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Mid-Market Comeback

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PCC No. 1060 enlivens the scene at Seventh and Market Streets. (c) Melissa Wuschnig.

In his Chronicle column today, former Mayor Willie Brown said of the mid-Market area, “After decades of nothing but talk, that area is really taking off.”

Decades is right. I grew up on Market Street. My family had delicatessens between Fifth and Sixth and between Fourth and Third in the 1950s (and one at Fifth and Jessie as well). As a kid, I watched the stretch from Fifth west gradually deteriorate, as solid working-class stores like Weinstein’s folded and the respectable second-run theaters morphed into porn houses.

One of the selling points I made over and over for the F-line was the prediction (hope, really) that the colorful vintage streetcars would provide the truly attractive kind of public transportation that could stimulate infill development in the not-so-great parts of the street, by connecting them to the more vibrant parts of Market in either direction.

A lot of factors have played a role in the rejuvenation of mid-Market of course, led by Mayor Ed Lee’s staunch advocacy for the district (continuing what his predecessor, Gavin Newsom, started). No question the tax incentives for tech businesses coming to the area have been important, along with several other programs.

We believe the F-line streetcars are part of that positive stimulus for mid-Market, too, and Mayor Brown agrees. He wrote today, “The best part, however, continues to be the historic trolley cars. At $2 a ride, they’re one of the best tourist attractions in the city.” Unlike the rest of Muni, the trolleys actually run on time. Not that it matters, since the people riding them don’t appear to be in any hurry. If you’re lucky, you get the open-air car, which makes the ride all the better.”

While we concur with Mayor Brown, we do feel strongly that the F-line is, and must continue to be, about San Franciscans as much or more than visitors. It carries thousands of residents to and from work, school, shopping, and recreation every day, especially on the stretch from Castro to the Financial District.

Within a year or two, a couple of thousand new housing units will be completed along that stretch of Market, and the F-line will be their “neighborhood trolley.” So we need to ensure that the service meets the needs of locals first.

That’s why Market Street Railway is deeply involved in advocacy for the Better Market Street Project, which aims to remake our main street from Octavia to the Ferry over the next five years. You’ll be hearing more about our proposals soon in this space and in our member newsletter, Inside Track. We hope you’ll join us and help keep the F-line at the heart of Market Street.

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