Photographer Kristen Holden: Love Stories on Muni

Photographer, poet, and model Kristen Holden‘s pictures of Muni riders have caught our eye for a while. We found her on Flickr as “SFLoveStory” and tracked her down to find out what makes Muni such a great subject. Holden grew up in Chicago and has lived in San Francisco for almost seven years. She lives in Russian Hill with her musician boyfriend and their “talentless dog.”

What is it about Muni that inspires you to take photos there?

This simple answer is: I ride a lot and I shoot my surroundings more than I do anything else. But what makes Muni rife for photographic capture is that the exterior environment is always changing around the same structure or, like, bones of the scene. There are endless characters to make up stories about.

What’s it like taking pictures on Muni?

I think people generally assume I’m a tourist. Once in a while someone will ask me about my camera and why I shoot film (I’m currently shooting with a second-hand Canon EOS Elan II SLR with a Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens.)

Got a favorite Muni line?

I ride the 45 and 30 to get from Russian Hill, where I live, to downtown and vice versa. I take the 47 and 49 quite a bit. Oh, and I’m one of those weird people who actually rides the 19…it gets the closest to the film-processing center I go to in SoMa. I love the cable cars and streetcars too. The mint-green colored streetcar from Brooklyn (Car 1059?) is my favorite.

You can see more of Holden’s photographs on her website,

The why/where/how of fare inspectors

Bustin the hobo.
Photo by Flickr user WeMeantDemocracy

It’s easy for us law-abiding, government-loving socialists to cheer when Muni fare inspectors show up on the bus. And cheer I did this week, when an alpha fare-inspector and her two ticket-wielding comrades showed up on my 47-Van Ness a couple days ago and handed out at least two tickets.

Though some drivers do have the time and desire to come up with creative punishments for fare-jumping, it’s understandable that most of them do not. Enter fare inspectors. Though one guy in front of me complained about Big Brother watching us, I personally don’t think it counts as some kind of police state if the law-enforcers are actually nabbing people who did wrong. Still, once I stopped silently cheering them on from my seat, I did start thinking about the why/where/how of back-door policing.

From an Oct. 19 SFGate story

Fare evasion on Muni occurs most frequently in the afternoon and at night, the study found. Among the lines where the problem is most prevalent are the 9-San Bruno, 14-Mission, 38-Geary and 47-Van Ness, but few are immune.

It doesn’t seem like an accident that the 47, one of four lines called out in this story, ended up with not one, but three fare inspectors the day after this story ran. Great, whatever works, right? But it did lead me to wonder whether the fare-checking would continue in earnest once the story died down and once the SFMTA office was jammed with people contesting their fines.

In other words, I wondered whether this was simply a good show or temporary move to prove that something was being done. Or will fare-jumping significantly decrease in a year’s time? I certainly hope it’s the latter, especially since I’d argue that fare-jumping is easier to eradicate than other types of petty crime.

Let me explain. We learned from an SF Gate story on crime cameras that certain crimes (homicide, drug deals, etc.) are conveniently moved out of the cameras’ range if cameras are around, thereby decreasing the crime in one area and increasing it one block down. Before you know it, it’s a life-size game of whack-a-mole for the police.

Fare-jumping seems more precise than that. If you’re on Van Ness and want to head into the Mission on Muni, the 49-Van Ness or 14-Mission is your only real way to accomplish this. If you know there are fare inspectors on either line, you are either going to pay your fare, take your chances, or find another line to jump if all you’re into is wasting time on the bus. But if there’s regular fare-inspecting, I think jumpers are more easily backed into a corner, as there are only so many lines that can remain uncovered. Especially if there are more fare inspectors on the hottest jumping lines, during the hottest jumping times.

Or maybe this is completely false logic. Nonetheless, fare inspectors really can’t hurt anyone, in my opinion.

Disclaimer: Before I officially lived in SF and carried a trusty FastPass wherever I went (and uh, before I contributed regularly to a transit-oriented website), I’d somewhat regularly sneak onto the back of an F-Market/Wharves line on my way to work. I could have easily paid the then-$1.50 a ride, but I couldn’t be bothered. I didn’t have cash. Muni “owed” me for some transgression. Everyone else was doing it. All of these are poor excuses.

Horse phooey!

The following words and image came to our gmail from vivian:

The city of SF and muni continues to amaze me. Besides having to endure the always “colorful” 47/49 on my commute to & from work, I now have the pleasure of walking past huge piles of crap next to the stop @ North Point. For TWO days now this lovely pile has been sitting here hanging out greeting tourists as the make their way over to Ghiradelli [sic] Square. Are there wild horses roaming around that I don’t know about?

It’s amazing that tourists still visit our city given how we don’t really give a crap about keeping it nice and clean for them. I guess we natives can just pass along stories to you muni diaries to share in the pain and misery. 🙂


Step in something on or around Muni lately? Send us stories and photos!

Public-Service Reminder: Always Practice Safe Sex

Unused (?) condom on the 47

Unused (?) condom on the 47

That’s right, folks. Mere inches from my brand-new haircut.

The 47 and 49 (both Van Ness lines, for those of you following along at home) really need to fight it out for the “And I thought I had seen it all…” crown. I personally go back and forth on the question of which I’d rather be on, though yesterday, I would have gladly eaten my lunch off a 49 (ok, ew, not really) considering what I was faced with on this 47.

First, a harmless man singing/yelling to the songs in his head and smelling 10 times worse than a portable toilet got on and sat in the back. Fine. It’s a freakin’ 47, after all. But that resulted in at least 10 people getting up and cramming themselves around the middle of the bus, since no one wanted to be back there with him. This results in a briefcase in my ass, an iPhone in my side, and a front-row seat to the freakishly large condom hanging by the back door.

Condom-leaver: next time, maybe don’t go with the magnums unless you’re absolutely sure you can fit in them, all right?

Things That Do Not Fit Under Muni Seats

having fun with the shopping cart

Maybe I haven’t seen everything about Muni. Standing on the sidewalk at Van Ness and McAllister, last Friday at about 5:30 p.m., I had to pinch myself to make sure I was seeing right. A guy was getting on the rear most door of a Muni bus (illegally of course), struggling with three things: two large duffle type bags and (!) a regular size grocery store cart.

Yes, a shopping cart one would use at Safeway! Amazingly he got it on – all of it. After the bit of work he did, I noticed an inspector flailing his arms as he tried to make his way down the now crowded bus, yelling “no, no, no, you can’t…”. The man obliged by tossing the cart out the same back door right onto the middle of the bus zone on the street.

I was so in awe of the scene I didn’t even remember I had my camera with me and didn’t take a picture 🙁

If you find yourself witness to odd boardings, or have any other Muni stories to tell, tell it here.

Photo by Flickr user jpockele.

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