E-line: Maybe Not ‘Eventually’

Eight years ago, at the opening celebration for the F-line extension to Fisherman’s Wharf, several Market Street Railway directors were discussing Muni’s delays in committing to start up the E-Embarcadero line. (The trackage for that line, from Fisherman’s Wharf to Caltrain, was just being completed along with the F-line extension.) The discussion was interrupted by a familiar voice saying, “You’ll get your E-line.” It was then-Mayor Willie Brown.

He might still be right, but not yet. What wags have started calling the ‘E-Eventually’ has seen its start-up delayed time after time. Operational costs have been one issue cited by Muni leaders. Another reason cited has been a shortage of vintage streetcars to serve the line, which may finally be addressed by the PCC renovations now seemingly poised to move forward.

Whatever the frustrations experienced in the past, the current leadership of the Municipal Transportation Agency, Muni’s parent, seems to be looking at a start-up date for regular E-line service in 2010. That target date comes from Julie Kirschbaum, who is helping lead MTA’s Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP). The TEP, still in draft form, calls for the largest overhaul of Muni service in more than a quarter-century, including elimination of a number of bus routes and service reductions on others, to provide capacity on core lines that carry the bulk of Muni passengers. (This latter category includes the F-line, which would receive more frequent service every day under the draft plan.) The draft plan also proposes new service in developing neighborhoods, particularly Mission Bay and South Beach. The E-line fits into this category.

In a briefing, Kirschbaum told Market Street Railway leaders that the
E-line is needed to absorb unmet demand on the northern Embarcadero
that the current overcrowded F-line cannot accommodate, even with the
additional shuttles added between the Wharf and Ferry Building. With
numerous high-rise and mid-rise residential developments coming online
in Rincon Hill, South Beach, and the northern edge of Mission Bay,
demand for trips along the waterfront will certainly increase. Proposed
additional attractions along The Embarcadero, such as an expanded
cruise ship terminal and relocation of the Exploratorium, would only
exacerbate the streetcar overcrowding.

pcc-progress-2.jpg

1948 Muni PCC No. 1006, shown here last year in storage, is one of four additional double-end cars that need to be renovated in order to provide an initial fleet for the E-line. Market Street Railway photo.

Currently, only double-end cars can be used on the E-line, due to the
lack of turnaround capability for single-end cars at the south end of
the line. This is the prime reason for restoring four more double-end
PCCs. Until they arrive, though, the potential E-line fleet is limited
to the three currently operational double-end PCCs and four operable
all-weather historic cars (Muni “Iron Monster” nos. 130 & 162, Melbourne tram no. 496, and New Orleans “Desire” streetcar no. 952).
Allowing for spares and projected F-line needs, that seven-car fleet
would limit the practical number of daily runs to four or five,
requiring headways of at least 12-15 minutes between cars.

But even with the four extra double-end PCCs, the E-line fleet would be
constrained. Given how much the demand could grow, either restoration
of additional double-end vintage cars with high capacity or a
single-end terminal at the south end of the line seems essential.
Market Street Railway continues to advocate for both.

Fort Mason progress

Meantime, work continues on an environmental impact statement (EIS) for
an extension of historic streetcar service from the current Fisherman’s
Wharf terminal eight-tenths of a mile west to historic Fort Mason
Center, using a 1914 freight railroad tunnel running underneath the
former army post from the foot of Van Ness Avenue to Laguna Street. The
preferred route runs westbound one block on Jefferson, then one block
south on Leavenworth to Beach, thus bypassing the current F-line
terminal and allowing for separate terminals for the E and F, an
important operating feature. The westbound extension would then run on
Beach Street until it dead-ends past Polk, then angle through San
Francisco Maritime National Historical Park to reach the 1,000-foot
tunnel, which by necessity would be the only single-track portion of
the extension, controlled by signals and safety interlocks. The return
trip from Fort Mason would follow the same routing back to Leavenworth,
then stay on Beach Street one more block to join the current F-line
line at Jones. At the west end of the tunnel, a variety of turnaround
arrangements is being considered.

The draft EIS is scheduled for completion in early 2009. After
public comment and adoption of the environmental document, final design
and construction could move forward promptly if funding arrangements
can be completed.

The Market Street Railway Blog will keep you posted on new details as they emerge.

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Car No. 1 Out for Renovation Bids

sixteenpccs-1-telstar.jpg

Telstar Logistics photo.

Muni’s governing body, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), has issued requests for proposals from outside contractors to restore car No. 1, the flagship of the historic fleet which inaugurated Muni’s first line on Geary Street in 1912. This car was initially retired from service in 1951, restored to its original appearance for Muni’s 50th anniversary in 1962, and repaired as necessary since. When the car’s wiring failed in 2006, it was decided to conduct a complete renovation rather than try to patch it up. Largely because of a lack of covered storage for the car over the last quarter-century, it and other vintage cars have suffered accelerated rust and rotting.

As the scope of work on car No. 1 is quite different than the group of PCCs going out for bid—requiring skilled carpentry, seat recaning, and critical preservation work–Muni and Market Street Railway agreed it should be bid separately. Contract proposals are due August 27. The schedule indicates that delivery and acceptance will be in April, 2010.

A Muni team will review the offered proposals, conduct oral interviews with the proposers, and accept proposals on price, after which the successful contractors will be selected. If there are no protests from unsuccessful proposers, and provided the Board of Supervisors approves the contract, work could begin early in 2009.

The Market Street Railway Blog will keep you up to date on the progress of this important contract. Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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Video of Muni, 1969

If you’re interested in seeing what the old Geneva Carhouse looked like, or how the PCC ‘torpedoes’ ran on the streets during their ‘first life’, check out this video. It starts with some good cable car footage, including the first terminal at Hyde & Beach, different than today’s.

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Sixteen PCCs Out for Renovation Bids

Muni’s governing body, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), has issued requests for proposals from outside contractors on a crucial project for historic transit in the city. The SFTMA is seeking proposals from outside vendors to double the current number of operational PCC streetcars, the mainstay of F-line (and future E-line) service. Sixteen rebuilt or renovated PCCs would reach the streets under this plan, matching the sixteen currently operating.

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Frank Zepeda photo.

The biggest single operational benefit will come from making the eleven ex-Newark PCC cars (Nos. 1070-1080) completely reliable. These cars had already received interior and exterior renovation and were being placed into service in April 2007 when wiring problems were discovered (despite having had a sample Newark car, now No. 1070, in San Francisco for an extended test period before purchasing the group). As a result, only four of these cars have actually carried paying passengers (Nos. 1075, 1077, 1078, and 1079) and at press time, only No. 1079 is currently in service. Muni maintenance staff has tried a variety of fixes for the wiring problems, with little lasting success. Both Muni leadership and Market Street Railway agree that complete replacement of the original 1946-48 wiring is needed to create reliably operating cars. That rewiring is part of the scope of this new contract, which calls for delivering the rewired cars to Muni by March 2010.

sixtenpccs-1006-wwt.jpg

Whole Wheat Toast photo.

The same contract includes the complete rebuilding of the four remaining double-end PCCs on Muni property (Nos. 1006, 1008, 1009, and 1011). These cars, purchased new by Muni in 1948, are today non-operational and in various stages of decrepitude. They would receive essentially the same renovation given to their twins, Nos. 1007, 1010 & 1015, in the original F-line car renovation program, carried out in the early 1990s. As our regular Inside Track readers know, the renovation of the four additional double-enders has been delayed several times for one reason or another, spanning more than a decade now. If all goes as planned with this contract, though, they will be delivered to Muni, rebuilt like new, by the end of February, 2011.

sixteenpccs-1040-schaffner.jpg

Jim Maurer photo.

As a bonus, this contract also includes the complete renovation of PCC No. 1040, the last of 10,000 cars of this type built in North America, delivered new to Muni in 1952, and now scheduled to be returned like new in August, 2010.

Proposals for this job are due from contractors on September 18. Muni bundled the various PCC rehabilitation jobs together to create a large package, with the hope of attracting multiple bidders, including major multi-national transit firms. A Muni team will review the offered proposals, conduct oral interviews with the proposers, and accept proposals on price, after which the successful contractors will be selected. If there are no protests from unsuccessful proposers, and provided the Board of Supervisors approves the contract, work could begin early in 2009.

We’ll keep you updated here at the Market Street Railway Blog on the progess of this important contract.

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Finally, a Roof Over their Heads?

After more than ten years of advocacy, protection for the most vulnerable streetcars in Muni’s historic fleet seems to be at hand. Steve Ferrario photo. The Board of Directors of Muni’s parent agency, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), has approved an agreement with Shimmick Construction Co. of Hayward to erect simple but effective canopies over four tracks at Geneva Division, where the F-line cars are housed. The design will be similar to the traditional car sheds that stood… — Read More

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