Am I riding a Muni bus, streetcar, or subway?

what am i riding muni original

Ugh, isn’t it so annoying when out-of-towners call everything a bus? Actually, there are probably plenty of people who live here and still can’t get it right. The good people at AAA Architecture made a nice guide of transit-speak so you don’t sound like a tourist. Now you can finally work the phrase “articulated coach” into your next dinner conversation and know you’re doing it right.

Photo by AAA Architecture


  • A Vuncular

    Looks like may need to have Articulated Coach and BRT have a partial overlap, and that overlap may need to include both Trolley Coach and Motor Coach.

    • Perhaps. I actually kinda regret including BRT since we are still a ways off from having it, and as it will be implemented, the equipment will be the same as Muni already operates, so it is more of a guideway thing than a vehicle thing.

  • Dexter Wong

    You could also add that streetcars have poles and run on rails, while cable cars do not have poles but run on rails (which have a slot in between the rails). Too many people cannot tell the difference between streetcars and cable cars. Also motorized (or fake) cable cars have rubber tires while real cable cars have steel wheels and run on rails.

    • That is not entirely true. Cable cars are a type of streetcar. That is why they are both in the “Streetcar” bubble. The fake cable cars fit in the “Buses” category since they are driven on roads. The diagram takes some shortcuts for the sake of graphic simplicity, but putting cable cars in streetcars is accurate. I expected more people to quibble over whether or not LRVs are streetcars, which is arguable.

      • Dexter Wong

        Well, LRVs and older types of streetcar can share the same tracks (just look at the E Line which shares space with the N Line as it heads toward the Caltrain Station). The LRV has European roots. In Belgium, there is a system that has their streetcars running on the streets on the edge of town then enters a subway to enter downtown. They call that pre-Metro because they have designed it to be improved to a full metro system at some later date.

  • Dexter Wong

    To split hairs, BART actually runs above ground between Balboa Park and Daly City (but in the larger picture, who cares?).

    • Larry Brennan

      Subway in the US is a generic term for rapid transit. New Yorkers take the subway, even on lines like the 7, which is 90% elevated. Chicago refers to the ‘L’ for CTA routes, though there are portions underground or at grade — some routes even have street crossings at grade, protected by lights and gates.
      I disagree with calling BART commuter, however. Its basic characteristics are rapid transit.

  • Dexter Wong

    To further split hairs, Caltrain runs through a number of tunnels in San Francisco (but that isn’t really important).

  • MUNI trains above ground are typically ‘trains, metro or streetcars’ vs catching “the underground’.

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