.”

The real reason why people give me that look when they see me waiting at the bus stop is what happens after I get on the bus. It’s the people who are taking up two or three seats with thousands of plastic bags from low-budget food markets. It’s the people who smell like they’ve been living on the street. It’s the people who have loud cell phone conversations about their court cases or their overdue child support.

Because I haven’t done a scientific study of whether people really avoid taking surface buses and why, I’m just going to speak from my personal experience. As someone who takes the surface bus (the 47) every day twice a day, I have never seen anyone giving me a look for waiting for a bus. And the reference to “people who are taking up two or three seats with thousands of plastic bags from low-budget food markets”? Even when I’ve carried my share of groceries from Clement Street on the 2, nobody has ever batted an eyelash. The premise of “people look at me weird when they see me waiting for a bus” sounds self-conscious. It’s just not something I have experienced in the 10+ years I’ve lived here.

May I kindly suggest that if you’re waiting for the bus and people cast glances your way, they are probably looking at the NextBus arrival time, you know, that screen thing that’s blinking on the top of bus shelter?


  • patricia

    That Chronicle column is absolutely absurd, so thank you for calling b.s. on it, Eugenia.

  • i second patricia.
    and i second you for the look issues, reminds me of the googly eyes SNL skid. as if i said cars have given me a dirty look because i can’t afford a car, said i, never. I mean mi legs look f-ing good thanks to them hills… ha!

    for anyone concerned about looking poor, is not bad running into jack dorsey on MUNI, or riding the 30x as a student at 6am which felt much more like the WSJ express.
    anyways, thought of the quote by peñalosa:
    “An advanced city is not a place where the poor move about in cars, rather it’s where even the rich use public transportation” Enrique Peñalosa
    SF certainly has a plenty of room for improvement but is definitely advanced.

    thanks as always for sharing eugenia 🙂
    btw I think the other day i saw you crossing van ness but my hair color is totally different, dont think you recognized me

    • Thanks Meli. What color is your hair now? 🙂 I just don’t know how people can “avoid” taking surface buses. I have to get to places. And I don’t live near any of the metro lines. And I think that’s pretty common, no?

      • ikr! I’ve learned to use the 2, it’s like a hidden express zoomin all the way dwtn during the day. &blond borderline gray, for now.
        subject to changes 🙂 xxo

  • Mike

    I tend to agree with the statement, maybe not to the degree stated in this article, but the rail lines tend to have more upper class/white people. I either ride the N, the 16x or the 71(L) these all essentially go from northern sunset to downtown. The buses tend to have some poor people, a bunch of asain women and some young people like myself. The N however has good looking women, white people (and their kids), and generally people who appear to have more money. The rail just seems more glamorous, even though it’s just as slow and crowded at rush hour.

  • Ellen

    Obviously, a scientific study is in order. Hand out surveys to all riders, asking for their socio-economic status, income, and number of bags they like to carry on Muni. Really, SFGate is so silly. When I’m at the stop, I always figured I got “that look” for wearing my fashionable hipster Muni attire!

  • Fortunately, living in the Lower Haight gives me more choices than other MUNI riders. I can take various bus lines or the N-Judah to get home. While there are exceptions to the rule, I find the craziest of the crazies tend to get spooked by the tunnels. The N tends to be far less “challenging” than the 71. And isn’t it fortunate how most of the Haight Street nuts don’t even know they could also take the 6. Shhh, please, let’s not tell them.
    The problem with N is that I have ridden it a number of times and had the same vaguely racist and paranoid experience over and over. As the train approaches Duboce Park I have to listen to some young woman explain to her friend that we’re in the “ghetto.” First this proves that the stereotypical “Marina Chick” can actually live in Cole Valley or the Sunset. And two, it always gives me the opportunity to be that crazy person and go off on somebody just before I get off the N-Judah in my beloved Lower Haight.

  • Davod Nematpour via Facebook

    I loved the train when I visited SF a couple of years ago. The bus did seem rowdy at times but I think as Long as you are aware you would be fine.

  • James

    My neighbors fit into this demographic. We live in the heart of the Castro,but they do not ride buses and rarely use MUNI (they have an expensive SUV that they drive all over)… the Google Money a few doors down from them has a fleet of Mini Coopers that they prefer to dirty MUNI, and a private bus to work every day in Mountain View. It’s not all BS

  • lemonhead

    And James has a fleet of stinky stuff you know where. That’s not all a myth either.

  • lemonhead

    Stop whining SF

  • lemonhead


    take care
    take care

    I love rich French people
    I hate poor people

    Poor people dress better than lazy rich people who wear beat up old good will clothes count busted nails and how many fails. They move through life like rolling stones

    From the hills of better to the dark alleys of lost souls, clinging to the horded wishes of sloppy chocolate and soggy flowers. Plastic poems lurking in AA with a Christmas lights warming the room, little cookies and funny memories of crystal glasses and cozy doom. Now, the fleets of fat apple sweet roam the streets, looking for a parking place. Pudgy pointing sugar coated creme puff hands holding on to their shaking yams. Pulsing eyes seeking your inner lies of why you can’t say, OK OK

  • lemonhead

    I love poor people
    I hate rich people
    I hate poor people
    I love rich people.

    song: Different strokes for different folks.

    Oh, rich people don’t like poor people.
    Wow, you’re a psychic.

    Remember when poor people could work their way into the middle class?

  • Nay

    Meh, I’m a girl, i work in financial district and i take the 47 too, but only on my way back home, cause I risk to be late at the morning. And it’s true, you see/hear a lot of weird stuff in the bus but is that unusual from SF anyways? No one has disrespect me in any way never.

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