We’ve learned that Muni is going to greatly increase the number of F-line shuttle runs in the coming months. These are vintage streetcars that run on just the waterfront portion of the F-line, between the Ferry Building (and our museum!) and Fisherman’s Wharf.
There are three shuttle runs most days now, usually filled with the oldest streetcars, like Muni’s No. 1 and 162, Melbourne No. 496, or, in good weather, the popular Blackpool boat tram. But with additional runs, they will have to add other streetcars as well. This week, the newly restored double-end PCCs, Nos. 1008 and 1009 have been seen on the shuttle.
Newly restored PCC No. 1009, honoring Dallas Railway & Terminal, takes the turn from Steuart onto Mission as part of its shuttle loop, March 13, 2013. Rick Laubscher photo. Click to enlarge.
The extra service is expected to be needed to accommodate the crowds visiting the newly relocated Exploratorium science museum, opening its world-class facility on Pier 15 next month. But as is well known at Muni, and by regular users of the F-line on The Embarcadero, the existing shuttle service is spotty at best.
Riding a regular F-line run along Market today, I got into conversation with a veteran F-line operator, who gave me a new perspective on the shuttles. “When they started them up years ago, the crews worked hard at helping the rest of us out,” this operator told me. “They waited at their layover point [on the Embarcadero, just south of Don Chee Way, where the regular F-line cars make the turn onto the waterfront]. If they saw a crowd gathering at the Ferry Building platform, they’d go pick it up. Now, it seems they just want to sit there. They let us go through, already crowded, to try to jam those people on. Then they just follow right behind us, empty.”
The operator noted that some shuttle crews take very long breaks after very short trips, while “I go all the way to Castro and then back to the Wharf and my longest break is seven minutes.”
We know Muni/SFMTA management has periodically tried to cut down on the excessive shuttle layovers. It’s interesting, though, to get the perspective of another operator. This operator doesn’t see it as a management-labor issue, but rather an issue of some workers making it harder on their peers by not making the runs they’re supposed to make.
If Muni’s going to add extra runs along The Embarcadero, we hope they are able to keep them moving better than has been the case all these years. Some diplomatic conversation with the shuttle crews might be of help. Many are excellent operators who may have just fallen into bad habits. Alternatively, firm, enforced scheduling may be needed.
Otherwise, an expanded Embarcadero shuttle service could resemble the California Cable Car line, which sometimes has ONE car actually carrying people along the street while FIVE crews relax at the eastern terminal near Market Street.
But that’s another story.