Nolte Nails It

Carl Nolte, whom I’ve long considered the best pure writer on the Chronicle staff, puts his finger on it in his Sunday column, “Native Son.” Streetcars in San Francisco are cool again. I’d actually go further (and will, in the cover story of our next member newsletter, Inside Track)–to the general public (as opposed to railfans), streetcars are cooler than ever! By the way, Carl’s a reader of this blog — he told me he got his lead, the Monsters-on-a-Milan, from our posting. His article’s worth the read.

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Take Me Out…

F-Liners softball team logo…is not just the name of our nostalgic exhibit at the San Francisco Railway Museum, celebrating the days when the family car was a streetcar in San Francisco. It’s also a reminder that baseball season is about to start. No, not major league, but something more important: the “F-liners.” They’re a softball team in the SF Gay Softball League, founded in 2001 and named, yes, for the F-line. They play their first game (games, actually, a doubleheader) Sunday, March 22 at Moscone Field.
Market Street Railway members, watch for your next Inside Track, coming out in April, with a cover story on the many ways the F-line vintage streetcars have become part of the fabric of the city, and a potent promotional tool for San Francisco.

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$2.50 for an F-line ride?

Maybe. For the first time, Muni staff is officially raising the prospect of a different F‑line fare with its governing board.

Muni Circular Logo

The agenda for the SFMTA (Muni) Board of Directors meeting for March 17 includes a downloadable PDF for item 11, a budget synopis by the CFO, revealing that Muni’s projected deficit for the next fiscal year is much worse than previously predicted: $129 million.

The budget report contains a number of options — not recommendations — for closing the budget gap. These include every employee at Muni not showing for work (or getting paid) one day per month; various reductions of service levels (3%, 5%, or 8%) for motor coaches and trolley coaches (but not rail); various parking and fee increases, and — a fare increase for the F-line, from $1.50 to $2.50 for riders paying cash. This move would increase revenue by an estimated $1 million.

Again, note that this is one item on a laundry list of options. Other fare increase options include raising all streetcar and bus cash fares from the urrent $1.50, in place for 3 1/2 years, to either $1.75 (which would raise $7 million) or $2.00 (which would raise $14 million).

Market Street Railway’s position on F-line fares has always been that they should be the same as basic Muni service. It’s the neighborhood trolley for the Castro, Downtown, Golden Gateway, and other neighborhoods. At the same time, we recognize that the base fare has to go up periodically as costs do — and Muni’s base fare hasn’t increased since 2005 and is now considerably lower than most U.S. transit properties.

Currently, public hearings to consider any fare change are scheduled on April 7 and 21. We will keep you up to date on what’s going on here.

Update: The idea of a separate fare for the F-line never made it to the discussion stage in front of the Muni board. A general fare increase seems inevitable given the budget situation, but the F-line will be treated the same as all the other bus and streetcar lines.

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Who Needs to Fly?

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The Inside Track exhibit contains several simulated layouts as well as a vast expanse of individual locomotives, freight and passenger cars, and accessories.

Knowing that fans of San Francisco’s vintage streetcars have lots of related interests, we’ve been venturing a bit afield on this blog … last post was vintage amphibious vehicles. This time it’s toy trains in an airplane palace. That would be the International Terminal at SFO, where through early April there’s a great exhibit of toy trains spanning the 20th century, mostly Lionel, but with plenty of variety thrown in.

While I was a Lionel kid myself (and still set ’em up for my kids every Christmas), I never knew that the company made toy trolleys early in the century. As the exhibit notes:

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A 1916 Lionel model Pay-As-You-Enter trolley.

“At the turn of the century, trolley cars served as the major form of mass transit in many American cities, and Lionel mirrored this trend by selling a variety of toy trolleys. In 1916, the Pay-As-You-Enter Trolley [pictured here] came in motorized and trailer versions in cream, olive green, or orange. Lionel abandoned its extensive trolley line by the mid-teens due to the increasing popularity of toy trains.”

But not completely. The exhibit also includes the Lionelville Trolley from the 1950s, modeled on a Birney. Overwhelmingly, though, the exhibit is trains, and it is glorious to see. It’s only up through early April, so don’t delay.

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Interior of the Louis Turpen Aviation Museum at SFO’s International Terminal.

While you’re there, walk a few steps to see the Louis Turpen Aviation Museum near the train exhibit, set in a wonderful recreation of the passenger waiting room at old Mills Field, SFO’s predecessor. The current exhibit is called, “Painted Wings, A HIstory of Airline Identity” with great brand and marketing materials from such bygone carriers as PanAm, PSA, Braniff, and Hughes AirWest. The Turpen Aviation Museum is open 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m Sunday through Friday, but closed on Saturdays.

Combine the two museum exhibits with a BART ride direct to the International Terminal, and who needs to fly?

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Just DUCK-y

At Market Street Railway, we focus on historic rail vehicles, but there are plenty of other historic vehicles in San Francisco as well, and we celebrate all of them. One group of interest are the DUKW vehicles run by Bay Quackers. Universally referred to as Ducks instead of their military acronym, these are the World War II-era amphibious vehicles you see carrying tourists along The Embarcadero from Fisherman’s Wharf to Mission Bay, where they plunge into the water for a… — Read More

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