What Might Have Been

In our last post, we looked back on the last days of streetcar service on the B-Geary line. In this post — an updated version of a story that appeared in the Summer 2002 issue of our member newsletter, Inside Track — we take a broader look back at the demise of streetcars in San Francisco in general, including the original F-line.

whatmighthavebeen1-1-mcvay.jpgVan Ness Avenue hosted Muni streetcars until 1950. Bob McVay photo, Walter Rice collection.

It was all a plot. Fiendish bus builders, tire makers, fuel providers forming an illegal conspiracy to rob America of its beloved streetcars after World War II. That’s why we have so few lines left in San Francisco.
At least that’s what some streetcar fans fervently believe … with some reason. In that time period, so-called ‘rubber tire interests’ did indeed form a company called National City Lines that went around the country buying up private streetcar companies and converting them to bus operation. The buses, tires, and fuel usually came from the companies that owned National City. One such property, in fact, was the East Bay’s Key System. But even at the national level, this conspiracy theory leaves out lots of realities: private transit operators scratching to break even, with no capital to replace worn-out streetcars and track; the baby boom, spurring the development of suburbs well beyond the reach of existing streetcar lines; and the flat-out preference of most who could afford it for the automobile, especially after the sacrifices made during the war.

whatmighthavebeen1-2-mcvay.jpgThe original F-line. The Stockton Tunnel was built in 1914 as part of Muni’s original F-line, which ran until 1951. Here, car No. 9 is headed for Chinatown and North Beach shortly before the 30-Stockton trolley bus took over this route. Bob McVay photo, Walter Rice collection.

Some of these national factors did impact Bay Area transit. Other factors that shaped San Francisco’s streetcar story were unique.

San Francisco’s two major transit systems merged in 1944, when, after numerous failed attempts, voters finally approved a bond issue to allow publicly owned Muni to buy out the larger, private Market Street Railway Company (MSRy). The strains of heavy wartime demand were apparent on the cars and tracks of both systems, especially MSRy, which had endured hard financial times well before the war and was not making any significant capital investments in its infrastructure.

As the war neared its end, the city’s transit system was falling apart. Muni owned only five modern streetcars, bought in 1939, out of a combined fleet of almost 500. Most of those cars were completely worn out, as was much of the track and overhead wire they ran on.

The Newton Plan

whatmighthavebeen1-3-vielbaum.jpgMuni’s ‘torpedoes’ never were assigned to regular service on lines where modern equipment might have helped preserve streetcar service, but they did run some routes as charters, giving a taste of ‘what might have been’. Market Street Railway Director Walt Vielbaum went along on some of these special charters, and took this great shot. Here, car No. 1006 leaves the Stockton Tunnel on the last day of streetcar operation on the F. Note the outbound White 798 gasoline bus with the ‘F’ designation in the rear window. Walt Vielbaum photo.

Muni management knew it needed to modernize once the war ended, so in early 1945, it commissioned a plan for postwar operation from consulting engineer Leonard Newton, a former vice president of MSRy. He understood the poor condition of the cars and track and recommended converting more than half the existing streetcar lines to trolley coach or motor coach operation, including the J-Church and M-Ocean View. However, he did advocate retaining thirteen streetcar routes and reequipping them with modern ‘PCC’ type streamline streetcars (as now run on the F-line). These included eight Muni lines: the B, C, and D, which used Geary; the K, L, and N, which all used tunnels too small for buses; the F-Stockton and the H-Van Ness. Also included were five ex-MSRy lines: 3-Jackson, 4-Sutter, 7-Haight (rerouted via the Sunset Tunnel), 14-Mission, and the inner section of the 17 Haight-Parkside line. All in all, Newton recommended buying 313 new PCC streetcars, which would have been a huge order.

However, while Newton’s report laid out the costs of buying the new vehicles and reconstructing the track, it did not include operating costs, a critical omission. As he predicted in his plan, the end of gasoline rationing sent many Muni riders back to their automobiles again. Even with a fare increase, Muni’s finances were rapidly deteriorating at a time when transit systems were still expected to make a profit.

Two-person crews

San Francisco required crews of two on streetcars and cable cars, though only one on buses. With the merger, Muni now had two powerful operator’s unions to deal with: its own, and the one that still represented ex-MSRy motormen and conductors. Both unions were staunchly opposed to reducing crew size, which would have required a City Charter amendment approved by the voters in any event. So Newton repeatedly stated in his report that the new PCCs would be modified for operation by two-person crews, even though a major reason the transit industry designed the PCC in the first place, some ten years earlier, was to cut labor costs in half by only requiring a single operator per car.

whatmighthavebeen1-4-vielbaum.jpgHere’s No. 1006 on the H-line, inbound on Van Ness Avenue at Jackson. Washington-Jackson cable car No. 509 is headed toward Pacific Heights, a wonderful line destroyed in the mid-1950s when the cable system was severely cut back. Walt Vielbaum photo.

Two years after Newton’s plan came out, the City worked up another plan in conjunction with a $20 million bond issue to modernize Muni. By this time, the proposed vehicle mix had tilted sharply toward buses. The labor cost differential clearly played a major part. The bond issue passed, but the money was almost all spent on hundreds of new trolley coaches and motor coaches used to convert former streetcar lines. Had there been enough money right after the war to buy a full fleet of PCC cars, at least for the core streetcar lines, the public might have embraced their comfort and speed and insisted on retention of more streetcar lines. However, with two-man PCC streetcars costing double the operating cost of a one-driver bus of similar capacity, there was no management incentive to buy large numbers of new streetcars.

What the public saw instead at the end of the 1940s was a fleet of new trolley coaches and motor coaches with upholstered seats and effective heaters running on smoothly repaved streets, replacing noisy, drafty, old streetcars with hard seats often bouncing along on bad track.

A few new streetcars

Muni did manage to find enough money from another source to buy ten modern streetcars, its first true PCCs, in 1948. These cars, numbered 1006-1015, were double-ended and set up for two-person crews. (Three of these, fully restored, are in F-line operation today; four more are slated for restoration by 2011.)

whatmighthavebeen1-5-vielbaum.jpgThis shot, from a 1948 charter, shows car No. 1015 headed downtown on the former MSRy 1-line on California Street at Presidio Avenue, about to jog over to Sutter. It’s passing a California Street Cable Railway car changing ends opposite the Jewish Community Center. There had been talk early of saving two Sutter lines, the 3 and 4, as streetcars, but the 1-line was always slated for bus conversion. Walt Vielbaum photo.

Added to the five 1939 ‘Magic Carpet’ cars, which were almost identical in appearance, Muni now had fifteen modern cars. Had they been deployed strategically on a line where it was not final whether streetcars would stay or go, they might have made a difference. Instead, however, in that critical period from 1948-1951, the modern cars were concentrated on two tunnel lines, the L and the N, neither of which was in danger of conversion.

Some elements of the Newton plan had by this time been put into effect. The F-Stockton line (today’s 30-line trolley bus), which ran from the Marina through North Beach and Chinatown, reaching downtown through the Stockton tunnel, was connected to old MSRy tracks at Fourth & Market to reach the Southern Pacific train depot, then at Third & Townsend Streets. The H-Van Ness line — which ran from Fort Mason south on Van Ness, 11th Street and Potrero Avenue to Army Street — was tied in there to the old MSRy 25-line on San Bruno Avenue to reach almost to Visitacion Valley.

Streetcars slip away on the F and H

whatmighthavebeen1-6-vielbaum.jpgHere’s PCC No. 1015 at the rustic terminal of the D and E lines inside the Presidio. Early postwar plans called for Union Street to be dual-mode. The E-line streetcars had been slated for conversion to trolley bus even before the war, but Muni couldn’t get the vehicles. But the D-line, which shared Union with the E, then followed Van Ness and Geary downtown, was recommended in the Newton plan to stay a streetcar operation. Trolley buses and streetcars shared Union for a short time until the D became the 45-line bus. Walt Vielbaum photo.

In the various plans coming forth right after the war, the F and H lines were generally marked for retention; thus the investment in the extensions. But most of the original H-line route, on Van Ness and Potrero, was also US 101, and the State Division of Highways had a big say in what happened on those streets. With plans being made for heavy residential development in Marin County, across the Golden Gate Bridge, it seemed certain that automobile demands on Van Ness would increase rapidly. Some grumbled that streetcars stopping frequently in the ‘fast lane’ of the broad street would hold up automobiles. Running the modern streetcars on Van Ness might have counteracted this pressure somewhat, but there was resistance in Muni to using its newest cars on the beat up track on the ex-MSRy route south of Army Street.

The F-Stockton posed a different problem. Muni’s new streetcars were wide, but the F-line used Muni’s oldest ‘A-type’ cars because they were also its narrowest, and could more easily squeeze past the delivery trucks on the commercial streets that made up most of the route. Trolley coaches, not stuck on rails, could at least swing around traffic that got in their way, and on Stockton Street, especially in Chinatown, that came to be seen as an appealing alternative, especially when F-line riders were still using 1912-vintage streetcars.

Streetcars saved on the J and M
Muni had enough trolley coaches to convert the F-Stockton because it had been foiled in its plans to create the 46-Church trolley coach line. The J-line streetcar ran (and still runs) on a scenic private right-of-way to negotiate steep Dolores Heights, but it didn’t have any tunnels such as were protecting other lines’ streetcars. J-line ridership was lower than either the F or H and trolley coaches could easily handle the grades involved. But J-line riders in Noe Valley — and politicians who lived nearby — raised a fuss, and the streetcars were saved, making the replacement trolley coaches available for other conversions.

whatmighthavebeen1-7-mcvay.jpgNorth Beach in 1947, before the tourists. Muni workers are repairing the cable car curve at Mason & Columbus. Soon afterwards, in 1951, the F‑Stockton streetcar line disappeared from this scene, despite efforts to save it. Here, F-line car No. 32 is held up by the repairs, since the streetcars and cable cars shared unusual dual-gauge trackage for two blocks on Columbus. That’s a Powell-Mason cable in the distance about to turn onto Taylor, with Mt. Tamalpais in the background. After the streetcar tracks were removed, you could still see remnants of the crossing points and feel a slight extra thump when you crossed the spot on a cable car. But that last memory vanished in 1983, when the cable car tracks were ripped out and completely rebuilt … in the curb lanes of Columbus Avenue, not the center lanes where they traditionally ran. Bob McVay photo, Walter Rice collection.

Surprisingly to many riders today, the M-Ocean View was slated for bus conversion as well. Built in 1925, it ran through wide-open spaces on 19th Avenue that proved slower than expected to develop. But right after the war, the development of the Parkmerced apartment complex next to the M-line made planners think twice about dumping it. So did a 1948 plan by engineering firm DeLeuw Cather that recommended the M-line right-of-way as a rapid transit line (a proposal made again in conjunction with BART in the 1960s). The stunning aspect of that plan, however, was a grid of freeways beyond even what the State later proposed (and which caused the historic ‘freeway revolt’ of the late 1950s and 1960s. The car was queen in this plan … surface transit the ugly stepchild.

Looking back, there were many factors combining to truncate San Francisco’s streetcar system after World War II. But the requirement for two crew members, even on modern streetcars, clearly played a dominant role. In a 1949 report on the Muni to the Board of Supervisors, consulting engineer Arthur Jenkins noted, “Almost every city in the country that still continues to operate streetcar service uses one-man cars with the notable exception of San Francisco.” He went on to state, “It has been generally true throughout the industry that use of one-man cars has not been adopted primarily as a means of increasing profits to owners, but as a means of remaining in business at all.”

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What Might Have Been: Geary

A recent post over at the Transbay Blog on the old B-Geary streetcar line inspired us to republish and update the following story from our Fall 2002 member newsletter, Inside Track. In a previous issue, we had looked at the decisions made — and not made — that doomed streetcar service on the original F-line (today’s 30-Stockton bus) and the old H-line (on Van Ness and Potrero Avenues). Their demise at the beginning of the 1950s left San Francisco with just seven streetcar lines, down from a high of around 50. And the clock was ticking for two of them…

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Torpedo tease. For a brief time, Muni ran some of its double-end modern cars in regular service on the B-Geary, but only on Saturdays. Here’s ‘torpedo’ PCC No. 1006 on 33rd Avenue bound for Playland-at-the-Beach around 1952. Will Whittaker photo.

Muni’s roots were firmly planted on Geary. Its first ten streetcars headed west from the foot of Geary at 12 Noon, December 28, 1912, penetrating deep into the sparsely-developed Richmond District via that thoroughfare, and soon reaching Ocean Beach by jogging over on 33rd Avenue, Balboa, 45th, and Cabrillo.

Muni’s nerve center was on Geary, too — its first car house, with headquarters space added on top, sat just about halfway between the Ferries and the Beach, at Geary & Presidio Avenue. The car house served more than just the Geary lines. The cute ‘dinkies’ of the E-Union line were tucked away downstairs. A fleet of ‘battleships’ or ‘boxcars’, as Muni’s original bulky streetcars were variously called in early years, cruised off to serve other lines, including the N-Judah and J-Church, as well as the F-Stockton and D-Geary-Van Ness. Though a trolley coach division was added behind the car house in 1949, Muni’s top executives still worked, literally, right on top of streetcars.

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Magic Carpet ride. Along with ‘torpedos’ No. 1006-1015, Muni sometimes dispatched its five 1939 PCC-look-alike ‘Magic Carpet’ cars on the B on Saturdays. Here’s No. 1005 ready to depart East Bay Terminal, signed for the B, but wait a minute. The paint scheme shows that the car has been single-ended, which happened after modern cars were pulled from Geary Saturday service. So this is probably a railfan trip. Clark Frazier photo.

But by 1951, the City Charter requirement that streetcars operate with crews of two was putting pressure on the remaining lines. Buses only required one operator, and Muni had already converted all the streetcar lines it inherited from our namesake, the Market Street Railway Company. Four of Muni’s own streetcar lines, the D, E, F, and H, were also newly ‘bus-ified’. And by 1952, buses had even replaced streetcars nights and Sundays on all seven surviving streetcar lines (except the Market Street and Twin Peaks Tunnel section of the L). Many riders, accustomed to the streetcars, were unhappy, but Muni management, citing labor costs, felt they had no choice.

Politicians and the public in that era were not accustomed to subsidizing mass transit. It was expected to ‘pay its way’ through farebox revenues, and until that time, Muni had. But more and more lines were slipping into operating deficits. In the 1952-53 fiscal year, for example, Muni figures showed that the streetcar lines collectively lost almost half a million dollars, while the new trolley bus routes (which all replaced streetcars) made an operating profit of almost two million dollars. Of the seven streetcar lines, only the B and C made an operating profit. (The K and L, on the other hand, were the biggest losers in the entire Muni system.) And the B-bus, which operated nights and Sundays, made a significantly higher profit per operating hour than the B and C streetcars it replaced.

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Modern median. In 1948, Muni rebuilt the B-line tracks between Presidio and Divisadero when Geary was widened there. The result was a fast efficient operation that could have easily been extended to the subsequent Geary Expressway, later built through the Western Addition. Clark Frazier photo.

Muni had only fifteen modern streetcars at this point. But using the last of the 1947 bond issue funds, they were able to buy 25 more PCCs, numbered 1016-1040. (These turned out to be the last PCCs ever built in North America. Ten of these cars have been preserved for future restoration by Muni, with Market Street Railway’s help.) Muni hoped to run these cars with a single operator, but voters said “No” in late 1951, so they were set up as two-operator cars. At first these cars were assigned to Geary Division, but not to the B-Geary line. Rather, they worked the K, L, and N lines.

PCCs on the B — briefly

As Muni’s first single-end streetcars, though, they had no way to turn around at the Geary car house. So before going into service on one of the Market Street lines, these ‘Baby Tens’ had to go all the way out to Ocean Beach on the B, take the terminal loop, and make a full trip inbound, signed “B-Geary/Bridge”. This gave some riders the belief that these fast, quiet cars were on their line to stay. A similar impression came from the double-ended PCCs that were occasionally assigned to Saturday runs on the B.

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Hollowed ground. The Geary Expressway included a gouged-out underpass at Fillmore Street. The ramp starts just past where the streetcar is, at Steiner. The buildings on the left were all demolished for the Expressway. Clark Frazier photo.

Not for long. By 1953, all 40 of Muni’s modern streetcars (35 PCCs and five PCC look-alike ‘Magic Carpets’) were ensconced at Geneva Division, completely divorced from operation on Geary. Some speculate that this was part of a conscious plan to drive streetcars from Geary, but it may simply be that Muni officials knew there was no near-term prospect of having enough PCCs to completely modernize Geary service — more than 75 cars were needed for the B and C lines (by this time the C was essentially a short-turn B, turning north for just two blocks on Second Avenue and terminating). Besides, the fully enclosed PCCs were far more comfortable to ride through the tunnels than the drafty ‘boxcars’, and faster too.

So Geary Division was again home only to the old-style streetcars. Some of these cars were ‘only’ 25 years old, and all had been kept in good shape. Muni installed doors on the formerly open ends of some of the old cars and upgraded them cosmetically as well. Muni management still hoped to win voter approval to operate its entire streetcar fleet with single-person crews, significantly cutting labor costs, but the carmen’s union was staunchly opposed to changing the status quo for the old cars. A compromise, finally approved by voters in 1954, allowed only newer-type streetcars to have single operators. The PCCs were quickly converted to one-operator, and Muni began thinking about additional PCCs. But no one was building new PCCs, and anyway, the City did not have the capital to replace all its old streetcars — or for that matter, its aging buses either.

Auto mania

About this time, ‘auto mania’ reached its peak in San Francisco. Many streets downtown were made one-way, including the pair that flanked Geary — Post and O’Farrell — dooming the inner end of the wonderful O’Farrell, Jones, and Hyde Street cable car line in the process. Big automobile garages were built for shoppers and commuters. Numerous proposed freeways slashed across planners’ maps. In this context, many thought the old-fashioned streetcars assigned to Geary looked more and more antiquated, almost like the cable cars on Powell.

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Which line is it anyway? Muni scheduled a few odd runs on the B-line. Here, an N-Judah car reverses at Playland next to a B. This run pulled out from Geary and Presidio, ran to the Beach, then all the way to East Bay Terminal before actually heading out the N to begin its “normal” day. Clark Frazier photo.

Certainly that belief was shared by many merchants on Geary Boulevard, the wide section of the thoroughfare running westward from Masonic Avenue through the Richmond. They were lobbying City Hall for a ‘Great Wide Way’, replacing streetcars with buses … and more parking for automobiles.

Planners who were eying the part of Geary between the Richmond and Downtown echoed this pro-auto sentiment. The Western Addition had been a vibrant community of Victorian homes before World War II. The section along Geary was populated mainly by Japanese-Americans. When World War II started, they were infamously hauled away to internment camps. African-American newcomers, who had come west to work in war industries, largely took their place. By the mid-1950s, there was talk of ripping down the Victorians along that part of Geary to gouge out a broad expressway to get automobiles downtown more quickly.

But the streetcars were in the way. Certainly the tracks could be rebuilt, as they were in 1948 when Geary was widened between Masonic and Divisadero. But, said the critics, it would be expensive, and why keep running those clunky old ‘trolley cars’ anyway? (In the San Francisco of those days, ‘streetcar’ had been the universally used term for the vehicles. Opponents began using ‘trolley cars’ as an epithet to conjure up the slow and inefficient ‘Toonerville Trolley’ of cartoon fame.)

Subway dreams

One last factor in the mix … rapid transit. The demand was certainly there: except for Market Street, Geary was the busiest transit corridor in the city. While the western half of Geary was wide, the eastern half was narrow and congested. Muni’s first 43 streetcars were built narrower than usual, specifically for operation on Geary (though most were quickly switched to the even more congested F-Stockton line when it opened). A subway under Geary downtown and through the Western Addition, surfacing at Steiner Street, was proposed as early as 1936. It would have used conventional streetcars, and, had it been built — at a then-projected cost of $13 million — it might have forestalled the automobile expressway. But it was the depths of the Depression, and there was just no money available.

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Which line is it anyway? Muni scheduled a few odd runs on the B-line. Here, a J-Church at 33rd and Geary is making the short turn to head inbound, one of a few J runs that followed this practice. Since they always used double-end cars, these runs could have headed straight downtown from the car barn. The extra trip on the B may have been to provide additional rush hour service on the heavily traveled line, or just to fill out the schedule for the run. Clark Frazier photo.

By the mid-1950s, this concept had evolved into a scheme for a heavy-rail subway carrying regional trains from the East Bay to the Golden Gate Bridge and into Marin County. The future of transit on Geary became an issue in the mayoral election of 1955. The winner, George Christopher, had pledged to keep streetcars on Geary at least until rapid transit plans were further advanced.

About this time, a civic committee led by hotelier Ben Swig came up with a creative financing idea for Muni: lease vehicles instead of buying them. After a struggle, they found one bus builder, Mack, willing to go that route. But streetcars were something else. Many properties around the country were converting to buses, and there were used PCCs available for sale, though not (at that time) for lease. And after defeat of another bond issue in 1953, Muni had no money to buy.

Good-bye, B

The combination of pressures — auto mania, the high labor cost of two-operator streetcars, the desire of planners to bulldoze the Western Addition, and the promise of a subway — combined to change Christopher’s mind after he took office. Muni’s oldest streetcar corridor was doomed. Just before 1956 ended, so did the B and C lines. Railfans and many residents mourned to no avail. Geary was now served by the 38- line, operated by the new, leased, Mack diesel buses.

Too little, too late

At just this juncture, Muni finally found some PCC streetcars it could afford. St. Louis Public Service, which was undergoing its own bus conversion, agreed to lease Muni 66 (ultimately 70) 1946-vintage PCCs. This gave Muni (barely) enough one-operator streetcars to retire all the remaining two-operator ‘boxcars’ on the remaining five lines by 1958. But it wasn’t enough to save streetcars on Geary.

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The big squeeze. When Geary Street was two-way downtown, it was a squeeze for Muni’s full width ‘Iron Monsters’. This problem was recognized as soon as the line opened in 1912, and repeated proposals for a subway beneath Geary followed. Clark Frazier photo.

Soon after, ‘auto mania’ subsided in San Francisco. Outraged by the ugly Embarcadero Freeway, which opened just as the B was disappearing, and by proposals to cut freeways through Golden Gate Park, San Francisco’s ‘freeway revolt’, the first of its kind in the nation, lashed back at the ‘asphalt jungle’. However, with the increasingly powerful Redevelopment Agency as the spearhead, the Geary Expressway did get built in the early 1960s, at the cost of hundreds of homes.

Perhaps if the freeway revolt had occurred a few years sooner, perhaps if one-operator streetcars had been approved a few years sooner, perhaps if leased PCCs had been available a few years sooner … perhaps if these things had happened, the B might have survived as a streetcar line. But they didn’t happen. The view of the powerful interests that ruled San Francisco at the time was that streetcars were out of step with modern times, and so they only survived where it was too difficult to replace them with buses: the tunnel lines, and the J-Church, where neighbors rallied in defense of their preferred transit mode.

What might yet be

Still, the 38-line bus was seen as an interim operation. The original BART proposal in the late 1950s included a line under Geary and across the Golden Gate Bridge, but Marin County pulled out of the district, killing that concept. A Muni Metro Geary subway was part of a rapid transit package put to San Francisco voters in 1966, but they said “No.”

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Too late. The last PCC ever built in North America, car No. 1040, carries a group of railfans out Geary for one last run the day after the line shut down for passenger service in 1956. If one-operator cars like this could have been acquired in sufficient numbers and assigned to Geary in the early 1950s, the line might have been saved. But it wasn’t to be. Clark Frazier photo.

Muni seriously proposed a Geary subway and light-rail line again in the late 1980s as part of a sales tax increase ballot measure, which also included a light rail proposal on Third Street. Voters approved, but a tepid reception among Geary residents and businesses led to further deferral of the Geary subway dream.

When we first published this story in our member newsletter in 2002, Muni was talking about a Geary subway again, at least conceptually. Muni’s “Rapid Transit Vision for San Francisco” called for a Geary subway (Downtown to Cathedral Hill) and surface (west of Laguna) light-rail line “next in priority for major investment behind the Central Subway” (under Third/Fourth and Stockton Streets). Since that time, the alternative concept of “bus rapid transit” has gained the (pardon the expression) inside track for Geary, but rail advocates hope it might be a stepping stone to a subway-surface line served by light rail vehicles. Should that ever happen, there will be considerable sentiment to restore the ‘B-Geary’ designation as a nod to this major piece of Muni history.

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Streetcar Rebuilding Proposals Delayed

Muni has two major requests for proposals to rebuild vintage streetcars out on the street. One proposal would renovate sixteen streamlined PCC streetcars to double the existing fleet of that type of car. The other would restore Muni’s flagship streetcar, vintage-1912 car No. 1, to its original glory in preparation for Muni’s centennial in 2012.

Prospective bidders have asked for 30-day extensions on both contracts, and Muni has agreed. So the new due dates for proposals are September 27 for Car No. 1, and October 18 for the PCCs.

We’ll keep you informed of the progress on these proposals.

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Important Muni Meeting Tuesday

Transit Effectiveness Project LogoMuni has been working on its Transit Effectiveness Project for two years now, trying to make service more effective. This is an important project, because it will determine which lines receive the most operating and capital funding, based on how they fit into the overall network and how many people they carry. “Rapid” is the highest category. We at MSR are pleased to see that after staff initially classified the “F” line as “local” service (even though it met every criterion they set out for “Rapid”), they looked more closely and reclassified both the F and the future E-line as Rapid.

You may have other lines you care deeply about. If so, you should consider going to City Hall, Room 400, at either 3:30 or 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, September 16 for public hearings on the TEP before the Board of Directors of Muni’s parent, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Speaking up can make a difference — supporting the F and E lines as part of the “Rapid Network”, supporting the TEPs call for increased service on the F, and early start up of the E, or expressing your views on other Muni lines important to you.

Here’s a complete look at the TEP, including line-by-line impacts. You can also email your comments on the TEP to MTA Board members before the meeting.

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E for Excellent, Embarcadero Streetcar Line Proves Popular

Rick Laubscher photo. It was a great day on The Embarcadero Sunday, with 1914 Muni ‘Iron Monster’ No. 162 going into regular passenger service for the first time in 50 years. Fittingly for the ‘newest’ vintage streetcar, it ran in demonstration service on the ‘new’ E-Embarcadero line, operating flawlessly all day and drawing scads of riders and photographers. No. 162 was joined in the demonstration service by New Orleans ‘Desire’ No. 952 and double-end PCCs Nos. 1007 and 1015. View… — Read More

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Iron Monster to Run Sunday on the E-line

Vintage car No. 162 near AT&T Park, returning to the barn on June 1, 2008 after being displayed at the APTA Rail Conference. Robert Parks photo. Muni’s ‘newest’ vintage streetcar, No. 162 (built for Muni in 1914, retired in 1958, reacquired with Market Street Railway member donations in 2003, restored by our volunteers and Muni) will be on the tracks Sunday, September 14th as part of the special E-Embarcadero demonstration service from Caltrain to Pier 39. The special service will… — Read More

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PCC Streetcar Makes a Cameo in Harvey Milk Movie

Focus Features photo. The much anticipated movie about Harvey Milk, shot on location in San Francisco, is coming up on its Thanksgiving Day release, and a long trailer is now available. F-line PCC No. 1051 appears as an extra. That’s the car in the simplified Muni green and cream livery, appropriate for the 1978 period of the movie (though you would have been hard pressed to find any PCCs that shiny by that point). And if you pause the clip… — Read More

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Ride the E-Embarcadero Line to South Beach

This September 14th, Muni will once again be running historic streetcars in demonstration service for the E-Embarcadero line. This time it covers both the Sunday Streets event in the morning and a neighborhood fair in the afternoon, so the E-line streetcars will operate from Caltrain to Pier 39 from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. Rides will be free all day. UPDATE: We’ve confirmed that 1914 Muni ‘Iron Monster’ No. 162 will be one of the streetcars operating on the E-line… — Read More

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Special Delivery

As part of our mission, Market Street Railway creates displays on-board the historic streetcars to educate San Franciscans and visitors on interesting aspects of the city’s transit history. We call it the Museums in Motion project. This is an online version of one of those displays. Hand-tinted post card of a cable car RPO at the Ferry Building, around 1900. Cities require commerce to prosper. Getting parcels and letters delivered quickly has always been important. In San Francisco around the… — Read More

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Great History Lessons a Click Away

If you’re interested in reading some well-written (and accurate!) San Francisco transit history and musing on some very important “might-have-beens,” check out two recent entries on the Transbay Blog. Eric, the blogger, is a sharp observer and smooth writer. For years now, we’ve had in our ‘future file’ for Inside Track (our quarterly printed newsletter) the proposed Muni subway system that went down to defeat on the 1937 ballot. Eric beat us to it. He’s also written a comprehensive entry… — Read More

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Seeing Red Again on Powell Street

Will you look this good at 118? This Powell Street cable car (at least part of it) has been riding the rails since 1890. On May 28, it returned to service in the flamboyant livery it wore at the time of the 1906 earthquake and fire. Neither of the landmarks it shares the frame with — Coit Tower (1933) and Sts. Peter & Paul Church (1924) — go back that far. Rick Laubscher photo. On a crisp May morning on… — Read More

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Accident Car Back in Service Already

PCC No. 1061 on its first day back in service, August 31, 2008. Rick Laubscher photo. Amid the crowds of the Sunday Streets San Francisco event on The Embarcadero this Sunday, August 31st, a red streetcar slipped quietly back into service. F-line PCC No. 1061 — the ‘Los Angeles Pacific Electric’ car — was on the road again after being rear-ended on August 4th by Milan tram No. 1807. The Muni body shop jumped right on the job and straightened… — Read More

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California Street Cable Car Extension?

San Francisco Municipal Railway photo. We’ve had a number of recent comments on the blog about possible cable car extensions. Ever since 1954, when the cable car system was cut in half, there has been talk now and again of “making it right,” most specifically restoring the outer portion of the California line, which used to run through Pacific Heights all the way to Presidio Avenue, instead of ending at Van Ness as it has since. There’s no question that… — Read More

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