I’m going on my 11th year of living in SF and just learning how to take the bus. For the past 3 years my mom, sister, and I have gone to the opera together. And for the past 2 years my mom has made us take the bus. I kept a brave face, but my fears were looming…What if I don’t know how to pay the fare and I get kicked off and my mom & sister wave at me as the bus pulls away? What if we miss our stop and end up in Hunter’s Point? What if the bus floooors it before I’m secure and I fly down the aisle and land face first in the lap of a toothless, greasy-haired, homeless man…and HE toothless-ly laughs at me? (Keep in mind we were catching the 47 which is a straight shot down Van Ness).



Well, about 4 months after surviving my last opera bus ride I decided (thanks to harsh wind and heavy rain) that I could brave the bus ALONE and take it to work. I had the same fears as before, but having mastered the fare machine the worst was that the bus still wouldn’t stop at my stop and I’d end up in Hunter’s Point. (I was taking the 19 about 8 blocks straight up Polk).

Suffice it to say, I survived. Here are a few tips for the novice bus rider:

1. Fare = $1.50 (The machine does not make change. I find it best to have a $1 bill and 2 quarters).
2. The bus will move even if you aren’t seated or hanging on to anything.
3. Stops – A recorded message announces the next stop and its also on a message board near the roof at the front of the bus.
4. If you pull the cord by the window the bus will stop at the next scheduled stop. If no one is at the stop, be quick.
5. If no one is at the next scheduled stop and no one pulls the cord (aka “requests a stop”) the bus won’t stop.
6. If you get to the rear door and they close before you get off or don’t open – there is a light above the door that will be either green or red – if its green you can push the grey bar on the doors and they’ll open. They really will. Again, be quick.
7. You CAN exit through the front door even though the recorded message & signs say “Please exit through the rear door”.
8. If a lot of people are getting on (they have to get on at the front) you should have time to make your way to the rear door.
9. You can check the next bus arrival at a specific stop on-line: click here

I’ve learned the bus is an excellent convenience and I don’t have to move my car (or lose a great parking spot) unnecessarily for a trip anywhere on Van Ness or Polk. Hey, I’m still learning. North/South I’m cool with…East/West…I’ll get there.

Thanks, Mom!