The hard-working 22-Fillmore is one of San Francisco Muni’s longest running bus lines. We hop on board to learn about the history of the 22, as well as its modern-day impact on the city it serves.
San Francisco Transit Riders Board member and retired SFMTA Manager of Service Planning Peter Strauss walks us through the early days of the line. We also talk with Muni operators Earl Scott and Julio Ruano, who drive on the 22-line, and we check in with some businesses along the route.
MELISSA CULROSS (HOST): One of Muni’s oldest bus lines is the 22-Fillmore…
PETER STRAUS: The 22 is sort of the epitome of what a transit line should be and what Muni, as a system as a whole, should be.
MELISSA: Welcome to TAKEN WITH TRANSPORTATION, a new podcast from the SFMTA…the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. I’m your host, Melissa Culross, and on this podcast, we’ll be talking about the people and policies that make transportation in San Francisco accessible, equitable and…we hope…enjoyable. Today on Taken with Transportation, we’re going to hop on board the 22 Fillmore.
BACKGROUND BUS SOUND: Please hold on
PETER: The history of the 22 goes back to 1895 when it was started up as a streetcar line. That was right after the heyday of the cable cars. The cable cars sort of had a flash in the late ‘80s and ‘90s and then were replaced by electric streetcars. So that’s just when the electric streetcar was coming into its own.
MELISSA: That’s PETER STRAUS, a San Francisco Transit Riders Board member and retired SFMTA Manager of Service Planning. Talking to me at the corner of Fillmore and Haight Streets, Straus says the line would become even more important in 1906:
PETER: The 22 was the first line that went back into operation after the earthquake, chugging up and down Fillmore Street, and that had a lot to do. It was the main street, you know, of the part of the city that survived, for the most part. And, you know, The Fillmore, Pacific Heights, what’s now the Western Addition…all those areas thrived because of the service that the Fillmore line provided.
MELISSA: Today, the 22 runs from the Marina to Mission Bay and passes through Cow Hollow, Pacific Heights, the Fillmore, the Lower Haight, Duboce Triangle, The Mission and Potrero Hill along the way.
BACKGROUND BUS SOUND: 22 Fillmore to UCSF-Mission Bay
MELISSA: 22Muni Operator Earl Scott has been driving those 22-Fillmore trolley buses for almost a year and says it’s not unusual to get an impromptu modern history lesson or two onboard.
EARL SCOTT: Sometimes you get passengers on here who have been here a long time, and they tell you about stories that have happened on the 22 line back in the day when they were younger and stuff like that. So you kinda get to take in a lot of the good stuff that went on back in the days and stuff.
MELISSA: Scott spent almost a decade on another Muni line before signing up for the 22, and he’s enjoying the change.
EARL: I love this line because it’s more relaxing to me. I don’t have to rush. I can… I know the lights. I know the light cycles. I know just about everything I need to know on this line to stay relaxed.
MELISSA: Operator Julio Ruano also works on the 22 and tells me…as we’re about to get going from the Bay Street end of the line
MELISSA: How much more time to do we have? I don’t want to make you late.
JULIO RUANO: Uh, about a minute
MELISSA: He tells me that sometimes part of the job is being an ambassador for San Francisco
JULIO: We get a lot of tourists, and I get to tell them the, uh, good points of the city to go visit and stuff. Like the Painted Ladies, that house that they used for movie with Robin Williams…we go right by there. And so I point out those areas for some of our tourists, and they’re very thankful for that. And I tell them also connecting lines to go to Twin Peaks and some of our points of attraction.
PASSENGER: IS this going to go up to Jackson?
PASSENGER: Okay, yeah I’m trying to connect to the 24.
JULIO: I stop right across from there.
MELISSA: The 22 Fillmore is also good for businesses along its route. Joshua Farr is Manager of In the Black…a marketplace retail space for Black-owned businesses at the corner of Fillmore and Geary:
JOSHUA FARR: No matter what, we get people all day long. We either get people who are commuting out for wok, perhaps, or just commuting out to start their day, and then when they come back home, they are taking that same line. So we get a lot of people who may have walked by our store at some point, and then with our new hours, they’re able to come visit, as well.
MELISSA: Chouquet’s Restaurant in Pacific Heights can also thank the bus line for some of its business…if indirectly…says server and wine buyer Mark Fantino.
MARK FANTINO: I think it potentially exposes us visually to the riders on the 22. And maybe plants the seed that there’s this location, and people find their way back. And I think that’s what the 22 does for us.
MELISSA: And for Church of Eight Wheels operator and San Francisco Godfather of Skate David Miles, Jr., the 22 often serves as a shuttle to the roller disco on Fillmore near Fell.
DAVID MILES, JUNIOR: Anybody who’s coming to the Church of Eight Wheels can catch the 22 and get off on either side of the street. I mean, a lot of people do that, and it’s great. It helps us out a lot. People know where we are, they see the signs. It’s almost like a part of the tour as you ride along the Fillmore line.
MELISSA: And all three…Fantino, Miles and Farr…say the line is an essential part of their businesses’ neighborhoods.
MARK: The 22 is so intertwined with who Fillmore is. It belongs to Fillmore, or Fillmore belongs to iy, somehow.
DAVID: The 22 is like a main artery. Everyone who lives in here that’s going around using public transit…they’re using the 22, if they’re in this neighborhood.
JOSHUA: It is as much a part of the landscape of San Francisco as like, you know, the history of the Fillmore and, like, jazz and everything else. People took the bus to get to the nightclub or a performance or something like that.
BACKGROUND BUS SOUND: Doors are opening
MELISSA: Now, none of that comes as a surprise to Peter Straus who says the 22 epitomizes good public transit.
PETER: You have a lot of work trips on the 22. You have people going to a lot of these community businesses, jobs in the community, not just to downtown. You have students. You know, it’s the perfect example of a line that serves many destinations for many different people, and that’s really the ideal of what you want in a transit line and a transit system.
MELISSA: It’s also an efficient way to see a nice cross section of the city. It only takes about 45 minutes or so to get from one end of the line to the other…as Mark Fantino with Chouquet’s knows.
MARK: It’s fun to ride the 22 from start to finish, if you ever have the time. It’s uh, it’s a good ride.
MELISSA: Just one gentle reminder from our operator Julio Ruano…and that’s to bring kindness always and occasionally patience on board with you.
JULIO: The traffic makes it a little difficult. Sometimes we also got to slow down for our elderly passengers. Most of the time I would say we’re very helpful, us, if you just be a little patient with us. You know, we…we’re just people like everybody else.”
BACKGROUND BUS SOUND: Warning, doors are closing.
MELISSA: Alright, here we are at Fillmore and Sacramento, and I am with…what’s your name, sir?
MELISSA: Serge and I are going to try to think of 22 reasons to take the 22. 22 of the best reasons. I don’t want to give us a time limit because I feel like that’s too much pressure, but let’s try now. What do you are some of the best reasons to take the 22 Fillmore?
SERGE: Um, what I like is to be able to see different areas of San Francisco, and you can start by the Marina, and that’s where I get it, until all the way to the Mission.
MELISSA: Alright, that’s one. What’s another good reason to take the 22?
SERGE: Different people too. You have private schools there, and then you have different schools in the mission.
MELISSA: Alright, that’s two. What’s another reason to take the 22?
SERGE: Food. I mean, uh, you can stop any place. There are store and there are food places.
MELSISA: Alright, another reason to take the 22…
SERGE: Just for fun, for pleasure (laughter)
MELISSA: Nothing wrong with that. You get to see the whole city. Anything else? We’re on a roll. More reasons to take the 22…
SERGE: I meet interesting people.
MELISSA: That’s great, anything else? Any places you like to go on the 22 which might be a good reason to take it?
SERGE: Um..oh, uh, the Kabuki. Yeah, I like the Kabuki and Japantown. Yes, I think that’s a great reason to take the bus.
MELISSA: You’re doing so well. Any more reasons to take the 22?
SERGE: no… (laugh)
MELISSA: Alright, we’ve done what we can. Thank you so much, Serge, I appreciate you.
SERGE: Thank you, you’re welcome.
MELISSA: Serge did pretty well, even if he didn’t come up with 22 reasons, but there really are so many reasons to take the 22-Fillmore. Take it to parks, concerts, basketball games, to BART, even the oldest building in the city! You can feel free send us your own favorite reasons via social media! We’re at-SFMTA-underscore-Muni on Twitter and on Instagram. That’s at-SFMTA-underscore-Muni. Thank you for joining us on TAKEN WITH TRANSPORTATION. We are a production of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, and you can find the latest episodes at SFMTA.com-slash-Podcast or wherever you listen. I’m Melissa Culross. Be well and travel well.