Culture lovers, hop on board!

Standing on a Muni platform, Canadian tourists Deb and George Padden squinted at their maps, trying to discern the quickest route from The Embarcadero to the Castro. They only had the weekend, and wanted to spend it soaking in the sights — not waiting for transit.

After September, visitors like the Paddens may be riding the 74-Culture Bus — a pilot route shuttling visitors and residents to museums and attractions in SoMa, downtown and Golden Gate Park.

“I like the idea that it’s direct. You get on, you get to your destination. Buses aren’t always the most efficient way to travel, but you end up seeing more things,” George Padden said.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority chief Nathaniel Ford said his agency is partnering with The City’s cultural institutions and the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau to have the bus up and running by Sept. 20. Its official launch is Sept. 27, to coincide with the opening of the California Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The two-way route will begin South of Market, stopping at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Union Square and the Asian Art Museum before driving directly to the Golden Gate Park Music Concourse to connect with the California Academy of Sciences and the de Young Museum.

If successful, the bus line will bring more people into shops and museums, and more money into the coffers of The City’s financially strapped transit system. At $7, the bus will cost $2 more than riding a cable car, but is in line with Muni’s “special event fares,” such as express service to Candlestick Park for 49ers games, Ford said.

Muni riders with Fast Passes will have to pay an additional $3 to ride the Culture Bus, as will tourists with Muni Passports, which are all-day passes of up to a week.

The 74 will run from 8:40 a.m. to 5:50 p.m., seven days a week.

The bus line will be marketed through hotel cards and through museum Web sites and brochures. Tourism is San Francisco’s No. 1 industry, and has recently been buoyed by international travelers taking advantage of the weak dollar. According to 2007 Visitors Bureau statistics, $16.1 million tourists came to San Francisco last year, pumping more than $8 billion into the local economy.

George Padden says he’s already planning to use the bus route on his next trip to The City. Muni officials plan to release more details about the program at their Sept. 16 board meeting.

tbarak@sfexaminer.com

Culture Bus by the numbers

Hours: 8:40 a.m. to 5:50 p.m.
Stops: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Union Square, Asian Art Museum, California Academy of Sciences, the de Young Museum
Price: $7 (or $3 with Muni Fast Pass or Passport)

Price comparison
$1.50 Regular bus fare
$5 Cable car fare
$7 Culture Bus and other special events fares
$11 One-day Passport
$18 Three-day Passport
$24 Seven-day Passport
$45 Monthly Fast Pass

Source: SFMTA

My Story

“I’d try the Culture Bus. Seven dollars seems like a reasonable price when you compare it to taking taxis around town.”
Deb Padden, 36, Toronto

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