SF Muni's F line connects Fisherman's Wharf to the Castro district via the Embarcadero and Market Street. What makes it unique is the fleet of vintage cars from all over the world that plies its route. Riding these streetcars is like stepping back in time.
I find the F line streetcars to be the perfect complement to San Francisco's cable cars. The cable car takes you over the hills; the vintage streetcar takes you around them. Their combined routes have stops near or at many of the city's "must-sees."
Fare for the vintage streetcar is $1.50; fare for the cable car is $5.
Why pay $20 or more for a narrated cable car tour? If you take bus route #33 on the Muni starting at the BART station on Mission and 16th, you will go through the neghborhoods of The Mission, Castro, up through twin peaks (with amazing views of the City below) and through the Haight Ashbury district. The views of the city and it's neighborhoods are amazing.
The muni was a great help in getting around. The only downide is you need exact change. Most trips were $1.50 and they were all pretty much on schedule.
on a side note, these are electric buses, so there are no emissions :)
Trolley buses (also known as "trolley coaches" or "trackless trolleys") are rubber-tired vehicles with motors powered by electricity from overhead wires. "Trolley" refers to the trolley poles on the roof of the bus that are used to transmit the electricity from the overhead wires. Although their operations are less flexible than that of motor buses, trolley buses are more energy efficient, much quieter, and much less polluting. Also, they operate better on hills, require less maintenance, and are longer lasting than motor buses.
The basic fare for Muni Trolley Bus, like Muni buses, is $1.50.
Passengers can transfer from Muni Trolley Bus to Muni buses and vice versa, as well as to and from the F line historic streetcars; however, passengers must use the front door on these other vehicles. Passengers can also transfer to cable cars at Powell and Embarcadero stations, though an extra fee must be paid to ride this popular tourist attraction. Four of the downtown subway stations shared by all six lines are also stations on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system, and some of the lines also have surface stops at or near the Glen Park and Balboa Park BART stops. While passengers can transfer at these stations, the two systems have different fare regimes and a new fare is usually required when transferring. The monthly MUNI pass, dubbed the FastPass, may be used on BART within San Francisco
the core of Muni’s streetcar fleet is a collection of old PCC “torpedo” cars, a 1936 design that virtually every big city rail system ran in the 1940s and 50s. They were probably the finest light rail cars ever built – sleek and quiet, they seemed to float down the tracks. The F Market & Wharves line is one of several light rail lines in San Francisco, California. Unlike the other LRV lines, the F line is operated as a heritage railway using exclusively historical equipment both from San Francisco's retired fleet as well as from cities around the world.
Despite its heritage status, the F Market & Wharves line is an integral part of Muni's intermodal urban transport network, operating at frequent intervals for 20 hours a day, seven days a week. It carries local commuters and tourists alike, linking residential, business and leisure oriented areas of the city. Unlike the San Francisco cable car system, standard Muni fares are levied.
If you are considering renting a car in San Francisco, think again. The city's compact size, many one-way streets, and difficult or expensive parking makes driving more of a hassle than it’s worth. The “Muni,” San Francisco’s bus and streetcar system, can be quite crowded and sometimes irregular, too. But it is cheap—only $1.50 (youth, senior, disabled: $0.50) with a free transfer, and takes you most everywhere. Tickets are sold on the bus (exact change required), or in Muni metro stations. Transfers last 90 minutes in any direction, although bus drivers often give you tickets with extra time. This means that for many trips you can go roundtrip for just $1.50!
If you plan to see a lot of San Francisco and stay for a few days, invest in a MUNI Passport (1-day: $11; 3-day: $18, 7-day: $24), which are for sale at the cable car turnaround, and other outlets. These passes include rides on the must-see cable cars, which are ordinarily $5 each way, so the pass quickly pays for itself! A monthly pass is also available for $45.
We had great fun riding the trolley! Stops seem to be conveniently located and the cost is only $1.50, with a transfer available.
Many folks chose to use the trolleys--locals and visitors--so the lines may get long at times. We almost missed our Alcatraz Tour because a ferry had jumped the line and was blocking all the other trolleys further down the line.
Happily, one came in time and we didn't miss our tour. Be prepared for a full car!
The F line along the Embarcadero and Market Street are serviced by historic streetcars. The cars a reburshed and have a lot of character. Sometimes you will get a conductor who gets into the spirit of it and shouts out the names of the next stop in the typically "old fashioned" way. These cars are much more fun to ride around in than the regular Muni bus. The line will take you from Fisherman's Wharf to the Ferry Building to Market Street (and the shops on Powell). The two I see most frequently are from Milan and Philadelphia. Here is a website with more information: http://www.sfmta.com/cms/mfleet/histcars.htm
Though San Franciscans love to complain about it, MUNI is generally an excellent way to get around. MUNI is in charge of the buses, metro, and cable cars (which charge separately). BART is a separate entity.
Buy a MUNI map! It's about $3.00 and is probably the best single map of the city - containing most tourist sites and how to get to them.
Fares for buses/metro are $1.50 (exact change only), which includes an unlimited transfer that is good for at least 90 min. There are a variety of 1-7 day passes, and some multi-attraction cards let you ride the bus for free. If you want to take a cable car ride make sure it's included (some passes aren't good on cable cars - some will only get you a discount). Try metro stations and the visitors' center - don't ask the drivers!
Food and drink are not allowed but EVERYONE brings coffee on the bus. Smoking is punishable by death.
Muni's metro system is only one line - going from Embarcadero down to Van Ness along Market, and then branching off like a hydra to take commuters to outlying areas. Since most tourist places are north - and uphill - from Market Street, the Metro is of only limited use. If you're staying in the Union Square area and hitting the main tourist destinations, it's unlikely you'll ride the Metro at all.
Getting around SF means you'll be taking the bus. Sorry.
Some routes have limited stops to speed up the ride - they always have green placards and the letter 'L' after the number. They generally run during commute hours. It's always a good idea to ask the driver how close the bus stops to your destination.
It's common for the bus to speed away from your stop without opening the back door to let everyone off. Simply yell "back door" and they'll let you out.
As with all bus systems, the riff-raff sit in the back... try to sit in the front. Crazy people talking to themselves are common and generally won't bother you. If a person is genuinely threatening, move to the front, tell the driver (so that they can call the police), and DO NOT GET OFF THE BUS!
A few years ago, MUNI thought it would be fun to pull out some of its' vintage trolley cars to run up and down Market Street on holiday weekends. It proved to be so popular that they made it permanent, and the vintage trolleys run the F line everyday. They operate from Castro & Market, all the way down Market to the Ferry Building, and then turn up the Embarcadero, passing Pier 39 on the way to Fisherman's Wharf.
Note that these are NOT Cable Cars - they are electrified trains. But many if them are from the 40s and 50s (and before) and they will have plaques on them stating their city of origin.
They are a really cool bit of history, and, while I wouldn't suggest you go out of your way to ride one, if you're going this way anyway you might as well take the classy route. They're no more expensive than the bus, and tend to have fewer bums riding them (for some reason).
My favorites are the orange ones from Milan (see photo). They are some of the oldest - dating back to 1895. They have gorgeous wood interiors and signs and advertisements in Italian.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I wouldn't recommend taking the F trolleys - especially to Fisherman's Wharf - if you are at all pressed for time. The cars are slow anyway, but add to that hordes of tourists asking the driver directions and trying to come up with exact change, and your trip can slow to a snail's pace.
NEWS FLASH: The Market Street Railway - which maintains the classic streetcars - has just opened its own museum! It's free, fun, and right down by the Ferry Building. Read about it here!
The San Francisco Municipal Railway is called the Muni, and includes the historic streetcars, cable cars, and buses, but not the BART subway system or CalTrain. The Muni operates 24/7 and carries some 200 million passengers each year. Bus, historic streetcar, and Metro trips for adults cost $1.50, including a free transfer while the cable cars rip off tourists at $5 for a short ride over the hill. The Muni routes are very complex and seem to require at least one transfer to get anywhere unless you are along the waterfront or Market Street (the F-line runs this entire route)
The historic streetcars have been in operation since the system was begun in 1962. The first historic streetcar (from Hamburg Germany) was purchased in 1979 and since then street cars have been acquired from 14 American cities and 7 international cities.
Like the more famous Cable Car, the steel wheeled street car or trolley was once in danger of being eliminated completely. In 1974 Maurice Klebolt argued that the old trolleys be run along the waterfront as a tourist attraction. After the completion of the Market Street stretch of the underground BART and MUNI trains in the early 1980's, revival of using the trolleys as surface transportation from the Castro District to Fisherman's Wharf became a popular idea. Because this route is generally flat, it also makes the most of these power hungry steel rail bound transports. San Francisco's bargaining to acquire retired wrecks from all over the world is to be commended. Today, MUNI boasts having more trolley cars with origins in other cities than any other transit agency in the world. In exchange for one California Street Cable Car, the original "Street Car Named Desire" was acquired from New Orleans. Similarly, unique historic trolleys have been acquired from Oporto, Portugal, Kobe and Hiroshima, Japan, Hamburg, Germany, Orel and Moscow, Russia, Melbourne, Australia, and other places outside the USA. One open-topped street car from Blackpool, England is among this group of antiques that have been restored and painted to the original international colors. These cars are so treasured though that they are not always operational. Among those in regular service are the original double-ended street cars built for MUNI in 1948, some of which are painted to the colors of trolleys in St. Louis and Philadelphia. There are 13 single-ended cars originally built for Philadelphia in 1946, but which have been restored and painted to the colors of same design metro trolleys in Brooklyn, Cincinnati, Chicago, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Boston, Baltimore, Louisville, Newark, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. In addition, 10 "Peter DeWitt" cars from Milan Italy, having a central conductor to collect fares, have been purchased. Links below detail much more about this system.
MUNI , in my opinion is not very efficient, trains are not long enough and as a result, they are often very crowded, plus they are not fast. Staff at some station are not helpful, especially if you are a toiurist and not familiar with using the ticket machines.
However MUNI is clear and i felt safe on it. No dodgy characters like you can see on London or Paris subway system.
Golden Gate Park, the Haight Ashbury and Ocean Beach are a quick ride from downtown on Muni's N-Judah. Muni serves same subway stations as BART, but has separate gates.
Heading away from Embarcadero, the “N” surfaces, runs past leafy, Victorian Duboce Triangle and enters the Sunset Tunnel. Get off at first stop after the Tunnel (Carl & Cole Sts) near Reverie Café, favorite of craigslist’s Craig. Across the street, look for old "Other Cafe" sign marking when a comedy joint showcased local-boy Robin Williams. Walk down Cole 3 blks and 30 yrs to Haight Street & the Summer of Love.
The N runs the entire length of Golden Gate Park. Get off at 9th Ave, a great place for makings of a picnic. Arizmendi bakery, ½ block uphill on 9th, is worth the wait in line for scones & pizza that never get a chance to cool on the shelf. Walk down 9th into the Park and enter the Arboretum on left. Trails take you through redwood forests, South Africa, Australia, and Chile. Save the breadcrumbs from your picnic to feed ducks. Ahead is the Concourse: mulberry trees and park benches surrounded by the De Young Art Museum, the Japanese Tea Gardens, the Bandstand and the Academy of Sciences. Within a 15-min. walk are the glass-domed Conservatory, the Children's Playground and Stow Lake with its boat rentals.
The N runs along Judah St. past stucco rowhouses through the Sunset District, where sunsets are usually blocked by summer fog. Bring a sweater/windbreaker, breathe in the clean salt air. You are at the very end of streetcar line and continent. Surfers warm up at Java Beach Café before plunging into the icy waters. Don't swim here, but stick a toe in the mighty Pacific, scan the scenery from Marin headlands to the cliffs of Fort Funston and watch the surf pound rocks into sand.
Two block north is the Beach Chalet. If the day is clear/time right, go in for a beer and bite at a window table. The room gets quiet as the sun sets over the horizon, sometimes with an emerald flash. Applause follows: another perfect performance.
If you don't have a car, you'll need to use MUNI while in S.F. The Municipal Railway operates a network of buses and light rail vehicles thought out the City. Be sure to get a transfer when boarding. It is your proof of purchase and provides free transfers within the allotted time -- usually about 2 hours. You can even use it for your return trip.