The Real SF Parents’ Guide to Taking Your Kids on Muni

leanne amelia muni
Photo by Leanne Maxwell

Bringing up urban kids has its own challenges, and riding public transit with kids probably ranks high on the list. As one parent on Twitter said, “Almost every time I take the kids on Muni, there’s a surprise which requires an explanation.” (we see what you meant, Mark!). We asked a few San Francisco parents for their tips on taking kids on Muni, and they’ve got some golden advice here.

These parents recommend that you start riding Muni with your kids when they’re young so that they can learn how to navigate the system. And when they’re older, teach them how to be independent and how to deal with potential creepy situations on the bus. Here are their tips for taking your children on Muni, based on the kids’ ages:

Toddlers/babies

  1. Buy a small collapsible stroller so that it is easier for you to move in and out of Muni quickly. And leave plenty of time if you plan on taking your stroller on the elevator. It takes…forever.
  2. Put your toddler on your lap so someone else can have that seat on a packed bus.
  3. Bring as little gear as possible.
  4. Have lots of wipes and snacks on hand to prevent meltdowns—just don’t leave a mess behind.
  5. Always thank the driver when off-boarding. It can make someone’s day.
  6. Give your kids copious warnings about how many more stops before you get off, and then move them toward the doorway one stop before you need to exit.

Middle school kids

  1. Start giving them pop quizzes asking them where they are at the moment and which direction home is from your current location.
  2. Get them a pass and teach them how to use it.
  3. You have to apply for the youth card, so get a copy of their birth certificate.
  4. Teach them to give up their seat when someone in need gets on the bus, whether they are in a disabled spot or not.
  5. Teach them it’s OK not to be polite when someone is making them uncomfortable. Teach them that it is OK to go up and stand or sit near the bus driver if that is where they feel most safe.
  6. Let them be independent. You don’t always have to stand or sit next to them; they’ll learn a lot about how to navigate the world by learning how to hold their own on a city bus.
  7. Come up with a game plan in case you are separated.
  8. Teach them how to get to various places in the city via Muni.

Teenagers

  1. Get them a cell phone if they don’t have one already, so you can stay in contact if they are just starting to ride alone.
  2. Try to keep them off that cell phone when they are on the bus.
  3. Download Uber on their phone, because sometimes, you know, Muni.

Big thanks to Ginger Piscitello, Leanne Maxwell (whose adorable daughter Amelia is featured in the photo above), and Chris Hart for contributing their valuable tips. Got other tips you think San Francisco Muni-riding parents should know? The comment section below is all yours!

6 comments

  • Clay

    For teenagers: teach them how to use public transit directions on Google Maps. This should always be their first option before Uber/Lyft/Flywheel. Also install an app like Quicky or MobileMuni so they can check live data about when the bus will come.

  • Clay

    Also teach teenagers to go the right direction on a bus. It’s too easy for a kid to hop a bus with the right route number, and then end up going away from where you want to go.

  • Victoria

    I take MUNI every day with my 8 and 5 year old boys, been taking MUNI with them since they were born. I take the opportunity every day to teach them MANNERS. ALWAYS get up if you are sitting and someone that needs the seat gets on the bus. Thank the driver. Ladies first, the list goes on and on. I refuse to raise men as ill mannered as those I see on MUNI. I take books for them to read to keep them occupied and snacks for sure.

  • Thanks for such a great roundup. For babies toddlers I suggest letting other passengers know about your exit plans is super helpful, as they will often help clear a path for you/your gear. If you’re into babywearing riding MUNI is a perfect opportunity to leave the stroller at home. Additionally, people on MUNI love babies (if my experience with my 17 month old is an indicator) and they can get in your personal space, so feel comfortable telling folks not to touch you or the baby!

  • Dexter Wong

    If you live in The City, it’s never too early to get kids to know how to ride Muni. But be sure to follow tips mentioned above. Also every line goes in two directions, make sure you’re going in the correct one first, saves time. Also if there is alternate service (some buses going only part of the way) check the signs to make sure you’re not surprised.

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