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On Donner!

Two beautiful sights in one: snow falling this morning on Donner Summit (keep it coming!) and PCC No. 1009, painted in tribute to Dallas, headed back to San Francisco. MSR Member James Giraudo caught this great action shot.

No. 1009 arrived safely in the city this afternoon, completing its return trip to Brookville Equipment Company in Pennsylvania for refitting of the traditional-style door motors that work better than the computerized ones installed during the recent overhaul program.

No. 1009 should be back in service soon. Meanwhile, its twin, No. 1011, painted to honor our namesake, Market Street Railway Company (which wanted, but could never afford, PCCs) has been going through its “burn-in” period, where operators test the car without passengers for 1,000 miles to ensure everything works as it should. No word yet on when that car might enter service.

The Castro Weighs in on Six Buck F-line Proposal

Castro District residents are weighing in on the SFMTA staff proposal to raise the F-line fare to six dollars, a 300% increase in one fell swoop (not to be confused with Fell Street).

Here are a selection of reader comments from that site, castrobiscuit.com:

Gerald Koskovich: “What’s with pandering to drivers while sticking it to Muni riders? The F-Line isn’t simply some theme-park ride; it’s a crucial part of effective transportation on Market Street. The proposal is an utter contradiction of the City’s transit-first policy.” (At the time of this writing, the “Likes” for his comment outnumbered the “Dislikes” 39-2.)

Craig: “Unless the SFMTA plans to run a ‘regular’ bus line down the Market St. corridor, this plan is unacceptable for those of us who use the F line as our daily means of transportation.” (Likes outnumbered Dislikes 22-1.)

DerekSF: “I’d like to see that study that this will generate additional revenue. Locals will abandon the F-Line, and tourists with families are going to make tough choices between riding the cable cars OR the street cars and finding other ways to get to the wharf. This just seems like an all around bad idea.” (11-0).

You can make your opinion known directly to the decision-makers, the Board of Directors of Muni’s parent, the SFMTA, by sending an email here MTABoard@sfmta.com.

By the way, we’ve heard from higher-ups in Muni that they’re not actually proposing this increase, just that it seemed “worth putting on the table to explore.” So it’s up to you, readers, to let them know what you think.

No Streetcars on the F Saturday, February 22

The F-line will be operated solely with buses on Saturday, February 22, so that a number of projects can be carried out on Market Street. This includes completion of the removal of the old switches that led to and from the now-vanished Transbay Terminal (specifically, the switch at Fremont and Market), plus utility work at Spear and Market and crosswalk repair at Third and Market. F-line buses will operate on Market, except between First and Fremont inbound, where they will detour via Mission. Trolley coaches will be replaced by motor coaches along Market, as the overhead wires will be deenergized between Tenth and Steuart.

Opposition Streams In to Higher F-line Fare

The proposal from SFMTA staff to consider a fare increase of either 50% or 300% for the F-line historic streetcar service is predictably being met with strong opposition.

On his Facebook page, Supervisor Scott Weiner writes, “Muni is also considering raising the F line fare to $6, even though a lot of residents rely on this line and particularly so as an alternative when the subway melts down…tripling the fare on a line used by residents would show an agency out of touch with how problematic service is.”

Sup. Weiner, who is widely respected for his thoughtful pro-transit views, represents the Upper Market and Castro areas, whose residents would be among the hardest hit by this proposal. Comments on Sup. Weiner’s Facebook post included these:

Patrick Connors: “The F is the ONLY above ground line running all the way between Van Ness and Castro Street. How can they charge $6 for a ride to Safeway/Whole Foods? Lugging groceries to the F is bad enough, but having to go underground to avoid $6 fare is just mean.”

Jeff Cluett: “…charging $6 for the F - which I had to use the one time I took the MUNI subway in the last month because of a breakdown - is unfair and self-defeating.”

Jason Hill: “Please fight hard against raising the F fare. There are times where that line is the most practical one (avoiding rush hour crush in the Metro, lugging heavy/bulky purchases home, etc) and other times where it is worth going a tad slower in order to take the scenic route. Don’t let them rob us of one of the rare pleasures of transit.”

Patrick Lewis: “Thank you for being the voice of reason! The F line is crucial transit infrastructure, not a tourist attraction like the cable cars.”

Sheila Sullivan: “The F Car replaced the 8 Market bus that ran to the Ferry Building. Is Muni bringing back the 8 Market? Providing no alternative but a $6.00 fare down Market Street doesn’t lend itself to our so-called “Transit First” City. If San Francisco truly wants to be Transit First, they need to provide the infrastructure.”

Maurice Rivers: “MUNI = More Unethical Nutty Ideas.”

At this writing, no one has offered a comment on Weiner’s post supporting an F-line fare increase.

Neither has anyone offered positive comments about this on other Facebook posts we’ve seen, nor in comments we’ve received here in response to our first post on this discriminatory fare increase proposal two days ago.

Waterfront worker Paul Wells: “Having an office one block from The Embarcadero at Green Street, it is a preferable connection. As a San Franciscan, I am far from alone in utilization of the F-line as a way to get to and from work. It services the Market Street corridor as an alternative to the Market Street Subway…Any tiered fare will only cause delay and confusion, removing the speed that these cars were designed to achieve, and their demonstration of their value as public transportation. They are important to the revitalization of Mid-Market as well as convenient, down-on-the-corner, transportation for the thousands of residents of new housing being built along the length of Market Street…The potential is very high that tourists would cease to use the F line as well as locals, causing a possible reverse effect on revenue. Find other sources that will not impact what is working.”

Mark Sylvester provides a visitor’s perspective: “This idea to raise the F-line fare to $6 is a very bad idea. Your example of $50 for a family of four to get to the Exploratorium [or the Wharf] is crazy. The family would pay $90 for [Exploratorium] admission to begin with - the cost to get there would be another $50. There’s a problem when transportation costs more then half of the admission price! Parking rates on the Exploratorium website are only $10. $40 buys a lot of gas, you keep the kids in the car, and you don’t need to worry about leaving anything behind. As a visitor, those are the numbers I’m going to look at. I’m not going to shell out $40 extra just for a trolley ride.”

We’ve received many more comments like this already, every one of them opposed to the increase. If you’d like to comment, send it here (MTABoard@sfmta.com), so it goes directly to the members of the SFMTA Board of Directors, who are taking public input now.

We’ll keep you up to date on this important issue.

$6 F-Line Fare an Option in New SFMTA Budget

Despite strong and successful opposition the first time they tried it four years ago, the budget crafters at SFMTA, Muni’s parent agency, are back with proposals to uncouple the F-line fare from the basic Muni fare and raise it between 50% and 300%.

At tomorrow’s SFMTA Board of Directors meeting (2 p.m., Room 400, City Hall), a proposed budget will be introduced that includes two different F-line fare increases: one to add a dollar to the current base cash fare of $2; the other to TRIPLE the F-line fare to match the cable car fare, currently $6.

In 2010, Market Street Railway was joined in strong opposition by the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro, the Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District, and other groups to protest this fare increase. We expect those groups will join us again, as soon as they learn of the proposal. You can read the agenda item containing the budget details here; the F-line items are on page 7.

We have already voiced our strong opposition to SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin, and will do the same to SFMTA Board members. If you would like to protest to the board members, you can send an email here.

A significant change in operations since the 2010 proposal is the abolition of the paper Muni fast pass and the use of Clipper Cards. The staff seems to assume that residents who use Clipper Cards all buy the monthly Muni-wide pass, which does, and would still, include the F-line. Thus, the argument goes, residents wouldn’t be paying that cash fare; only tourists would. This is a false argument because a large percentage of San Franciscans load their Clipper Cards on a per-ride basis, not the monthly Muni pass, which is only worthwhile for people who commute daily. They would get charged the higher fare on their Clipper Cards.

Additionally, the higher cash fare amounts to discrimination against riders in Upper Market and along The Embarcadero, for whom the F-line is the only form of surface transportation available to the destinations they seek. This includes low-income workers at Wharf restaurants and hotels, who lost alternative Muni service to downtown a couple of years ago in cutbacks.

SFMTA staff acknowledges that the target here is tourists, just as it was with the higher cable car fares. If F-line fares are raised to match the cable cars, a family of four going to The Exploratorium or the Wharf from conventions or hotels downtown would face a round-trip fare of almost $50, whether they took the cable cars or the F-line. Today, a family of four can ride the F-line round trip for $11 in cash fares ($2 for adults, 75 cents for children). It’s worth noting that other new revenue alternatives include increases in the children’s and senior cash fares for all Muni service. Also proposed are additional increases in Muni Passports, providing 1, 3, or 7 days worth of unlimited rides.

We believe that it’s wrong to single out visitors for disproportionate fares. It has the effect of discouraging Bay Area people from coming to the City on weekends to shop and play. For these people, BART, Caltrain, and the regional services should be offering LOWER fares on weekends, when they have extra capacity, to encourage them to leave their cars at home. But if the SFMTA is determined to get an extra pound of flesh from visitors, it would be better to raise the Muni Passports a little higher, instead of penalizing the thousands of San Franciscans who use the F-line every day for basic Muni service.

We’ll keep you up to date on the status of this proposal. Meanwhile, [make your voice heard.


The "Euro-PCC" is Back in Action.

737 SFRM 021514 first day back in service.jpg

Photo by Brice Crandall, San Francisco Railway Museum. Click to enlarge.

After an extended absence, the most exotic looking PCC streetcar in Muni’s fleet is carrying passengers again, working the F-line shuttle run from the Wharf to the Ferry Building yesterday (Saturday, February 15, 2014), after a prolonged absence waiting for some parts specific to the car, followed by operator training, led by Muni’s Robert Parks.

You can read all about this streetcar here. The slender design (just 7’3” wide, almost two feet narrower than the F-line’s widest cars) was needed for narrow European streets. This car was built for and ran its whole life in Brussels, but after it got to San Francisco, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom asked that it be painted to honor San Francisco’s sister city of Zurich, Switzerland, which ran skinny trams of the same general body type (though not with the patented PCC components designed by an American group of transit leaders, called the Presidents’ Conference Committee, in the mid-1930s).

The juxtaposition of a livery that honors a Swiss city coupled with an interior that still has signs in French and Flemish, Belgium’s two languages, is understandably confusing, so we’ve taken to referring to No. 737 as the “Euro-PCC” to cover all the bases. It’s fun to ride, so start looking for it on the F-line.

On the Good Ship Lollipop

Today, we bid a fond farewell to Shirley Temple Black, actress and diplomat, who passed away last night at her Peninsula home. She was 85.

Shirley Temple is generally considered the most famous child star ever. In dozens of films during the 1930s, she lifted moviegoers’ spirits and touched their hearts with her upbeat persona and infectious dimpled smile. Some of her songs, such as “Good Ship Lollipop,” were hummed or whistled by people everywhere. In the depths of the Depression, it was a great tonic for fans not only in America but around the world.

She was reminded of her global fame much later in life when she served as U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia under President George H. W. Bush. She arrived in Prague to be greeted by members of a Shirley Temple fan club, dating back to her acting days. She had previously served as Ambassador to Ghana under President Nixon and U.S. Chief of Protocol under President Ford.

We celebrate her for all these accomplishments in her life, but in our corner of the world, we especially remember her role as the celebrity chosen to introduce the first PCC streetcars to Los Angeles in 1937, as shown in the newspaper photo, which comes from our Facebook group. Her role is recognized onboard Muni’s PCC No. 1052, painted in tribute to Los Angeles Railways.

We’re going to start thinking of No. 1052 as the Good Ship Lollipop from now on.

Photo of the (Past) Moment: Ferry Heyday

Ferry Loop from Tower Ralph Demoro shot c1936.jpg

Ferry Loop, April 1936. Ralph W. Demoro photo, Al Schwoerer collection. Click to enlarge.

Al Schwoerer recently posted this on our Facebook Group. The photo is from his collection, taken in April 1936 by the legendary railfan and photographer Ralph Demoro (father of the even more legendary railfan and journalist Harre Demoro.

It’s a classic moment in time, taken from the second floor of the Ferry Building on the very cusp of the opening of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

That changed everything.

Ferry traffic withered and within three years, many of the streetcar lines that served the Ferry Building were diverted to the new East Bay Terminal at First and Mission.

Click on the photo to enlarge it and just look all the action. There’s a Muni bus on its 4-line (later the 32-Embarcadero) headed south, under the “Grand Cafeteria” sign. So few people rode this line that the State Board of Harbor Commissioners, which ran the Port of San Francisco in those days, had to subsidize it. (For you young transit nerds, yes there was a day when subsidized transit lines were the exception, not the (universal) rule. Next to the Grand, you can buy GallenKamp shoes for three bucks. In front of the bus, you got your beer truck. Prohibition is dead! For most practical purposes, it never actually existed in San Francisco, but it did put saloons behind the “speakeasy” curtain, which probably affected this block of The Embarcadero as much as any in the city. If you compare this to a photo of the same block pre-Volstead Act, almost all these storefronts were saloons, and all of them offered “free” lunches, consisting of bread, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, and pickles, with the purchase of a “scoop” of beer — for a nickel.

The presence of a 17-line car (No. 129) on the loop, with a Zoo dash sign, tells us Ralph took this on a Sunday or Holiday, since those were the only days the 17 was extended via the 12-line on Sloat Boulevard to Ocean Beach. There’s also a 5, a 21, and a 31 on the loop, along with just one Muni car, a K.

As Al observed in his Facebook post, “lots of interesting stuff going on.” Amen.

We’re going to try to get access to the same location in the Ferry Building to match this photo for the next issue of our members-only color newsletter, Inside Track. If you’re reading this post and you’re not a Market Street Railway member, we can fix that right now. We need your support to keep San Francisco’s historic streetcars on track!