Promising Start to Market Street Traffic Trials

Trial Forced Turn at Eighth Street

Bikes outnumber cars on Market these days. Jamison Wieser photo.

The trial project to reduce traffic on Market Street which started only yesterday has already gone beyond anything we’d expected. For the next 6 weeks, private traffic is being diverted off Market Street at both Eighth and Sixth Streets freeing up Market for bikes, taxis, delivery trucks and Muni’s busses and F-line streetcars. There’s no restrictions from turning onto Market, and while we didn’t expect anyone would choose to get back onto Market, we expected more drivers who already crossed Market downwind of these turns to take advantage of the reduced traffic.
Few drivers are choosing to do so and we only needed one hand to count the number of private vehicles passing through at Fourth Street over a 10 minute period this morning. We’re going to call it 4.5 since one was a vespa, which do count as private motor vehicles required to turn at Eighth and Sixth or face a ticket.
In their coverage Streetsblog emphasized the benefits for Muni:

Even though the F-line and most buses run in transit-only lanes in the center of Market through the affected stretch, [a Muni inspector] said the lack of cars cutting in illegally made a big difference.

Other drivers interviewed on the 5-Fulton, 21-Hayes, and 71-Haight nearly all used the same term – “smoother” – to describe their trips today. The lunchtime mini-rush hour was indeed smooth, said a 21-Hayes operator, who had heard from another driver that the morning commute, normally very congested, “was a lot quicker.”


Barcelona’s La Rambla is popular with locals and tourists alike. Jamison Wieser photo.

By no means does this mean all our traffic woes have been solved. Data will be collected throughout the trial to determine how much of an impact it has both on Market and the streets traffic is being diverted onto.
Everyone is invited to give feedback, but successfully revitalizing Market Street depends upon more than just sending an email to say you like the changes.
In the end though, people need to vote with their feet and visit, shop, dine and use Market Street if it’s going to become our own home-spun version of Barcelona’s La Rambla or Paris’s Champs-Élysées.
More Coverage:
» Market St. traffic test starts (SF Gate)
» Market Street Automobile Closure Day One – An Eyewitness Account (SFist)
» The New Market Street: 6th and 8th Street Turns (Transbay Blog)

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Better Market Street Program Begins

Changes to Market Street effective Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A new chapter begins tomorrow in the life of San Francisco’s grand boulevard. A trial project is beginning which discourages private vehicles traveling eastbound towards the waterfront using Market Street with forced right turns at Eighth Street and again at Sixth Street.
The six week trial is part of the Better Market Street Project, a partnership between five city agencies which aims to rejuvenate Market Street as San Francisco’s civic backbone. Over the next 6-12 months new street furniture will be installed along with additional greenery, outdoor restaurant seat and mini-plazas and plenty of new artwork including murals and installations in vacant store fronts.


Safety zones at intersections will receive improved signs and street markings like those in this TA concept.

We are excited about this project to make Market Street a “destination, not a thoroughfare” as Leah Shahum of the San Francisco Bike Coalition put it.
The F-Market & Wharves historic streetcar line already provides a unique and attractive transit option serving the entire Market Street corridor, but performance suffers (along with all Muni lines) from having to contend with privately owned vehicles which often back up at signals and prevent the buses and historic trolleys from being able to drop off and pick up passengers at the island stops. As a cyclist, I’ve had several close calls with drivers who weren’t paying attention and was once thrown from my bike (landing on my shoulder which hurt for days) when I had swerve into the center lane where my wheel got caught in the track.
A study found nudging eastbound drivers off Market with forced right turns could reduce traffic up to 35%, and transit delays by 19%, but we just won’t know until we try it. That translates into a better conditions for bikes and pedestrian along with faster, more reliable, and more cost effective Muni service. For businesses along Market that would mean more potential customers.
With any changes there’s a very serious risk of accidents because people are so used to how it is they don’t pay attention. So please pay careful attention out there and look out for one another. We recommend taking transit, especially the F.
» Better Market Street Program Home Page
» Better Market Street Facebook Page
» Market Street Pilot Program Great for F-line

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Painting Torpedoes (Part 5: Something Completely Different)

As we’ve seen in this series to date, there are many liveries (historic paint schemes) that could grace the three double-ended streetcars Muni is restoring for which final paint decisions haven’t yet been made. We’ve looked at possible liveries from cities that once ran double-end streamliner PCC streetcars, known at Muni as “torpedoes:” Dallas, Boston, the LA area, and San Francisco itself.

Pitt Mod Desire 1730.jpg

Pittsburgh’s “Mod Desire” livery, the word at the center of the cars is “trolley”

Now, we’re asking whether something completely different should be considered. Muni has painted all its streamliner PCCs so far to honor cities that once ran this most successful streetcar design. (They once ran in 30 cities in North America alone.) But there is also something of a tradition in the transit industry of painting a few cars in a fleet to be just plain attention-getters.

In the US, Pittsburgh did this, most famously with this car, which it dubbed “Mod Desire.” Painted in the 1970s, it sports a psychedelic rendition of the word “trolley” around the rear doors. It was part of an attempt to freshen up the PCC fleet with a variety of paint schemes (though none as wild as this one, which even drew attention from the New York Times.)


Another example: Melbourne, Australia, which commissioned artists to use a few of their W-class trams as canvasses in the 1970s. There was special interest in aboriginal and pop motifs in Melbourne, but the concept is a broad one, and could be extended to embrace a streetcar painted in a design created by a schoolkid, perhaps as a contest of some sort.
Alternatively, design professionals could be solicited for their visions of an “art streetcar,” on either a commission or contest basis.

w5_814 crop.jpg

If Black Rock City had a transit system we imagine it might look something like the Aboriginal design of this Melbourne tram.

Yet another approach would be to designate a streetcar to be painted in honor of Muni’s centennial in 2012 (the torpedoes should be back in San Francisco, fully restored, in 2011. This might include images or artistic impressions of key moments in San Francisco transit history. (Of course, this option might appear dated within a few years, but the car could be repainted into a conventional livery like Muni Wings then.

So those are some of the “completely different” concepts that would go beyond the “tribute liveries” that Muni has applied to its F-line PCC fleet to date. If you had the chance to do something completely different with a streetcar paint scheme, what would it be?

Because we’re talking “completely different,” please don’t use this comment space to rehash opinions about the alternatives discussed in parts 1-4 of this series. If you haven’t already shared your thoughts on those other alternatives, feel free to do so in the comment sections of those posts, rather than here.
We especially welcome comments from those we haven’t heard from yet.

Part 1: Dallas, Texas
Part 2: Boston, Massachusetts
Part 3: Pacific Electric
Part 4: San Francisco
Part 5: Something Completely Different

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Painting Torpedoes (Part 4: San Francisco)

This is the fourth in a series of posts concerning which historic paint schemes, or “liveries,” should be applied to the double-ended “torpedo” PCC streetcars about to be restored by Muni. (They’ve asked Market Street Railway for input, as their non-profit preservation partner, but the final decision is theirs.)

1006 B-Geary 33rd and Anza (c1953)

PCC No. 1006 in its original “Wings” livery in the early 1950s. Will Whittaker photo.

We’ve already looked at the possibility of liveries from other cities’ operations that once ran double-ended PCCs, such as Dallas, Texas, Boston, Massachusetts, and Pacific Electric of Southern California. Now it’s time to stay home and look at options in San Francisco.

Muni has already decided to paint at least one of the double-end PCCs being restored in a Muni livery. Car No. 1006 will wear its original 1948 green and cream paint scheme featuring “wings” (called fingers by some) of paint reaching back from the doors towards the center of the car. So will single-end PCC No. 1040, chosen for restoration in the same batch because it is the last of some 5,000 PCC streetcars built in North America between 1936 and 1952.
So there will be at least two additional PCCs in the Muni “Wings” livery that lasted (on some PCCs) right through to their “first” retirement in 1982. This could allow the future repainting of current F-line streetcar No. 1050, an ex-Philadelphia PCC, into a different livery, but that’s a subject for a separate post, so we’re going to talk only about the double-ended PCCs here.

simplified paint scheme

1009 displays Muni’s “simplified” paint scheme after being converted to single-end operation. Shown on the J-line at 20th Street in 1964. Walter Rice photo.

Muni’s “torpedoes,” as the ten big double-end cars numbered from 1006 to 1015 were called, were all converted to operate from one end only by the mid- to late-1950s. Since at that point they were always going in the same direction, it was no longer important to have a symmetrical livery (one that would look the same no matter which end of the car was going forward). So some, but not all, of the torpedoes received what Muni called its “simplified” green and cream paint scheme, so called because it took less time for painters to apply than did the “Wings.”

simplified paint scheme

1014 (at right) shows how Muni’s simplified paint scheme looked on the rear of the torpedoes after they were changed to single-end operation. Walter Rice photo.

This simplified scheme is represented in the current F-line fleet by ex-Philadelphia single-end streetcar No. 1051, and could also be applied to one of the double-end cars being restored, although on a torpedo the car would appear to be going “backward” when operated from its number 2 end.

In the late 1970s, near the end of Muni’s first PCC era, a handful of streetcars got a cosmetic refurbishment, which included the new “Landor” paint scheme created pro bono for Muni by famed San Francisco industrial designer Walter Landor. (This included the first use of Muni’s current wiggly logo, aka “the Worm.”) None of the torpedoes got this design in revenue service; however, No. 1008, one of the cars up for restoration, got a home-brew Muni version of it when it was converted into what its lettering described as a “repair car.” It is possible that a Landor livery could be applied to one of the cars.

PCCs in poppy gold at Transbay Terminal

Landor livery was applied to a handful of Muni’s PCC fleet, although not to any of the torpedoes. Jack Garcia photo, Peter Ehrlich collection through

Then there are the “fantasy liveries” that some railfans love to discuss. Muni itself actually brought one to life when the first group of torpedoes rejoined the active fleet in the mid-1990s.

At the insistence of a Muni manager (now retired), double-end car No.1007 originally operated in the same livery applied to Muni’s current Breda LRVs. It was very unpopular in part because it was deemed not historic, and was subsequently changed to honor Philadelphia’s Red Arrow line, which ran very similar double-end PCCs.

Yet it could be said that the current Muni gray and red livery is really just a modernized version of Muni’s very first streetcar livery, represented by 1912 Car No. 1. If Muni had acquired its first streamliner streetcars a year earlier than they did, they probably would have been painted like car No. 1. (As it was, the five streamliners Muni received in 1939 were the first to be painted blue and gold in honor of that year’s Treasure Island World’s Fair. F-line double-ender No. 1010 wears this livery today.) A possibility one of the torpedoes could be that original gray Muni livery, with red roofs and “Municipal Railway” in gold lettering above the windows.
And then there’s the ultimate San Francisco “what-if,” one we’ve heard suggested to us over and over by long-time San Franciscans.

Double-end White Front PCC model

Market Street Railway’s patented “White Front” livery with zip stripe on the sides on a model. Walter Rice photo.

Our namesake, Market Street Railway, made drawings of a PCC-type double-end streetcar in the late 1930s, resplendent in the company’s patented “White Front” livery (totally white ends for visibility in the fog) with a bright yellow roof and green sides with a racy “zip stripe” slashing across the sides.

Many of its old fashioned streetcars were repainted in this livery around this time in an attempt to make them look, well, less boxy. Market Street Railway never ordered any PCCs, but the idea retained its fascination for decades, so much so that a model company offered a detailed version of this “what-if” livery.

So, there are a number of choices for painting additional torpedoes (beyond No. 1006) in liveries that offer a tribute to bygone San Francisco days and dreams. More “Wings” liveries, duplicating No. 1006 (and No. 1040 as well as — for now at least — No. 1050), the “simplified” green and cream Muni logo some torpedoes wore in the 1960s and 1970s, the Landor livery worn by some Muni PCCs (but not torpedoes) in the late 1970s, or fantasy liveries such as an original Muni gray and red car or a Market Street Railway “White Front” PCC.
Lots of choices to consider in your comments, which you can post below.

Part 1: Dallas, Texas
Part 2: Boston, Massachusetts
Part 3: Pacific Electric
Part 4: San Francisco
Part 5: Something Completely Different

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What We Do and What We Don’t Do

Since our blog has attracted new readers of late, it’s a good time to make sure folks are clear on what Market Street Railway does, and what it doesn’t do. We are Muni’s non-profit preservation partner. Muni, a city agency, actually owns and operates the F-line and cable cars as part of San Francisco’s overall transit system, and are responsible for maintenance, security, and safety. San Francisco Municipal Railway What Muni (the transit division of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation… — Read More

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Painting Torpedoes (Part 3: Pacific Electric)

PE Car No. 5000 poses in sunlight, wearing a post-World War II version of its livery, with the original silver roof replaced by tan and the “Pacific Electric” lettering replaced by a logo. This is the third in a series of posts concerning which historic paint schemes, or “liveries,” should be applied to three of the double-ended “torpedo” PCC streetcars about to be restored by Muni. (They’ve asked Market Street Railway for input, as their non-profit preservation partner, but the… — Read More

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Down Under No More, Second Melbourne Tram Arrives

Melbourne tram No. 916 is here. Following its trans-Pacific voyage, the 1946 SW6 class tram, a generous gift to San Francisco from the government of the State of Victoria, Australia (facilitated by Market Street Railway), was unloaded last night at Muni Metro East. This morning, it ran under its own power via the T, F, and J lines to Geneva Division to be prepared for its formal Muni debut. The tram ran perfectly from the moment the pole was put… — Read More

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Painting Torpedoes (Part 2: Boston, Massachusetts)

With restoration about to begin on 16 historic PCC streetcars for the popular F-Market & Wharves line, Muni has asked Market Street Railway for thoughts on historic paint schemes, or “liveries,” for 3 of the double-ended “torpedo” cars. The final decision belongs to Muni, which of course owns the streetcars about to be restored. We’re taking a look at the different possibilities being considered, with our first focus on cities that actually ran double-end PCCs at one time. The first… — Read More

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Painting Torpedoes (Part 1: Dallas, Texas)

In their original service lives, from 1948 to around 1980, Muni’s biggest PCC streetcars were called “torpedoes,” because of their shape. Now, restoration is about to begin on four more of these double-end cars, which will retain their original Muni numbers of 1006, 1008, 1009, and 1011. Three other cars of this class, Nos. 1007, 1010, and 1015, are already in service on the F-line. Muni Car No. 1006 in 1951 at Chestnut and Fillmore, in its original green and… — Read More

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Market Street Pilot Program Great for F-line

PCC streetcars pass reach other on Market Street The city’s pilot program to greatly reduce automobile traffic on Market Street downtown gets two thumbs up from us. No surprise – Market Street Railway has been advocating this for years because it should make F-line service faster and more reliable. As reported in the Chronicle, the city has agreed to a six-week test starting September 29, forcing automobiles eastbound on Market to turn south on Tenth Street or Eighth Street, leaving… — Read More

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Happy Third Anniversary to Our Museum!

The San Francisco Railway Museum opened the Wednesday after Labor Day three years ago. If you’ve never visited, come on by. If you have, come see recent additions! Some folks, particularly from out of town, expect a huge hall with a bunch of streetcars and cable cars sitting on static display. Our manager, John Hogan, who is also one of the best ambassadors San Francisco has to its visitors, patiently explains that the real museums are just outside the door:… — Read More

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Shaping San Francisco

One of San Francisco’s under-sung heroes is Rick Prelinger, founder and curator of the Prelinger Archive. He has uncovered and preserved countless movie clips that document our city’s past. Quite a few of them feature streetcars and cable cars as part of the daily fabric of the city and a few focus on them, like this one, showing strikers going after a “scab streetcar” operated by United Railroads in 1917. A good fit for Labor Day weekend. For more interesting… — Read More

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