A little over 100 years ago, the advent of Muni buses would lead to epic fistfights, iguana riders and unsolicited jam sessions in a moving vehicle filled with strangers.
Beyond the Sept. 1, 1917 anniversary of buses, Muni Heritage Weekend this year has two centennials to celebrate. J-Church, which Market Street Railway President Rick Laubscher said is the oldest surviving Muni line, launched Aug. 11, 1917.
Historic streetcars and Muni buses alike will be side by side with new buses, allowing people to understand the constant changes. Gone is the diesel-running engine and upholstered seats in traditional rows still seen in school buses.
Muni fare inspectors won’t stop you from hopping onto vintage streetcars this weekend, so long as you start from the San Francisco Railway Museum at 77 Steuart St. Historic cars, like Muni’s first streetcar from 1912, will run on the J’s original route and vintage buses, motor coaches and trolley coaches will run on current bus routes.
Laubscher likens riding the vintage streetcars to time traveling by “feeling the rumble of the big wheels [and] the roar of the motors.” For young people, he added, the difference will be especially striking.
Thousands of locals and residents alike ride these streetcars, about 45 of which are operable, on the F and E-lines each day, Laubscher said. Market Street Railway pushed for the F-line in the 1980s and continues to hunt down retired streetcars across the globe to add to Muni’s fleet.
Though Market Street Railway isn’t part of SFMTA and doesn’t always agree with its decisions, Laubscher said, they recognize that the city can’t live without the public transit system.
“Muni is the organization that really has helped build our neighborhoods,” Laubscher said. “What’s important to remember is that this is the way we get around.”
Visitors to the free museum can catch a talk on transit history at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday while exhibits and displays will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit the SFMTA calendar.