E-line NextBus Map Working!

NextMuni E,F screenshot 042616NextBus, Muni’s vendor for live displays showing where every vehicle is on every route, has launched the full-time E-Embarcadero map. You can now see what’s on both the E- and F-lines by clicking here, then selecting the map you want: F-line only, E-line only, or a combination (as shown in the screenshot above).

We thank NextBus (which labels its maps here “NextMuni”) for including the icons (which we supplied them) of the actual streetcars that are on the line, a big plus for trainspotters. The F-line cars have the icon plus the car number, the E-line cars have the icon plus “E-Embarcadero” so you can tell which car is on which line when you have both lines up on the map at the same time.

Fun little feature (intended or not): the E-line map shows the route that both E and F cars currently take along the T-line to reach their temporary base at Muni Metro East. In the screenshot, you can see that Car 1080 has activated its GPS in anticipation of pulling out onto the F-line. Note that the Third Street trackage is NOT revenue trackage at the moment, though Market Street Railway is advocating extending the E-line along this route (and west to Fort Mason from the Wharf) to tie together all the city’s major waterfront attractions with a single historic line.

Thanks again to NextBus for getting the E-line map up and running.


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Buses Back on the F as E Starts Daily Service

IMG_5007Today marks the beginning of daily service on the E-Embarcadero historic streetcar line, which will now run daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Fisherman’s Wharf to AT&T Park and the Caltrain Depot along The Embarcadero and King Street. It’s a major service expansion following nine months of the weekend-only service that inaugurated this long-anticipated line.

And what greeted the E-line streetcars on their first day of daily service?  A too-familiar sight on the original historic streetcar service, the F-line: buses instead of streetcars.


Today (April 23) is the first day of the new Muni operator signup. Operators throughout the system are changing routes and modes (bus, streetcar, light rail, cable car) as their union’s contract allows them to do, based strictly on seniority. When this happens, Muni has to train hundreds of operators on their new modes (though every one of them, by contract, has to be qualified to operate a bus from the beginning of their career).

What this means in practice is that, at the beginning of these signups, operators are assigned to the F-Market & Wharves line who haven’t yet completed streetcar training. They’re given buses to drive instead.

That’s why at Noon today there were six buses on the F-line and only nine streetcars. It appears there’s a run or two missing as well.

All five E-Embarcadero runs are out and all are filled with double-end PCC streetcars. (Actually, the E-line runs HAVE to be streetcars because buses can’t use the roughly paved streetcar/light rail right-of-way south of Mission Street — the right-of-way used by the F-line, north of Mission, is smooth enough for buses.)

We only know that all the E-line runs are filled at the moment because we went down there and counted the cars ourselves. (We’d love to tell you the scheduled headways of 15 minutes are being kept, but they’re not. Several times, we saw two cars 2-5 minutes apart with a gap much longer than 15 minutes afterward.)

Anyone should always be able to know how much service is currently on ANY Muni line, and where the vehicles are, by consulting the live map on NextMuni, which has included the E-Embarcadero line on the Saturdays and Sundays it’s been running since last August.  However, the E-line is mysteriously missing from the live map today.  It doesn’t show up as a route you can check, as it used to.  (If you want to check the current F-line service — what cars [and, sigh, buses] are on the line and where they are, click here.

We know that Muni is actively training new streetcar operators for the F-line. We hope they’ll be on the streets — with their streetcars — soon, so the buses can go back to the barn!

UPDATE, April 25: Muni Planning Director Julie Kirschbaum apologizes for the lack of an E-line NextMuni map, attributing it to a glitch on the vendor’s part. She says she’ll alert us when it’s fixed; then we’ll alert you!

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110 Years Ago: Earthquake Ends the Cable Era

April 18 1906 Hayes cable transfer

This photograph is of a cable car transfer that is part of our Market Street Railway Archives. It’s for the Hayes line (now the 21-Hayes bus), inbound (going toward the Ferry). The date of the transfer, overprinted with ink as was the custom) was April 18, 1906. The time punched on the transfer was 5:00 a.m.

We believe this is a genuine transfer, though it can’t easily be inspected more closely because it was donated to us already encased in plastic. It symbolizes the final minutes of one of the most extensive cable car systems ever built in the world.

CC 155 3rd Mkt 1905As this 1905 shot shows, cable cars ran along Market right up until the Earthquake and Fire of April 18, 1906. Five cable lines headed west on our main street from the Ferry, branching off at McAllister (now the 5-line), Hayes (the 21), Haight (the 7), Valencia, and Castro (now pretty much the F-line).  The earthquake wrecked the cable machinery and in some places twisted the tracks.

Market and Spear cMay 1906

The system’s corporate owner, United Railroads (a Chicago-based conglomerate) took the opportunity to “temporarily” string overhead wire on Market and had electric streetcars operating there within a few weeks, as seen above. (They had wanted to convert to faster, cheaper streetcars on Market for years, but “City Beautiful” advocates, who hated the overhead wires, had stopped them. They greased the wheels of government in the quake’s immediate aftermath with bribes, and we’ve had overhead wires on Market ever since.)

You can ride along during the last days of Market Street cable service and learn much more about the City that was by viewing our “Trip Down Market Street” video. Thanks to archivist Rick Prelinger and film historian David Kiehn, we obtained a great copy of the film made on or about April 14, 1906, just days before the quake, by pioneering professional filmmakers the Miles Brothers, who bolted a hand-cranked camera onto the front of a cable car and rode down Market Street from Eighth Street to the Ferry Building. Click below for a preview.

In the full 11 minute video, Market Street Railway President Rick Laubscher, author of ON TRACK and a noted San Francisco historian, tells you what you’re seeing on every block along the way in this memorable film, including social, economic, and political history to go with the transit history. It’s all woven together seamlessly, bringing this wonderful film, “A Trip Down Market Street,” to life.

You can see the full 11 minute video free at our San Francisco Railway Museum, open daily except Monday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. You can view the earthquake day transfer shown above at the museum too.  For just $12.95, you can also buy your own copy of the film at the Museum, or right here at our online store (scroll down the store page until you reach the video). Remember, Market Street Railway Members get 10% off.

Finally, please take a moment to reflect on the enormous power of nature, as reflected in Ecuador and Japan during the last few days. Our condolences to all those who have lost loved ones to these terrible tremors.

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Herb Caen: A Centennial to Celebrate

Herb Caen at the Powell and Market turntable, 1953. A wonderful photo taken by the great Fred Lyon, a San Francisco treasure himself (and a friend of Herb's). (c) Fred Lyon

Herb Caen at the Powell and Market turntable, 1953. A wonderful photo taken by the great Fred Lyon, Herb’s friend and a San Francisco treasure himself. (c) Fred Lyon


Somehow, the print edition of the San Francisco Chronicle has managed to forget — or ignore — that today is the centennial of the birth of their greatest columnist ever, Herb Caen. (They did, belatedly, make a post to their Facebook group.)

The self-described “Sacamenna Kid” left Sacramento for San Francisco while still a teenager to become the radio columnist for the Chronicle, and got handed a general column, first titled, “It’s news to me,” in 1938.

It’s hard to explain to those who didn’t experience Caen firsthand just how much his daily newspaper column shaped this city and its people. If you were mentioned regularly in his column, you were famous in this town. Just for that. When he moved from the Chronicle to the Examiner in 1950, and back in 1958, he immediately took more than 30,000 readers with him each way. Just like that.

His 16,000 columns totaled more than 14 million words over the years. He coined some of those words himself, like “beatnik.” His six-day-a-week musings, easily the longest-running newspaper column in American history, were the talk of the entire Bay Area.

Caen wrote about every facet of life in the city, including transit. We collected some of his column tidbits for a display in Muni Car 130, which is dedicated to him. We’ll share a few here.

Our mouth slightly ajar, we stood at Eighth and Market yesterday and watched a woman leap lightly and gracefully aboard a moving streetcar, all the while smoking a cigaret. Thus did all the institutions of our age tremble and totter, thus did man lost one of the last of his “inalienable rights,” the right to hop on streetcars in motion. We almost dare not ask — “What next?”— From Caen’s first daily Chronicle column, July 5, 1938


A well-dressed drunk staggered aboard a Powell Street cable and gave a dollar to the conductor, who handed back nine dimes in change. Each time the conductor walked through the car (it was jampacked) the souse handed him another dime—which the conductor took without looking up. After the stew had forked over a dime for the fifth time, he turned to a fellow passenger and complained thickly: “Y’know, we jush gotta get ridda these cable cars. They’re too damn expensive!” — 1950


The haunted lower stretches of Market Street, fitfully alive with the ghosts of the streetcars that used to rattle down to the loop in front of the Ferry Building; gone now the Roar of the Four, gone the era of the ferry, gone everything but the gray tower whose four clocks are living on borrowed time…Baghdad-by-the-Bay. — 1950


THAT WAS SAN FRANCISCO: When it was an honored S.F. custom to get a transfer from the streetcar conductor (even if you weren’t gonna use it) and hand it to the corner newsboy—who in turn would give it to a customer along with a newspaper; newsboys all over town worked this “free” ride sales gimmick (and the trolley lines made dough anyway)… — 1950


THE VIEW FROM HERE: Yes, I feel twinges of nostalgia and arthritis, but I refuse to succumb. Nostalgia is the Ess Eff disease, sometimes fatal and not designed for looking ahead, which is what editorial-we are doing today. Today I am reborn. I feel young again! OK, middle-aged plus 10. If there’s such a thing as a second childhood, I’m experiencing it. Nevertheless, I would like to walk away from the Loyal Royal and mount one of those beautiful old streetcars now running on Market St. They’re the best thing that’s happened to this town since—well—Willie Brown. They take you into the past in the nicest possible way, down almost to the Ferry Building, a landmark filled entirely with memories and the ghosts of seamen gone, not to mention “Peg-Leg Pete,” the one-legged seagull that posed on a piling for equally forgotten tourists armed with box Brownies. –February 12, 1996

We miss Herb. His wit, his style, his verve. Truly Mr. San Francisco.

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