San Francisco Muni Metro

San Francisco’s local rail system is a unique hybrid of a legacy streetcar network (consisting of five lines that survived the busstitution era only because they used tunnels or off-street rights-of-way), a downtown subway (which connects to a historic tunnel under the city’s central hills), and a modern light rail line that is currently being extended into downtown via its own subway. Its vehicles are modern, but because much of the system is on city streets with short blocks, trains are limited to two cars, resulting in Tokyo-level overcrowding. Boarding often requires walking out into the street and climbing up into the train; downtown, though, massive, three-level subway stations are shared with BART. The current version of the official Muni Metro map is competent enough, but has one fatal flaw: it shows the major transfer point of Church and Duboce as two stops that appear to be a mile or more apart, suggesting riders must go all the way downtown, to Van Ness Station, to transfer between the J and N. It also distorts downtown geography in a confusing way, sending trains east from Embarcadero rather than south and having them turn right, not left at Fourth and King. Finally, it wasn’t “future-proofed” to accommodate the under-construction Central Subway. (The new map on Muni’s new railcars is better, although it’ll have to be redesigned to accommodate Central Subway station names.)

DESIGN NOTES

Like the existing map, this diagram could come in white or black (reverse) versions. The font is Univers Condensed, which is still used in most Muni maps and signage, although the official typeface is now Graphein Pro.

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muni_metro