Shoppers’ Shuttle

In the early 1950s, as tens of thousands of San Francisco families decamped for the new surrounding suburbs, merchants grew more and more anxious about getting customers into their stores. Muni’s response: a “Shoppers’ Shuttle” — actually two of them, one serving Market Street/Union Square and one the “Miracle Mile of Mission” between about 16th Street and Army Street (now Cesar Chavez Street).

When they started up in 1953 and 1954, the shuttles only charged a nickel (as opposed to the then-regular fare of 15 cents). The presumption, apparently, was that shoppers would be happy to save a dime on routes that duplicated numerous regular Muni lines on Market and Mission.

They ran weekdays midday only, which should have kept incremental operating costs to a minimum, since a few drivers could easily be diverted from regular lines to the shuttles between rush hours. Routes varied over the years. A third line was added in 1966 that generally went from Civic Center to the Second and Harrison Streets area (but what was there, then?).

In this shot from the SFMTA Archives, we see 1938 White motor coach 060 decked out for the “Mission Shuttle” with 5 cent flags and signs alerting intending riders to the bargain. It looks like it was taken around the rollout of Mission Shuttle service in November 1954 at Muni’s Ocean Division (where the Green light rail facility is now at Ocean and San Jose Avenues).

The shuttles did not generally do a booming business, despite the low fare. It was never clear how many non-shopper riders just hopped aboard because it was the first bus that came along while they were waiting, or who just like saving a dime (no Fast Pass or Clipper Card then!).

According to the definitive book on Muni operations, Inside Muni, all three of the Shoppers’ Shuttle routes were abandoned September 10, 1980. But this may have been just a technical route abandonment. The author of this post doesn’t recall seeing any Shoppers’ Shuttle buses after BART construction on Market and Mission began in the late 1960s. Perhaps readers can comment on their recollections of when the service ended.

This bus, however, would have only made a special guest appearance on the Shoppers’ Shuttle, in all likelihood. Because of its diminutive size (seven feet shorter than a standard White bus), it was regularly assigned to serve Telegraph Hill and North Beach riders on the 39-Coit line (because it could make the tight turn at the Coit Tower parking lot.) It lasted there until about 1974for another 20 years before being retired. It was subsequently purchased by a Muni employee and painted back into its original 1938 orange and black livery.

Its twin, 062, also a Coit Tower bus, has been restored by Muni to operating condition and is also painted in its as-delivered orange and black (no, it’s not for the Giants, nor for Halloween!). Unlike the 060, the 062 has been restored to its original fleet number, 042 (when Muni culled out the fleet of the “Baby Whites”, they renumbered the three survivors 060-062.

  • Dexter Wong

    I remember seeing the Shopper’s Shuttles, although I don’t remember riding them. I saw mostly the Downtown Shuttle which turned around near City Hall. The ones I remember were Macks with the yellow sign and the yellow Shopper 5 cent Flag. Back in the 60’s Muni was big on flags: there was the blue ‘X’ Freeway Express Flag for lines 14X, 17X and 30X, the Shopper’s Shuttle Flag and the Orange and Black Baseball Flag for Baseball Expresses.