Fort Mason Streetcar Extension Update

Eastern Fort Mason Tunnel entrance at the foot of Van Ness Avenue.The Examiner has a comprehensive update today on the proposed historic streetcar extension to Fort Mason. It tells the story better than we could, so click on that link above and read it for yourself.

We’ll just add that we have been working on this for a very long time. It had gotten snagged in an unrelated matter. Not long after the Environmental Impact Statement had been certified in 2013, the National Park Service announced it would study the possibility of moving the Alcatraz ferry landing from Pier 31 to Fort Mason. This attraction, which draws over a million visitors a year, would have overrun Fort Mason, with or without a streetcar line, in our opinion. We opposed it, as did Fort Mason Center, which operates that center for nonprofits. So did the Fisherman’s Wharf merchants and numerous other groups that do support the streetcar extension.

The threat of moving the ferries led Supervisor Mark Farrell, who represents the Marina, to put a hold on moving the streetcar extension forward until the Alcatraz ferry location was settled. Now it is; it’s staying at Pier 31. Supervisor Farrell has told us he supports the streetcar extension and this grant application.

The uncertainty in Washington over, well, almost everything, but specifically National Park Service funding does raise a question over how much longer it will take to get the extension built (the post of money funding the grant the Examiner discussed is approved, but we still have to win it!). So one of the things this grant would study is the possibility of an interim terminal short of the tunnel, with the tunnel rehabilitation (about $10 million) and Fort Mason loop to be done in a Phase 2.

We still hope the entire extension can be done all at once, but this is a sensible approach given what’s going on in DC. An initial extension that got closer to Ghirardelli Square and Aquatic Park and within easy walking distance of Fort Mason would have the great benefit of being able to separate the terminals for the E- and F-lines, which currently share the same single-track terminal on Jones Street. That would improve the operating reliability of both lines.

We’ll keep you updated on the status of the grant application. We thank SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin and his staff for their support of the grant, and our Board Member Carmen Clark for her efforts in working with SFMTA staff and that of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, in preparing the grant application.

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Boston’s Back in Business

Muni’s paint shop folks put the finishing touch on newly-returned PCC 1059, applying the “Boston Elevated Railway” decal prepared by our ace graphic designer, David Dugan.

The 1059 should be entering “burn-in” activities in the next few days. This is the acceptance period for each of the 16 cars in the current rehabilitation contract with Brookville Equipment Company following their complete renovation. This involves running the car without passengers for 1,000 miles to test all systems and ensure the car meets Muni’s specifications before they accept it for service. It will join PCC 1060 on the commonly-used test route that literally runs from “Bay to Breakers”: Muni Metro East, on the shores of San Francisco Bay in Dogpatch, via tracks of the T, F, J, K (or M) and L lines to the Zoo at Ocean Beach. (The streetcars are not in passenger service and do not have their GPS turned on, so you can’t track them online.) The 1060 is more than halfway through its testing period so should be carrying passengers soon. It too needs a finishing touch: the chrome-plated “wings” on either side of the headlight, which will be installed when they arrive.

 

Two streetcars from this contract, 1051 and 1056, have already reentered service. Get out and ride them while they still have their “new car smell.”

Two of the next three cars due to return from Brookville will wear “new” vintage liveries from cities that once ran PCCs. Car 1062 is the next one due back, and will proudly wear Pittsburgh’s red and cream livery. It is scheduled to be followed by Car 1055, which will again wear its as-delivered Philadelphia livery (all these cars were acquired by Muni second hand in the early 1990s from Philadelphia’s transit agency). After 1055 returns, Car 1063 should be next to come back, adorned in the original teal of Baltimore, instead of the later Baltimore livery it wore before it went east for restoration. We’ll let you know when they arrive. When they do, Car 1053, representing Brooklyn, and Car 1061, representing Pacific Electric, will head back to Brookville for their turn in the renovation shop. We’ll keep you updated.

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Private Cruise on the Boat Tram, Just for You, June 4

UPDATE: This event is SOLD OUT. If you’d like to be the first to know when our next trolley tour will happen, ask to be added to our excursion notification list by emailing us at [email protected].

Sunday, June 4, one of the famous 1934 Blackpool “boat trams” will cruise again on the tracks of the F-line, with a guided tour of everything historic along the route from our friends at City Guides and our own Paul Lucas. It’s a private charter, and seats are limited.

Here’s the link with all the information. You don’t want to miss this!

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Shoppers’ Shuttle

In the early 1950s, as tens of thousands of San Francisco families decamped for the new surrounding suburbs, merchants grew more and more anxious about getting customers into their stores. Muni’s response: a “Shoppers’ Shuttle” — actually two of them, one serving Market Street/Union Square and one the “Miracle Mile of Mission” between about 16th Street and Army Street (now Cesar Chavez Street).

When they started up in 1953 and 1954, the shuttles only charged a nickel (as opposed to the then-regular fare of 15 cents). The presumption, apparently, was that shoppers would be happy to save a dime on routes that duplicated numerous regular Muni lines on Market and Mission.

They ran weekdays midday only, which should have kept incremental operating costs to a minimum, since a few drivers could easily be diverted from regular lines to the shuttles between rush hours. Routes varied over the years. A third line was added in 1966 that generally went from Civic Center to the Second and Harrison Streets area (but what was there, then?).

In this shot from the SFMTA Archives, we see 1938 White motor coach 060 decked out for the “Mission Shuttle” with 5 cent flags and signs alerting intending riders to the bargain. It looks like it was taken around the rollout of Mission Shuttle service in November 1954 at Muni’s Ocean Division (where the Green light rail facility is now at Ocean and San Jose Avenues).

The shuttles did not generally do a booming business, despite the low fare. It was never clear how many non-shopper riders just hopped aboard because it was the first bus that came along while they were waiting, or who just like saving a dime (no Fast Pass or Clipper Card then!).

According to the definitive book on Muni operations, Inside Muni, all three of the Shoppers’ Shuttle routes were abandoned September 10, 1980. But this may have been just a technical route abandonment. The author of this post doesn’t recall seeing any Shoppers’ Shuttle buses after BART construction on Market and Mission began in the late 1960s. Perhaps readers can comment on their recollections of when the service ended.

This bus, however, would have only made a special guest appearance on the Shoppers’ Shuttle, in all likelihood. Because of its diminutive size (seven feet shorter than a standard White bus), it was regularly assigned to serve Telegraph Hill and North Beach riders on the 39-Coit line (because it could make the tight turn at the Coit Tower parking lot.) It lasted there until about 1974for another 20 years before being retired. It was subsequently purchased by a Muni employee and painted back into its original 1938 orange and black livery.

Its twin, 062, also a Coit Tower bus, has been restored by Muni to operating condition and is also painted in its as-delivered orange and black (no, it’s not for the Giants, nor for Halloween!). Unlike the 060, the 062 has been restored to its original fleet number, 042 (when Muni culled out the fleet of the “Baby Whites”, they renumbered the three survivors 060-062.

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Help Preserve Mona Caron’s Market Street Railway Mural

      UPDATE:  As of May 5, Mona had raised more than $16,000,138% of her goal.  THANK YOU to all who donated. Fifteen years ago, the artist Mona Caron painted a wonderful mural on a wall on Church Street at Fifteenth Street. Now, according to Hoodline, the mural is deteriorating and Mona is seeking funding to conserve and restore it. If you’d like to help, here’s the link. It’s a wonderful work of art and historic interpretation. Our organization, Market Street… — Read More

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