E-line Problem Discourages Riders

A technical problem with a switch near the southern E-line terminal has forced certain streetcars to skip the final stop at Caltrain, discouraging some riders from using the service.

As it was explained to us by Muni management, two of the seven double-end PCC streetcars assigned to the E-line have problems reversing at the Sixth and King Streets terminal because of a fault in a switch. The other five PCCs are able to bypass the problem by cutting power and coasting through the switch, but Cars 1009 (above, photo by Paul Lucas) and 1015 (below) do not coast freely enough to reliably clear the switch. It is a very odd problem, like nothing we’ve heard before. Muni management claims they are working to diagnose the problem with the switch and fix it.

In the meantime, Muni maintenance has pulled out all the stops to keep those two cars off the E-line as much as they can, but it’s not always possible. Yesterday (February 1), both 1009 and 1015 were on the line, with blank destination signs when heading southbound, and cards in the windshield stating their final destination was the ballpark stop at Second and King Streets. The cars then turn left at Fourth Street onto the T-line and reverse at the crossover on Channel Street, across the Fourth Street Bridge (below).

What this means is that riders waiting for a Wharf-bound E-line car at the Caltrain stop face a double headway when these cars are in service, since they can’t make the Caltrain stop. Given the problems Muni has had keeping regular headways on the E-line anyway, this can mean a wait of up to an hour between Wharf-bound E-line trains for riders. Muni has put up signs at the Caltrain E-line stop alerting riders to this problem and suggesting they walk (or take an N-Judah) two blocks east to the Second and King stop instead.

Market Street Railway has strongly recommended that Muni address this problem by assigning double-end vintage cars to the E-line to provide steady, reliable service to all stops. Melbourne 496, New Orleans 952 (shown below in 2008), and Muni cars No. 1 and 130, all on the active roster, have all used the Sixth and King terminal during earlier E-line demonstration service without incident.

Muni, however, has responded to our recommendation by saying that because of its continuing shortage of qualified streetcar operators — a problem that has gone on for well over a year now — it is unable to supply the second crew member (a conductor) required on those particular streetcars. (Substituting buses for streetcars on the E-line is not an option because the right-of-way south of the Ferry Building is paved in a way that is rougher than the F-line right-of-way north of the Ferry Building, making bus operation unfeasible.)

While we appreciate that Muni didn’t cancel these E-line runs altogether, this erratic service pattern on the E-line discourages the growth of ridership, especially among residents along the line looking for a reliable service. We will keep you up to date on this problem.

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NextMuni Predictions Seemingly Better for Streetcars Now

After a spell when GPS-based predictions of when the next streetcar would arrive at a particular stop on the E- and F-line had become wildly inaccurate (when they occurred at all), things seem to have improved.

The historic streetcar fleet appears to have received new modems able to transmit location information to the NextMuni system. An excellent story by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez appears in the Examiner this morning.

Muni’s rail fleet, including the LRVs, now seems to have returned to the level of accuracy it had before the mess occurred. The bus fleet, however, may not be wholly accurate for another month, Rodriguez’s story reports. That could mean that substitute buses assigned to the F-line might not appear.

We’ll keep you up to date on this.

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Muni Arrival Times Inaccurate Right Now

Don’t try to use the live E- and F-line maps linked to this website right now. This post from SFMTA (Muni) explains why.

The maps we use, customized with icons of streetcars in the historic fleet, are really cool when they work, because they show you exactly which cars are on the line and where they are. We know people all over the world check in on these maps every day to follow their favorite vintage streetcars. The data that feeds those maps is the same that provides arrival times to electronic signs at stops for all Muni bus and rail lines. Muni is in the process of updating the way its buses and railcars communicate their position, but the process has hit a big snag, so riders can’t count on the maps or signs right now. Many vehicles are just not showing up on the database, resulting in displays of much longer wait times than is actually the case. This affects every LRV on the J, K, L, M, N, and T lines, most vehicles on the E- and F-line, and most buses as well.

Of course, when the streetcars of the E- and F-line were in their original service lives, the only database available was your own eyes, as in, “Can I see a car coming?” So just consider it a retro moment.

For reference, F-line headways (the time between streetcars) are 6-7 minutes during the day, 10 minutes in mid-evening, and 15 minutes late night. E-line headways are 20 minutes during that line’s operating hours of 10 a.m.- 7 p.m.

Here are links to the current schedules for the E-Embarcadero line and F-Market and Wharves line on 511.org.

Use the pull-down menus under the route name at the top of the page of these links to select the day of the week and inbound/outbound schedules.

 

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Fleet Weekend Service Adjustments on E, F

The weekend of Fleet Week (that’s Saturday-Sunday, October 8-9 this year) is one of the most crowded weekends along The Embarcadero with pedestrians, motorists, and transit riders all jamming in along the waterfront to see the Navy ships, the Blue Angels air show and more. This year, the Italian Heritage Parade takes place Sunday on top of it all, closing Jefferson Street (and the F-line route) through Fisherman’s Wharf for a time.

img_6497Muni has just announced some service adjustments for the weekend on the E- and F-lines.  Here they are:

Saturday

F-Market-Wharves: streetcars will run regular service, except that if pedestrians spill over onto the trackway in the Wharf areas (which has happened before), F-line cars would be switched back at Pier 39. There will be supplemental bus service as well on the F.

E-Embarcadero: streetcars will turn back at Pier 39 to lessen congestion on Jefferson; however, if the F-line is cut back to Pier 39, E-line cars would then be cut back to the Bay Street crossover, two blocks farther south.

Sunday

F-Market-Wharves: streetcars will switch back at Pier 39 for the Italian Heritage Parade from 8 a.m. until the end of the parade.

E-Embarcadero: streetcars will switch back at Bay Street for the Italian Heritage Parade from 8 a.m. until the end of the parade.

Here’s a tip for people driving into the city for the events: park in Mission Bay where there are several lots and either take the T-line on Third Street and transfer to the E-line at 2nd and King (AT&T Park) or walk to the Caltrain depot and take the E from there.  E cars will have space in that direction.

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Terrific Heritage Weekend

This year’s Muni Heritage Weekend was the best of the five that have taken place so far. Biggest crowds, more kids and families, more vintage vehicles operating, more variety in the routes operated. Kudos to everyone involved on Muni’s side — and there were dozens, operators, mechanics, supervisors, and more, directed by Ed Cobean. Here are a few shots of the action. The weekend started with a ceremonial run of O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde cable car 42 over Hyde Street trackage it hadn’t felt in 62 years. The car, under the command of ace grip Val Lupiz, operated like a charm. The old Hyde terminal was just a switch, because the cars were double ended. Val took the opportunity to put the car on the Turntable, using the switch at the terminal to change tracks first, so photographers could get the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. (No, it doesn‘t fit on the turntable.)   Muni’s fabled streetcar number 1 was out and about, signed for its original route, the “A-Geary.” This weekend, it operated along Market to Castro on Saturday on the F-line and to Pier 39 on The Embarcadero on Sunday. 2016 marks the 75th anniversary of Muni’s… — Read More

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Here Comes Muni Heritage Weekend

This year’s Muni Heritage Weekend got off to a great start with a special reception, sponsored by Market Street Railway, honoring San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board Chair Tom Nolan, who just received a prestigious industry award. The universally-respected Nolan, a steady hand in leading SFMTA for many years, was just named board member of the year by the American Public Transportation Association. Following the invitation-only reception at our San Francisco Railway Museum, everyone hopped on 1934 Blackpool, England boat tram 233 for a sail along The Embarcadero to Pier 39 and back, spotting a bigger boat at the Pier 27 Cruise Ship Terminal.  (Click the center of the screen below to see!) The new-but-traditional colored lights on this boat were made possible by contributions at the museum to our “Float the Boats” fund, enhancing these two wonderful ambassadors from Blackpool. Boat tram 233 itself was brought to San Francisco by Market Street Railway in 2013 and given to Muni thanks to a generous donation by the Thoresen Foundation, with shipping underwritten in part by FedEx Trade Networks. Saturday and Sunday, September 24-25, starting at 10 a.m. and wrapping up between 4 and 5 p.m., there’ll be lots of vintage transit action.… — Read More

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“R” You Ready? Muni’s First Trolley Bus Line Runs Again Sept. 24-25

  Seventy-five years ago this month, Muni opened its very first trolley bus line. The “R-Howard” ran from Beale and Howard Streets out Howard and South Van Ness to Army Street (now Cesar Chavez). This Muni Heritage Weekend, September 24-25, you’ll be able to ride the R-line one more time, to celebrate its 75th anniversary. The action starts at our San Francisco Railway Museum, 77 Steuart Street between Market and Mission (across from the Ferry Building). There at the curb you’ll see the last surviving trolley bus that originally ran the R-line, a 1941 model that Market Street Railway acquired some years ago and cosmetically restored. It doesn’t operate — getting it back into running shape is a priority of ours, and we’re working with some good folks at Muni to see what can be done — but it will be on display carrying a timeline of Muni’s trolley bus history inside. Once you’ve inspected the original R-Howard bus, you can board one of its two descendants — a 1950 Marmon-Herrington or 1975 Flyer — for an actual ride that gets pretty close to the R-line original. (The R-line became part of the 41-Union-Howard in the late 1940s, a route… — Read More

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Kansas City PCC 1056 Back at Muni

  Five years after leaving F-line service with a major structural crack, PCC 1056, painted to honor Kansas City, arrived back at Muni Metro East this afternoon, totally rebuilt by Brookville Equipment Company and looking mighty good. Because of the damage to the bolster under the car, the 1056 was the first car to be sent to Brookville under the current contract to completely rebuild the 16 PCCs that opened the F-line in 1995. After unloading from the low-ride trailer owned by expert streetcar mover Silk Road Transport, Muni maintenance worker Kevin Sheridan, a third generation San Francisco streetcar worker, took the controls and smoothly ran the car around the yard to a service bay inside the maintenance facility, under its own power. (Kevin’s dad Mike, retired from Muni, is one of Market Street Railway’s key volunteers, working on archival photos.) The car will have numbers and decals applied, receive a farebox and radio, and then enter 1000 miles of testing before carrying passengers. No sooner had the 1056 cleared the unloading track than Muni workers loaded up PCC 1055 (below) now on its way to Brookville, where it joins 1051, 1060, 1059. and 1062, in various stages of restoration. The 1051 is the… — Read More

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On the Road Again

This just in…the first of 16 PCCs to be rebuilt under the current contract with Brookville Equipment Corporation is on the road back to San Francisco. Muni Car 1056, painted to honor Kansas City, has been thoroughly renovated and is on the road toward California right now. The shot above is the car leaving the Brookville facility in Pennsylvania. Car 1056 had been out of service the past few years because of a cracked bolster (the piece under the body that sits on top of and connects to the trucks (wheel sets and motors). That critical piece must be expertly repaired or replaced to ensure the long-term operation of the restored car. It is one of the areas Muni will look at very closely before accepting the car and returning it to service. As Car 1056 was generally considered to be in the worst condition of the original F-line fleet covered by the current contract, it was sent first. Thus, Muni’s team will watch closely to make sure the car has truly gone from worst to first. Logos and car numbers will be applied by Muni’s maintenance team after arrival. The car must be “run in” — tested extensively before acceptance… — Read More

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Heritage Weekend Details Emerging

  SFMTA is starting to publicly share some of the details of Muni Heritage Weekend, September 24-25. As in past years, bus and streetcar activity will be based near our San Francisco Railway Museum across from the Ferry Building. Vintage streetcars including Muni Car 1, 1948 double-end PCCs 1006 and 1008, and others still to be determined will be part of regular E-Embarcadero line service that weekend, and we expect the last PCC built in North America, the 1040, to be in regular service on the F-line all weekend. As a special treat, we also anticipate having 1952 Brussels, Belgium PCC 737 (painted to honor Zurich) on the F-line. This car has not operated in some time, and this is contingent on ensuring a trained operator is available. The oldest streetcar in the fleet, 1896 “dinky” 578 will again provide special excursion shuttles between our museum and Pier 39 along The Embarcadero, joined by one or both of our 1934 Blackpool, England open-top boat trams. The theme this year is “Green Machines”, emphasizing Muni’s zero-emission vehicles, especially their trolley coaches, which this year celebrate their 75th anniversary as part of Muni’s fleet. One of Muni’s first ten trolley coaches, the 506, should be curbside for… — Read More

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