Photo of the Moment

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The moment is late morning. The streetcar is DC Transit painted 1076, and the photo is as study of light and texture. What comes to mind when I look at this photo is the feeling of “homeyness” that can be experienced while on board a PCC. The comfort of a padded seat. The feeling of openness as the light shines through the standee windows. The soft light provided by the  incandescent lights overhead. The feeling of smooth Stainless Steel in one’s hand as they reach for the stanchion. The thought that follows is the difference between a PCC’s interior and the almost “sterile” environment inside one of Muni Metro’s Breda LRVs. Two different eras of transit vehicles that share space in the same city…So very close, yet so very different.

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F-line Defenders Say “Leave Our Streetcars on Market Street”

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If not for the broken Bay Bridge, it would have been the biggest transportation story of the day: the reaction to Mayor Newsom’s musings about eventually removing all Muni service, including the F-line, from Market Street. The chatter started in Blogsville the moment the Mayor appeared looking pensive on the front page of the Examiner yesterday.
Streetsblog reckoned that Newsom is probably not serious, and then tried to nudge him away from the thought by quoting a variety of transportation “hitters” as saying 1) it won’t work and 2) he doesn’t really mean it.
Curbed SF covered it too, in generally the same way, even using one of Todd Lappin’s great photos (which is featured in our 2010 calendar) to illustrate the piece.

But what we like the best is the comments on these and other blogs, including our own. Not much love given to Muni’s bus lines, but some fierce defense of the F-line streetcars.

  • “How tone
    deaf to the aesthetics of cities can people be? The street car line is
    the only good thing to happen to Market street in the many decades of
    taking millions upon millions of Federal highway funds…”
  • “Banning the historical streetcars on Market would be a political
    nonstarter. If it does go through, I want to take a match to Gavin’s
    flammable hair.”
  • “Enough already, Gavin! This is just ridiculous — the F Line is about
    the only thing left that still gives Market some cosmopolitan
    character, and the city spent tons of money to put it in. And it stops
    for red lights, unlike most bicyclists.”
  • “I can understand the removal of cars and diverting some of MUNI’s bus
    service, but the removal of the “F” line is idiotic. I’ve seen
    streetcars in major arteries (without cars) work very successfully.”
  • “I don’t
    understand how people like me (too old with ancient knee injury) are
    supposed to get downtown to support local merchants if you take away
    the streetcars.”
  • “Bad idea. *Maybe* ban buses on Market, but definitely not the street cars. Instead, can we ban half-naked bums who poop on the sidewalk? Now that would be progress for Market Street!”
  • “I”d love to get buses off of Market Street. let’s build a few more streetcar lines..”
  • “IMHO, the historic streetcars are one of the best thing to have happened to Market Street in years.”
  • “This is
    the first time that I have seen near consensus in a comments field on
    this blog! If that’s not an indictment of this idea I don’t know what
    one is!”

Don’t be surprised if you don’t hear any more about this idea from City Hall.

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Ex-Newark PCC Streetcars Proliferating on F-line

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Birmingham Electric No. 1077 followed by San Diego No. 1078 at Fisherman’s Wharf. Kevin Sheridan photo.

Egad. In the week following the formal finalization of the contract to rewire all eleven PCC streetcars bought from Newark, New Jersey, those streamliners seemed to be everywhere on the F-line. It was almost like they wanted to show that, “Hey, don’t send me to the hospital, I’m just fine…see?”
The “Notice to Proceed,” authorizing Brookville Equipment Corporation to start work on the $18 million contract to rewire these eleven cars and completely rebuild five currently derelict PCCs for Muni, came on October 14, and Brookville could start picking up cars at any time. (Muni will determine in what order they go away, but rumor has it that 1952 Muni PCC No. 1040, the last of some 4,500 cars of this type to be built in North America, will be among the first, along with Detroit No. 1079.)

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Cleveland No. 1075 at Jones and Jefferson with streetcars 1075 & 1050. Peter Ehrlich photo.

Back to the ex-Newarks, which we refer to as the 1070-class, reflecting their car numbers. Besides No. 1076, in Washington’s DC Transit livery, which has finished its testing and entered passenger service today, Cleveland Streetcar No. 1075 and San Diego Streetcar No. 1078 have been in regular service lately as has fleet workhorse Birmingham Streetcar No. 1077, which has run up the most service miles by far of any 1070-class car.
This doesn’t mean that the cars aren’t still in need of rewiring. On all but 1077 and (still “new”) 1076, Muni has expended extra maintenance time because of repeated wiring problems. But we now have four of these eleven cars in service at once, as many as we’ve ever had. And the betting from here is that those four will be the last to go back for their wiring fix.

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Mayor Wants Muni Off Market Street?

This morning’s Examiner has a startling story: Mayor Gavin Newsom is dreaming about going way beyond the current test auto restrictions on Market Street, and move all vehicles, including Muni buses and F-line streetcars off the street.
The article says Newsom is raising the possibility of rerouting “Muni to Mission Street or another nearby street so that Market Street could be transformed into a place solely for cyclists and pedestrians, and include such amenities as tables and chairs in the
center of the thoroughfare.”

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The article says Newsom acknowledged the idea is a long way from reality.  “That’s not being contemplated in the immediate term, but data
collection will afford us the opportunity to determine if that’s a
viable option,” he told the Examiner.
Several community leaders are quoted in the article as expressing skepticism of the plan. A similar plan put forward almost 40 years ago to try to turn back or reroute Muni lines off Market fell of its own weight.
Beyond the cost of moving the F-line tracks and overhead anywhere else, the lack of capacity for 12 additional Muni lines on Mission Street, or the reaction of Market Street/Union Square merchants and SOMA neighbors to the impacts, there’s the obvious inconvenience to tens of thousands of daily Muni riders on the surface of Market Street who won’t want to be forced to transfer onto overcrowded Muni Metro trains or make their surface journey even longer with a permanent detour in the wrong direction.  So our guess here is that either the Mayor was just musing about Nirvana or was somehow misunderstood by the reporter.
As we’ve advocated for years, less automobile traffic on downtown Market Street is a plus.  We’ve noticed during the current test that there’s still too many cars holding up Muni vehicles eastbound between Third and First, and we’d support testing additional restrictions (something Newsom also mentions in the article).  The great photo taken by Todd Lappin in this post shows what can Market Street can feel like when automobiles don’t dominate. Yet there are practical limits, so we won’t be planning to enjoy croissants and a latte at a cafe table stylishly located atop the BART ventilator in the middle of a Muni-free Market Street. 
But you bet we’re keeping an eye on this.

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Capital Addition to the Active F-Line Fleet

A “new” streamliner PCC streetcar is about to start carrying passengers on the F-line and it’s an eye-popper. Streetcar No. 1076, built in 1946 and painted to honor Washington’s DC Transit in unlikely shades of aqua and coral, is now running around Muni’s streetcar system tracks in the final stages of testing before entering service. This is one of the eleven streetcars acquired by Muni in 2002. This group of cars got cosmetic restorations, but the wiring wasn’t replaced and… — Read More

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Free F-line Service This Weekend for Fleet Week

In case you haven’t noticed the Blue Angels’ rehearsal flights over San Francisco in the last few day, U.S. Navy Fleet Week kicks off tomorrow with the Parade of Ships beginning at 11:30am. The Blue Angels, courtesy U.S. Navy. Thanks to event sponsor CVS/Pharmacy service to and from this weekends events on the wharves on the F-Market & Wharves historic streetcar will be be free both Saturday and Sunday. Muni will be adding extra service to both the F-line and… — Read More

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Second Melbourne Tram Joins San Francisco’s F-line Historic Streetcar Fleet

Melbourne tram No. 916 on San Francisco’s Market Street. Jamison Wieser photo. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom was on hand this morning to personally accept the gift of a tram (as streetcars are known to most of the world) built in 1946 for Melbourne, Australian by John Brumby, MP, State Premier of Victoria. The new addition will join a patchwork fleet of historic streetcars, trolleys and trams which San Francisco has been collecting from around the world. The fleet already… — Read More

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New Melbourne Tram Dedication October 7

Muni’s latest vintage streetcar, 1946 Melbourne tram No. 916, will formally join the historic fleet Wednesday morning, October 7, at ceremony to be held in the Embarcadero median across from the San Francisco Railway Museum at 9:45 a.m. The ceremony, just south of the Ferry Building, will feature No. 916 and sister tram No. 496, along with speeches by officials from the Victoria State government, which owns Melbourne’s trams, and San Francisco city officials. A small number of invited officials… — Read More

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