Riding Muni’s most scenic routes

Sometimes, you just want to get away. And sometimes, you want to do it on the cheap.
Now, thanks to a need for transit speed, The City has made a scenic public transit tour more possible than ever.

Last month, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency changed many Muni bus routes in one fell swoop in what it calls the Muni Forward program. More than any time in decades, Muni riders are seeing service change across The City.

Though the SFMTA’s main stated goal was to speed up service for its riders, one byproduct of the changes stood out: Some bus routes gained new, lovely views of San Francisco.

The San Francisco Examiner took a look at some of the Muni routes’ new views and rounded up some of our old favorite routes as well. If you’ve got favorite photo-­worthy Muni bus routes, send them to

43-Masonic: The 43­-Masonic’s endpoint in the Marina District changed in the new Muni Forward program. It now terminates a stone’s throw from the picturesque Marina Green and Fort Mason — where one can lazily watch boats sail across the Bay while you wait for your bus. Its new route also brings it by the Transit Cafe in the Presidio, where one can sip a brew and enjoy the greenery. Riding the 43 through the Presidio during sunset is a treat, as sunbeams pierce the densely planted trees of Presidio Boulevard.

33­-Ashbury/18th: This route features a few urban views of interest, as well as one stunning urban vista. The psychedelic sightseeing along Haight Street helps anyone recall the bygone days of the Grateful Dead, but the views become stare­-worthy as the bus crests the hill on Clayton Street to Market Street. In this sweeping vista, one can see the East Bay and the skyscrapers of downtown open up before them. This route was slated to change under Muni Forward to bypass San Francisco General Hospital, but the SFMTA told the Examiner it will hold off on a reroute, for now.

76X-­Marin Headlands Express: This route’s lovely views may not be in San Francisco, but they do feature The City in a big way. Catch the 76X downtown and get whisked away across the Golden Gate Bridge. But the view from the bridge pales in comparison to the view from the Marin Headlands. For the humble price of $2.25, you can take the 76X to the same Marin lookout point featured on countless postcards — with a view above the Golden Gate Bridge and the backdrop of San Francisco beyond it.

The incredible view from the 25-Treasure Island Muni line along the western span of Treasure Island. (Kevin Kelleher/Special to S.F. Examiner)
The incredible view from the 25-Treasure Island Muni line along the western span of Treasure Island. (Kevin Kelleher/Special to S.F. Examiner)

39­-Coit: The 39 may not have changed under the Muni Forward program, but it bears mentioning just for the uniqueness of its route. True to its namesake, the 39 rolls up to Coit Tower, offering a panoramic view of the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge from afar.

57­-Parkmerced: For sheer functionality, Muni riders who begin their trip from Sloat Boulevard will gain access to Daly City BART under Muni Forward’s new route change. But they’ll get a new lovely view as well, as the 57 circumvents Lake Merced. Morning is the perfect time to take the 57, when Lake Merced catches the light at just the right angle.

25-­Treasure Island: Offering a counterpoint to the 76X, the 25­-Treasure Island zips to its namesake, where one can sit across from The City and enjoy the crashing waves. On the way back, the 25 offers a view of the towering Bay Bridge pylons, the Ferry Building and the sprawl of San Francisco welcoming you home.

45-Union: A stately slow ride beginning alongside the lush, green Presidio greets 45-Union riders. This commute bus speeds down Union, and crests Russian Hill, passing uniquely-San Francisco homes of various colors, shapes and sizes. You can’t beat the view of Saint Peter and Paul’s towering spires, and lucky riders will pass while the bells are ringing. Lastly, the frenzied sights and smells of Chinatown serve as a comforting contrast to the placidness of Union. If you’ve had your fill of Muni, hop out, and enjoy a cup of coffee and play a game of checkers at nearby Portsmouth Square.

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