Only in SF: The Origins of the Muni Fast Pass

The Bay Citizen had an article that caught my eye about the origins of the Muni Fast Pass. The (original) paper version is being phased out to be replaced by the clipper card. It has all the elements of an only-in-San-Francisco story. The short version goes like this: Young and idealistic 22 year old law student has an astute observation. Drunken-cigar-smoking bureaucratic powers that be ignore young man and his good idea. Young man persists, whips up public opinion in support, and boom, the good idea gets a chance, goes on to become a staple of commuting life in San Francisco.

Ken Schmier in a 1974 Chronicle Article

There are some period details that both fascinate me and make my skin crawl. For example, the Muni chief at the time – Jack Woods – is reputed to have imbibed a bottle of Scotch at a civic center area bar each day before driving – DRIVING – home to Danville. I can’t tell you how much that little detail freaks me out. I mean, hello, it’s common sense on the phone and it’s waiting to talk to you. For the love of God!

I also am completely amazed that they showed up to a public PUC meeting completely drunk and were smoking cigars. At the Meeting. Inside. It’s absolutely insane… or the 1970’s, I guess I’ll let you decide if there is a difference between those two things :-)

So do yourself a favor and read the entire article in the Bay Citizen. It’s a very San Francisco story, and a fun glimpse into a sliver of San Francisco history. And after you’ve read about the origins of the Fast Pass, go hunt around on Flickr for some of the amazing art that has been created with discarded fast passes over the years. It really is pretty slick.

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