We’ve gotten our share of “teens on the bus” stories, but it is a special treat hearing from young folks themselves—thoughtful, civic-minded people who are inspired by public transit to participate and create.
Tanea Lunsford Lynx is Chair of the Spoken Arts Department at Ruth Asawa School of the Arts and one of the artists behind Muni Raised Me, a multimedia exhibition by San Francisco born-and-raised artists exploring a central question: What does Muni mean to the people who grow up riding it? Tanea brought their students to the Muni Raised Me exhibit to perform their own original poetry about Muni in a guerrilla-style spoken word show, and we had the privilege of sitting in to listen and record.
It warms our hearts to see the next generation keeping it transit-oriented. Muni Diaries Live alum Hayden Miller helped navigate a Muni bus in real-time (for real, listen to his story) and articulates his thoughts at SFMTA Board meetings on the state of transit—all while in high school. And we know a new crop of engaged Muni riders, like Tanea’s students, are coming up alongside him.
Lucky us: There was so much inspiring material, we curated it into a two-part series.
Part 1: Tanea shares their perspective on the exhibit and spoken-word event, plus some student performances
You might have seen these two awesome people who joined the Muni Diaries crew earlier this year, and in today’s episode, you’ll get to know more about our new editors, Kat Siegal and Sarah Katz-Hyman. If you are a part of the local Transit Twitter community, you are probably already familiar with their names (and witty tweets), and today they’ll share what makes them so passionate about San Francisco.
We’ve always admired Kat and Sarah’s deep knowledge of public transit, their local activism, and their love for this city. You’ll meet Kat and Sarah live at our next Muni Diaries Liveshow on Nov. 3, 2022! Use the code PODCAST to get a listeners-only discount. See you there!
As spotted by Blair, behold the 26-Valencia enshrined in a mural at Senor Sisig on Valencia St.
Though the 26 bus stopped running in 2009, when one person lovingly eulogized it as “The Poor Man’s 14-Mission,” we can certainly remember its “I’ll see you when I see you” presence on the other Mission artery.
Blair is always great for a Muni sighting and, in their day, moonlighted as a makeshift Muni mechanic and saved happy hour. For real.
People can’t help but smile when they see the Boat Tram, one of the Market Street Railway’s most unique and beloved vehicles. Which is why there’s no better inanimate object to take on an entire online personality.
How timely, as the Boat Tram is back in business by Fleet Weekend for those marking their calendars, according to The Bold Italic. Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays look like your best chance of a sighting or a ride going forward, but like many celebrities, their whereabouts are vague.
In honor of its return, we’re bringing you storyteller Chris Arvin, the person behind Boat Tram’s online persona, AKA Boat Boi. Tune in to hear about how Chris married a keen interest in transit with the power of the internets to turn Boat Tram into a real boy. Er. Boi.
Chris told this story at our 2019 Muni Diaries Live, the last time we were all in the room together, footloose and covid-fancy-free.
A product designer who is passionate about cities and public transit, Chris sits on the SFMTA Citizen Advisory Council and speaks often and strongly in favor of transit-friendly policies and plans. You might also know Chris from the adorable pins, stickers, Clipper card covers they’ve designed at their store, transit.supply.
Follow Chris on Twitter @chrisarvinsf, and keep up with Boat Boi @boattramsf: by far the hippest social media presence of a transit vehicle, if you ask me. Here are some of the moments that Chris mentions in the podcast episode:
Though we did not, in fact, see you all in the spring for the next Muni Diaries Live, having Boat Boi on my jacket puts a spring in my step nonetheless.
We are always looking for stories of people who make San Francisco the beautiful city it is today, on and off the rails. If you have a story to share or someone to nominate, email us at email@example.com.
Muni is the lifeline that powers our city, and its importance in everyday life stands out especially in a time of crisis. We recently got a letter underscoring this fact from new mom Cole Brennan, whose newborn was in the ICU for two weeks. Sharing her letter with us via Instagram, she says:
Dear Muni Operators, When I yell “Thank You!” to you, through my double masks from the back door at the stop at 3rd & 20th, please know it is the most sincere thanks I’ve ever given a stranger.
It’s true that I’m the sort of person who always thanks the bus driver. And it’s true that after many months of not riding the bus I was likely to feel an extra surge of gratitude once I finally started riding again. But the gratitude I’ve felt for you this month goes well beyond my usual thankfulness.
For two weeks you helped me get to the Children’s Hospital so I could visit my newborn in the Intensive Care Nursery.
You, Muni operator, are part of a small galaxy of helpers that held my little family be together during the longest weeks of my life.
Sometimes when you see something that really speaks to you—you gotta have it. Rider David G. sent us the story of how he came to own a piece of honest-to-goodness Muni poetry, and we’re convinced it was meant to be. Here’s his story:
In the ’90s, the group Streetfare Journal and bus-advertising company TDI placed literary placards on Muni buses, streetcars, and cable cars. When visiting a friend’s apartment, I saw one of the posters. It featured a poem about fascist leaders and was written by the Serbian poet Aleksandar Ristovic. The last three lines read:
Time of fools is coming,
time of the know-nothing teacher
and the book that can’t be opened at either end.
I loved it and asked where she found it. Were they selling them?
She chuckled and described how she saw the poster while riding the 30-Stockton through the Marina. She was struck by the words and so she asked a random fellow rider to hold her coffee. Then she simply took it down — in a bus full of commuters no less. She said that people stared, but no one uttered a word. “If you’re nonchalant, no one will do anything,” she suggested.
Being less adventurous, I didn’t follow her advice. Of course, one day all the placards were removed.
I was living in a residence hotel and taking the California cable car to work. Months later on my morning commute, to my utter surprise I saw the Ristovic poster. They obviously missed this one. Unfortunately, there was no chance of stealing it: in the closed confines of a cable car, both Muni operators were nearby.
I resolved to go to the cable car barn that evening and see if I could ask someone for it. I believed it was my last chance.
Not knowing what to expect, I walked into the barn and was met with strong welding fumes. I gingerly stepped between rows of vehicles sitting on tracks. A middle-aged mechanic was on duty and he emerged from under the tracks. Nervously, I explained the situation: I’m looking for poetry.
He seemed surprised but he told me to “look around and take whatever you need,” and returned to his tools. My footsteps echoed as I explored the empty carriages. I finally found the poster and tucked it under my arm.
On the way out, I noticed the mechanic in street clothes and cleaning his work area. We nodded to each other as I departed. Not only did I walk out with the Ristovic poem; I also found one with a verse excerpt from Muriel Rukeyser.
Time comes into it.
Say it. Say it.
The universe is made of stories,
not of atoms.
Thank you, David, for submitting this story, especially in the midst of missing Muni—and all semblances of normal life—lots. Fun fact: For Muni’s centennial in 2012, we partnered with SFMTA for a “100 Days, 100 Muni stories” competition, where the most quotable winner earned placement on a placard just like these.
Since the universe is made of stories, we know there are many untold ones in our corner of the world. Indulge us with that tale that’s been burning a hole in your pocket by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by connecting with us @munidiaries on all the socials.