Fort Mason Streetcar Extension: Questions Answered

Some of you may have seen the Examiner article discussing the proposed streetcar extension to the western Wharf, Aquatic Park, and Fort Mason.  We’ve talked about the extension here before.  The planning process has been moving along with preparation of a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS), expected to be ready for public comment early next year when, to the surprise of virtually everyone involved in the project, Supervisor Michaela Alioto-Pier pops up and asks that no city money be appropriated for design or construction of the project until the EIS is complete and a funding plan is prepared.  (To which we say, fair enough — that’s pretty much the way the process works anyway.)
The supervisor raised several “concerns” cited in the article, but a check suggests that neither she nor her staff raised these concerns with either NPS or SFMTA project people before going public with them.  But here are the answers, one by one:

“Alioto-Pier said the extended F-line would invite Marin commuters to
park their cars all day in the Marina Green lot, increasing traffic
congestion for city residents.”

This statement has already been addressed by posters on other blogs with comments such as, “Marin commuters have nice comfy bus options to get downtown to work
each day. Only a complete nutter would drive across GG Bridge, pay
toll, try to find parking in the Marina, then pay to ride the F slowly
into downtown…”
Reinforcing that point is the fact that for more than 40 years, the 30x bus, which provides express service direct to the Financial District, has terminated far closer to the Marina Green parking lot than the Fort Mason Streetcar extension would without any perceivable impact on neighborhood parking.  (Of course, all street parking in the neighborhood already has limits for non-residents.)  And, word is that Rec & Park, which controls all the off-street parking in the Marina, is looking at fees and possible time limits anyway, independent of any other project.

“She also is concerned about the minimal
outreach directed at Marina residents and the lack of a coherent
funding plan for the $53 million project.”

First, outreach. The EIS process, which is being managed by the National Park Service, is very clear in its requirements for broad public outreach at the beginning of the process and again after a draft EIS has been prepared.  At the beginning of the process, a public scoping meeting was given wide neighborhood notice and attracted many residents.  We attended that meeting and reported the following at the time in our member newsletter, Inside Track:  “The overwhelming majority of speakers at the scoping meeting were wholly in favor of the extension. Even most of those who expressed specific concerns … supported the concept of the extension.”

It is important to note that there were a few Marina Boulevard homeowners at that scoping meeting who announced they would oppose any attempt to extend the streetcar beyond Fort Mason to the Presidio in front of their homes. They were reminded at the meeting that this project goes only to Fort Mason. However, one of those homeowners has subsequently spread misinformation around the neighborhood, implying that the Fort Mason project would go to the Presidio (flatly untrue).
There will be another round of public outreach on the Fort Mason extension, soliciting both oral (at public meetings) and written public comment, when the draft EIS is completed early next year.  The whole idea of the EIS process, which has taken place many thousands of times across the country, is to ascertain the impacts of proposed projects and document those impacts, so that members of the public can make informed decisions on whether they support that proposed project.
As for the funding plan, a Muni official in a position to know tells me that they have indeed prepared a funding plan for the project. A survey of other local projects under way indicates to me that the funding prospects for this project, at this point in the process (mid-EIS) are at least as good, if not better, than such projects as the Central Subway, Doyle Drive, and the Transbay Terminal.
Fort Mason Center, the largest employment venue in Sup. Alioto-Pier’s district, home to more than 40 non-profit organizations whose workers would greatly benefit from the streetcar extension (as would the neighborhood, by removing workers’ cars from neighborhood streets) has tried for months now to get on Sup. Alioto-Pier’s calendar to update her on the project and answer any questions she might have. But that meeting has been postponed repeatedly by the supervisor’s staff and has still not taken place.
We hope the supervisor will be open to meeting with constituents who favor the extension, and with Market Street Railway as well.  When we first discussed the project with her, early in her term in office, she expressed unequivocal and enthusiastic support.  We don’t know what or who changed her mind, but If she sees that the questions she raised with the Examiner have valid answers, we hope she’ll take a fresh look at it, and keep an open mind until she — and all of us — can read and respond to the draft environmental impact statement.

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More PCC Streetcars Leave for Restoration

Streetcar no. 1006 being prepared for shipment

Streetcar no. 1006 being readied to travel cross-country. Charles Darke photo.

Still wearing the faded green and cream “wings” livery it had when it arrived new in 1948, streetcar no. 1006 left San Francisco last week to travel across the country to Pennsylvania for restoration.
Late last week San Diego no. 1078 followed and so far four of the 16 PCC streetcars have made it to Pennsylvania’s Brookville Equipment Corporation for restoration with these two now on their way as well. We know work is already underway on at least three other streetcars, nos. 1008, 1040, 1071, and 1080.
You might be scratching your head as to why money is being spent to restore historic streetcars instead spending it on Muni service to prevent the 10% service cuts taking effect next month.
Fortunately or unfortunately, funding for capital projects like restoration, and about any one-time construction project, is separate from the funding available for regular, ongoing service and maintenance operations. Were it possible to redirect funding into operations we could find ourselves saving service only to find ourselves in a few years without enough working vehicles to maintain service.

Trolley no. 1006 departs San Francisco for restoration

Many of the streetcars currently running on the F-line have been in nearly continuous service since the line opened in 1995 and — especially since the extension to Fisherman’s Wharf — have been straining to keep up with growing ridership.
When those streetcars come due for their own regular overhauls in a few years F-line service would need to either be cut or replaced with buses were it not for the streetcars being restored now to provide relief.
Our thanks to Charles Darke for capturing these photos of no. 1006 as it departed.

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Photo of the Month: Heading in Opposite Directions

Streetcars aren’t supposed to be on the surface of Market Street anymore. Those grates in the photo provide ventilation to the subway that opened in the 1970s for BART with Muni’s streetcar lines soon following on their own level as they converted from PCC streetcars to larger light-rail vehicles which could be coupled into trains.
Only busses were supposed to continue running on Market, but the tracks were soon put back into use for the Historic Trolley Festival put on as a summertime replacement for the cable cars when the system shut down in 1982 to be rebuilt.
The temporary service proved popular and City leaders soon realized the benefit of continued surface streetcar service. Even after the cable cars re-opened in 1984, the Trolley Festivals continued drawing in riders.
Every year additional streetcars and expanded hours were added until the festivals ended in 1987 to make way for construction of the permanent F-Market line that opened in 1995.
» More streetcar photography from Telstar Logistics (flickr)
» A Brief History of the F-line

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10% Muni Service Cuts Take Effect on May 8, 2010

cable-discontinuted-vielbaum.jpg

Cable car tracks never to be used again. Walt Vielbaum photo.

Public transit in San Francisco will be reduced dramatically on Saturday, May 8, 2010, when Muni service cuts take effect. Unlike the changes made last December — which included rerouting some lines and increases in service — these cuts only reduce frequency and shortened hours, but will not change routings.
All lines will have some reduction in service. Overall it’s about a 10% cut in service which at peak times on high ridership lines will mean longer wait times and more crowding while many community service lines — such as the 35 and 37 — will no longer run after 9:30 PM on weeknights.
Look for pamphlets titled “Muni Schedule Changes” in Muni Metro stations and onboard vehicles in the next week and be sure to know what’s happening on your line ahead of time.
Service change information at SFMTA.com »

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Truth about the “Trip Down Market Street” video on You Tube

How does a video suddenly “go viral” after more than a century?  Amazingly, we’re hearing from people all over the world, asking about a video (or more accurately, a film) made on Market Street that has gained 1,100,000 views on You Tube at this writing. Here’s the You Tube version — but it’s only a shadow of what we have. The film has been in the public domain for decades, but had always been thought to have been made in… — Read More

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