This Just In: Muni Used To Be Faster!

It’s always fun to deal with young reporters. Whenever I talk with one, it reminds me of that old George Michael lyric: “I know all the games you play, because I played them too.”


F-Stockton streetcar, southbound on Stockton at Vallejo, 1916. Muni Archives photo, displayed in our San Francisco Railway Museum’s Muni Centennial exhibition.

Current case in point: a quite readable piece by the Bay Citizen that I was told was to be about Muni’s centennial. A shorter version runs in the Bay Area edition of Sunday’s New York Times.
After ten years as a reporter myself, and many more than that working with reporters, I’ve been through this news story game enough times — from both sides — to know that the stated reason for a story is often not the real one. In this case, it was clear within a couple of minutes what the reporter’s real agenda was: tell everyone that despite all the ways things have gotten faster in the world, major Muni lines have gotten slower.
Whether that would be a true apples-to-apples comparison didn’t matter.


A 30-line bus (the 30 replaced the F-Stockton in 1951) southbound on Stockton at Broadway, one block from the earlier photo. Note, though, that while the 1916 picture is in the middle of the day (no doubt a weekday since it was taken by a Muni employee), this picture is taken in the evening. Anybody who has been on Stockton during business hours knows the buses crawl through the crowds today. Heck, if traffic on Stockton were always like this, we could save that $1.6 billion on the Central Subway! Bay Citizen photo.

I spent a lot of time explaining to him how much smaller the city population was in 1920; how few automobiles were on the road (and virtually no bicycles); and several other factors. Apparently, from the quotes, so did other folks who know the context. I knew, of course, that nothing was going to change the trajectory of the story, because it’s just too titillating to be able to say that the trip downtown from the Avenues or the Marina is slower now than it was then.
The reality that many of the Avenues weren’t even paved back then, because there were no houses there that needed streets, or that the Marina in 1920 was yet to be built following the clearing of the 1915 World’s Fair are just messy facts that get in the way of a good story…as is the reality that the stretch of Stockton Street pictured in this post was a relatively low-density community then, while today it’s part of one of the highest-density communities in America (though the street hasn’t gotten any wider).
Don’t mean to sound too harsh here. The reporter did do a lot of fact checking and called numerous sources; it was in no way a sloppy job. The schedule times cited are quite accurate. And it’s an entertaining read, with great then-and-now pictures on the Bay Citizen site. It’s just amusing to see, over and over, reporters back into these stories instead of just saying what their premise is.
On balance, I think it’s really too bad that the Bay Citizen’s coverage of topics like this is slated to go away very soon as part of their merger with the Center for Investigative Reporting. Whether they forced the premise or not, we love it that they took the time to look back at Muni’s history. Perhaps at least some readers will infer what we told the reporter directly: Muni service helped build major parts of San Francisco, including the Sunset, Parkside, and Marina Districts. And that’s something to celebrate this centennial year.

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Spring Training

This screenshot from the special F-line LIVE map that NextMuni created at our request shows a welcome sight this showery Saturday. There’s Muni Car No. 1 out on the F-line, at the Wharf terminal, upper left. The screenshot shows the F-line around 1:30 p.m., Saturday, March 31.

But hang on before you dash down, fare in hand. Even though it shows on the map as in service, it’s not taking passengers. Muni is training crews on the pristine renovated 1912 streetcar to prepare for its April 5 centennial kickoff ceremony (see post directly below). At the same time, they’re testing its GPS unit to make sure it shows up on the F-line map. So far, success.
By the way, this screenshot shows how things are changing on the F-line. Six of the renovated 1070-class PCCs are on the line, as is Muni PCC No. 1040, last of its kind built in North America.
You can check our F-line LIVE map by clicking here to see exactly what streetcars are out on the F-line and where!

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Muni Announces Car 1 Ceremony

It’s official. Muni will kick off its centennial year celebrations by welcoming historic streetcar No. 1 back to the fleet on Thursday, April 5 at 10 a.m. with a ceremony outside our San Francisco Railway Museum. The ceremony will be led by Senator Dianne Feinstein and Mayor Ed Lee.

Muni has also unveiled its official logo for the centennial, which as you see prominently features Car 1.
Senator Feinstein, who has agreed to serve as chair of Muni’s centennial committee, was the key mover in establishing vintage streetcar service on Market Street during her term as mayor. Her support of the idea of a summer-long Historic Trolley Festival in 1983, following the relocation of surface streetcar service to the Muni Metro subway, enabled the proof of concept of the value of such vintage service. Four more trolley festivals followed, leading to the construction of the permanent F-Market & Wharves line, now America’s most popular traditional streetcar line.
The ceremony site is a public plaza facing our museum on Steuart Street between Market and Mission streets. The ceremony is open to the public, but rides on the car on that day will be restricted to invited dignitaries. No. 1 is expected to run a quick loop up to Pier 39 and back. It is expected that Muni will run No. 1 in regular F-line service as part of its centennial celebration. We will let you know, in this spot, as soon as we have word.
There are other centennial events planned later this year, with details still being finalized. Muni’s well publicized budget crunch will affect the extent of these celebrations, but Market Street Railway has pledged to help however we can. We’ll keep you informed.

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“Ruby Slippers” Dances along the F-line Again

Yet another PCC streamliner has joined the F-line fleet and this one brings blinks of deja vu.
Along with a back story.

1070 Metro East 2009 JWhiteman.jpg

PCC No. 1070 shows off its "Ruby Slippers" – red wheels – in 2009. Jeremy Whiteman photo.

When the F-line opened in 1995, served by its initial fleet of PCCs, all 14 of the single-end streetcars in the fleet came from Philadelphia’s SEPTA transit agency and were fully overhauled by Muni under a contract by Morrison-Knudsen. They were painted to honor various cities that ran these great streetcars in the past. No. 1060 was painted in tribute to a city that still did run PCCs at that time: Newark, New Jersey. The 1950s Newark livery chosen was distinctive because it featured red wheels, which some fans called “Ruby Slippers” in homage to Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz.”
Fast forward to late 2003. Another PCC with a slick silver Philadelphia paint scheme, No. 1054, was damaged beyond repair while it was being tested — hit by an LRV with a distracted operator on San Jose Avenue. Coincidentally, Muni was about to close a deal with New Jersey Transit to buy 11 of their recently retired Newark PCCs. So, at Market Street Railway’s suggestion, when No. 1060 needed painting, it was switched to the silver “Philly Cream Cheese” livery, and the flagship of the new “1070 class”, No. 1070, was painted in the Newark “Ruby Slippers” livery. That way, both streetcars would wear the liveries of their actual home towns.
But, as we’ve recounted before, it has taken a long time to get all the PCCs of the 1070 class into revenue service. No. 1070 is on the street today, carrying passengers on the F-line, finally making its Muni debut. This means that only one of the 11 cars in this class, No. 1073, has yet to enter revenue service, and that could come any day now.
Even on this gloomy day, No. 1070 adds more color to the F-line, San Francisco’s “Over the Rainbow” transit line.

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Viva El Tranvia de Mexico!

PCC No. 1072, honoring Mexico City, on its first day of passenger service opposite the San Francisco Railway Museum, March 15, 2012. Another newly renovated PCC streamliner has started carrying passengers on the F-line, and it adds another touch of international flavor to the route. No. 1072, painted in tribute to Mexico City, made its revenue debut this morning in the rain. It is the sixth of 11 PCCs in the “1070 class” to enter service following complete rewiring and… — Read More

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Carl Nolte: The Only One Who Does What He Does

The legendary San Franciscan Jerry Garcia said, “It’s not enough to be the best at what you do; you must be perceived as the only one who does what you do.” Carl Nolte. Photo by Mike Kapka, Courtesy SF Chronicle Ladies and Gentlemen, Carl Nolte. Since the passing of Herb Caen more than 15 years ago now, Carl Nolte has been the only one who does what he does — tell San Francisco stories with a unique combination of personal… — Read More

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“Last PCC” Back in Business!

Muni PCC No. 1040 at Van Ness Avenue March 12, 2012, on its first day back in passenger service. Matt Lee photo. The last of 5,000 streamlined PCC streetcars built in North America is carrying passengers again…on the F-line. Muni’s No. 1040, originally delivered in 1952, entered passenger service today a bit ahead of schedule. It had completed the minimum 1,000 of miles of testing after being completely rebuilt by Brookville Equipment Company in Pennsylvania, but was waiting for a… — Read More

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Disney Makes Big Red Car Little

An upgrade of Disney’s California Adventure, its second (to Disneyland) theme park, has been under way for over a year now. The first incarnation didn’t capture the “pixie dust” or magic people associate with Disney parks. So they tweaked some things and added a huge new attraction in “Cars Land” after the animated film. It opens to the public March 15. But to our eyes, the coolest addition are two Pacific Electric streetcars, installed on Buena Vista Street, itself remodeled… — Read More

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Would You Freshen My Shirley Temple, Please?

When Los Angeles Railway bought its first PCC in 1937, they pulled off a publicity coup by getting then-child star Shirley Temple to unveil it. Today, that first PCC has been fully restored by the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Riverside County, former Ambassador Shirley Temple Black lives in retirement on the Peninsula, and the spirit of that pioneering PCC is reflected in the F-line fleet by No. 1052. It’s just back on the street after Muni’s shops gave it… — Read More

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