Rollsigns from San Mateo-Burlingame Transit
Predecessor to SamTrans - San Mateo, Burlingame and Area, CA
This linen front destination sign was one of many different variances of their
rollsigns. On most of their fleet, this sign would have been accompanied by
a separate route letter scroll that would have been to its left on the front
display. This rollsign is dated August 21, 1946 and has 25 exposures, the
last two painted on at a later date. Its sign tag and other identification
numbers printed on each end of the scroll are shown in the photo below.
Public transportation in this area of California began with the gold rush in 1848. San Francisco quickly became the largest city in the west.
In 1849 a stagecoach route along the El Camino Real was opened between San Francisco and San Jose. Sluggish at best, it was virtually
inoperable in rainy weather. Still, it brought new development to various communities including San Mateo. In 1861, the San Francisco
and San Jose Railroad Company (the first passenger railroad west of the Mississippi) began operation. With its arrival, San Mateo County
was developed as the first rail suburb on the west coast. In 1870, the Southern Pacific Railroad took over the San Francisco and San Jose
Railroad Company. They doubled the track line, which allowed for more service, and created the BayShore cutoff in 1907, which decreased
travel time. (This is the current route of Caltrain.) In 1890 the San Francisco-San Mateo Railroad opened. This was an electric streetcar
running from the Ferry Building in San Francisco to Daly City. By 1893, the streetcar reached South San Francisco, and by 1902 it reached
downtown San Mateo. In 1906, many San Franciscans fled the devastation of a major earthquake and subsequent fire and came to the
peninsula. The streetcar proved invaluable for commuting workers. Several new cities were incorporated after the earthquake and shifts
in population, including Burlingame in 1908. With the popularity of private automobiles increasing exponentially, a huge push for paved
roads was enacted throughout the first half of the 20th century. The Arab Oil Embargo of 1973-74 brought rising gas price and long lines
at gas stations to the entire country. In San Mateo, this led to growing public sentiment about the need for a comprehensive public
transit system. In the early 1970s, 11 separate cities in the County had their own small bus systems, including San Mateo-Burlingame
Transit. In 1974 county voters approved forming the San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans), which brought these separate city
bus lines together into one system. On July 1, 1976, SamTrans officially began fixed route service in the area. In 1977, SamTrans
bought Greyhound’s local bus fleet, and by 1980, they had more than 200 buses. SamTrans continues to operate transit service to
this day, supplemented by rapid transit provided by CalTrain (created in 1980 after Souther Pacific petitioned to discontinue passenger
service in 1977 due to declining ridership), and by the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) which initially started service in 1972.
Top: The full printed sign tag as it appears at the top of the sign.

Bottom: Additional printed identification numbers as they
appear near the bottom of the sign
A rare color image of a San Mateo-Burlingame Transit suburban
GM Old Look is seen in this undated and unknown location photo.
(Photo from the collection of Jim Husing. Used with permission.)