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Take the K train – or any other

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Ben Easter, 4, and his grandmother Maria Kwan walk to catch the MUNI train near their home San Francisco, Calif.

Ben Easter, 4, and his grandmother Maria Kwan walk to catch the MUNI train near their home San Francisco, Calif.

A recent Friday 10:30 a.m.: Ben Easter seems like a typical 4-year-old. He has boundless energy and has trouble sitting still on the couch. His mother has to prod him to put on his shoes as he prepares to leave the house for a morning outing with Grandma.

But when Ben – headed for the K train on Ocean Avenue bound for Balboa Park – tugs Grandma down the sidewalk with one hand while clutching a Clipper card in the other, you realize his excitement for the city’s public transit system far exceeds that of most riders.

“I knew he was a fan when we woke up one morning and he was basically calling out the schedule. ‘L! L in 10 minutes!’ – at the age of 2,” said his mother, Anne Kwan.

Ben has been riding Muni trains and buses all over town with his grandmother, Maria Kwan, 68, since the day he was old enough to walk. They’ve taken the N-Judah to go to the pastry shops on Irving, or the L-Taraval to the zoo and back – sometimes not even getting off to see the animals. The Muni is the real attraction.

“It’s not about the destination. It’s about the journey,” says Anne Kwan. “He could ride around on the Muni for hours and Grandma would be fine with that.”

Ben and Grandma rode Muni every weekday until he was 3 and preschool cut down their riding time. But on this day, preschool was out – so Ben was excited at the chance to hit the rails with Grandma again.

When Ben got on the K train to Balboa Park and saw it was driven by his favorite conductor, Thomas Booker, his eyes lit up. He leaned into Grandma as they sat, and pointed out objects of transport interest, like a curving tunnel up ahead.

Before long, Booker turned the train around and headed down Ocean Avenue. When Grandma and Ben got off near home, they waved. Booker waved back. It was another perfect ride.

To see a multimedia production of this piece, go to blog.sfgate.com/cityexposed. If you have ideas for the City Exposed, e-mail Mike Kepka at mkepka@sfchronicle.com

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