Transit Photography » United States »

San Francisco


Golden Gate Bridge
July 25, 2014

San Francisco’s public transit scene features a variety of different operators across a variety of different modes.  The primary transit operator within San Francisco is the San Francisco Municipal Railway, commonly called Muni.  Muni operates buses (both conventional diesel models and electric powered trolleybuses), several hybrid light rail/streetcar lines, and the city’s famous cable cars.  A number of bus systems from neighboring counties, such as Golden Gate Transit and SamTrans, also operate services in to and out of San Francisco, primarily for commuters.

In addition, the San Francisco Bay Area is home to BART, one of the United States’s first transit systems to rely on automated train operation and automatic fare collection.  BART trains are among the fastest subway trains in the US as well, with a maximum speed in some stretches of 85 MPH.

Finally, Caltrain operates commuter rail service between San Francisco, San Jose, and Gilroy.  The all diesel service is quite popular with about 90 trains a day in operation.

The Muni Metro is a light rail system that operates on the streets in outlying neighborhoods but runs underground through downtown San Francisco in a tunnel called the "Metro Subway." There are seven lines and 71.5 miles of track. The fleet of 151 LRVs was built by Breda and have steps that can adjust position to serve both low level surface stops and high level platforms in the subway.

Although promoted as a heritage line, the F-Market Street Line is used by tourists and commuters alike. The entire fleet for this line consists of historic trolley cars operated by Muni and supported by the Market Street Railway, Market Street Railway, a nonprofit organization of streetcar enthusiasts which raises funds and helps to restore vintage streetcars. Cars 1007-1063 were the first batch of PCCs obtained by MUNI as secondhand units from the SEPTA system in Philadelphia. They entered service in San Francisco in the early 1990s. Cars 1070-1080 were initially purchased by Twin Cities Rapid Transit in 1946. They were sold to Newark, NJ in 1953, where they ran on the Newark City Subway until 2001. The cars were purchased by MUNI in 2004 and were placed in service in 2007. The Peter Witt cars (1807-1895) originally built in 1928 and operated in Milan, Italy, before operating in San Francisco. There are other cars in service from other locales as well.

The San Francisco Cable Car system is the last municipally operated cable car system in the world. It is largely used by tourists, but commuters do use these lines as well. Cars on the Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde lines are single ended and are turned on a turntable at each terminal. The California Line cars are double ended and do not use turntables.

Located at the cable car barn, the Cable Car Museum is a working museum located at the corner of Mason and Washington streets. The museum has displays about the history of San Francisco's cable cars as well as views of the power station that drives the cables that haul the trains along their routes.

Muni operates over 80 bus routes using a fleet of both diesel powered buses and electric trolleybuses.

BART is the San Francisco Bay Area's rapid transit system, operating over 104 route miles serving 44 stations in San Francisco, East Bay, and San Mateo County. BART was one of the first subway systems in the United States to utilize automatic train operation and automatic fare collection.

Caltrain is a commuter rail service that operates between San Francisco, San Jose, and Gilroy. Service began in 1987 and now serves over 50,000 passengers a day.

SamTrans buses operate primarily in San Mateo County, though select services operate in to Palo Alto and San Francisco. Many routes have connections to BART or Caltrain. The fleet consists of Gillig and NABI buses.

Golden Gate Transit operates bus lines within Marin and Sonoma counties, as well as services to San Francisco and Contra Costa County. "Transbay" routes across the Golden Gate Bridge are partially funded by tolls collected on the Golden Gate Bridge. Many buses are outfitted with high backed "suburban style" seating and reading lights.