Doug Wright, 1946-2014

Doug Wright, Chair of Market Street Railway’s Board of Directors and a noted urban planner who helped transform San Francisco’s waterfront by leading the demolition of the Embarcadero Freeway and replacing it with an acclaimed ground-level boulevard, died July 30, 2014 at Marin General Hospital. He was 68. His death resulted from a stroke.
As Deputy Mayor for Transportation under Mayor Art Agnos, Wright was director of the Embarcadero transportation program, responsible for planning, designing, and financing the integrated boulevard, pedestrian and bicycle promenade, light rail, and streetcar project stretching from Fishermans’ Wharf to the site of the Giants ballpark and the Caltrain Depot on King Street. The initial plan for the boulevard left the double-deck freeway, which blocked off the Ferry Building from the city, in place, respecting voter’s wishes. But after the Loma Prieta Earthquake badly damaged the freeway in October 1989, Wright led successful efforts to demolish it, enabling the complete transformation of San Francisco’s northeast waterfront.
“I could never have made that decision to tear down the freeway without Doug Wright by my side, convincing me that it was the best thing to do for the people of San Francisco,”said former Mayor Art Agnos.
Wright’s work in San Francisco was only a part of his nationwide influence in replacing planned and partly built urban freeways with sustainable transportation systems that created more livable cities.
Douglas G. Wright was born April 28, 1946 in Des Moines, Iowa. After graduating from that city’s Roosevelt High School, he attended the University of Iowa, earning a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 1968 and a Master of Arts in Urban and Regional Planning in 1970.
From 1970 to 1973 he served as a city planner in Cleveland, Ohio before moving to Portland, Oregon, where he served from 1973 to 1979 as City Planning Director and Chief Transportation Planner under Mayor Neil Goldschmidt.
In Portland, Wright led the replacement of the Harbor Drive freeway along the Willamette River with a park. He also led the city’s successful effort to transfer federal funding from a freeway proposed by Robert Moses to a new light rail system, a first-of-its-kind event that became a model that numerous American cities have since followed. Wright even helped Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY) draft the successful Congressional legislation that enabled such federal funding transfers.
In 1979, Wright became Associate Deputy Secretary of Transportation in the Carter Administration, under Secretary of Transportation Neil Goldschmidt. In this role, he represented Goldschmidt in cities across America that were grappling with outdated freeway plans. Wright’s command of transportation, development, and political knowledge created a practical, achievable framework that showed leaders of these cities a path to a more livable urban environment, while still retaining mobility. Numerous cities used Wright’s counsel and the legislation he had help create to “trade in” federal freeway funding for transit and appropriately scaled roadway projects.
In 1981, Wright joined the administration of San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein as Director, Planning and Development and Assistant General Manager of the Public Utilities Commission. In this latter role, he served as General Manager Rudy Nothenberg’s designee on the San Francisco Planning Commission.
In 1988, Wright became Mayor Agnos’ Deputy Mayor for Transportation, a position he held until 1991, when he opened his own consultancy, Douglas Wright Consulting. In his consulting role, he initiated and helped manage the development of a Muni bus turnaround at Steuart and Mission Streets into the Hotel Vitale, a project that brings its parent agency, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, well over a million dollars a year in revenue and will ultimately result in city ownership of the hotel. Extending his achievements in San Francisco and Portland, Wright played a key role as a consultant in the City of Seattle’s decision to tear down its elevated double-deck waterfront freeway on the waterfront, known as the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
At the time of his death, Wright was consulting for BART and on transportation and development projects for the cities of Oakland and Sacramento. He had become Board Chair of Market Street Railway in January and was working on several important initiatives, including extension of historic streetcar service from Fisherman’s Wharf to Aquatic Park and Fort Mason Center.
“Doug was one of the most complete people I have ever met,” said Market Street Railway President Rick Laubscher. He was a deeply knowledgeable, passionate yet practical advocate who achieved great professional success. At the same time, he nurtured a full, rich family life and achieved a rare level of work-life balance. All who knew him will greatly miss him, no one more than his colleagues at Market Street Railway.”
Wright was a long-serving member of the board of directors of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy as well as Market Street Railway. He was also a devoted Giants fan. After nearly 20 years of treks to Candlestick Park, Doug cheered on the Giants at more than 340 games at AT&T Park.
He is survived by his wife Lillian Hames, 61, with whom he shared 24 love-filled years of marriage; by his daughter Alison, 31, with whom he has hiked countless National Parks; by his daughter Alexandra, 23, who he has proudly cheered on in softball, Little League baseball games, and in life; and by his brother Denny Wright, 63, of Oregon City, Oregon.
A memorial service for Doug is planned on August 28 at 2 p.m. at Cavallo Point, Fort Baker. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations in Doug’s memory may be made to Market Street Railway or to the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.

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See “How Transit Built SF” Tuesday Night

Market Street Railway President Rick Laubscher will present “How Transit Built San Francisco” at the Excelsior Branch of the San Francisco Public Library, 4400 Mission Street (between Ocean Avenue and Silver Avenue), Tuesday, July 29 at 7 p.m.
Rick will include slides that depict the development of transit in the city and how it shaped development of our neighborhoods over the decades. Some of the content is drawn from his new book, “On Track: A Field Guide to San Francisco Historic Streetcars and Cable Cars,” published by Heyday.
The talk is free. Autographed copies of the book will be available at the event. They’re also available at our San Francisco Railway Museum, or here in our online store.

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No Streetcars on F-line This Weekend

A combination of events has left the F-line without streetcar service on one of the biggest visitor weekends of the year, July 25-26. You’ll only see buses on the F-line all weekend.
The historic streetcars’ overnight base was moved last month to Muni Metro East, just off Third Street and the T-line, to allow rails to be replaced near their long-time home at Cameron Beach Yard across town. This means that the historic streetcars now enter and leave F-line service via tracks along the southern Embarcadero. The last two blocks of these tracks, from Howard Street to the F-line tracks just south of Market, were built for the future E-line and had not been used in regular service. So, for several years now, they have been used by the [San Francisco Marathon]( as a staging area.
It was too late to change that for this year’s Marathon, which starts Sunday morning, but Muni has told the Marathon organizers that they will have to find an alternative location by next year’s event, because the E-line is slated to be in regular weekend service by then.
Market Street Railway was not aware of this operating conflict until last week. We don’t know when Muni, the owner-operator of the F-line, first learned of it, but in any event, the Marathon had a firm contract in place and is an important part of the summer scene in the City. But the streetcars are too, so it’s unfortunate that this conflict is keeping the streetcars off the streets this weekend.
Months before either we or the Marathon organizers knew that the streetcars were to move their base, we got together at the Marathon’s initiative, and created mile markers for the runners that celebrate the historic streetcars, using the graphic images created by our ace designer David Dugan. So a touch of irony there.
The Marathon has also made a generous donation to Market Street Railway, for which we thank them. We and the Marathon organizers agree the streetcars themselves, not just images, should be on the street when the race runs in 2015 and beyond.

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Exploratorium Charter August 24

We’ve got a great combo opportunity coming up on Sunday, August 24. It’s a charter on PCC streetcar No. 1050 that starts at 1:00 p.m. at our San Francisco Railway Museum. We’ll cruise down The Embarcadero past AT&T Park, past all the new development on Third Street in Mission Bay and Dogpatch, then loop through Muni Metro East, the current home of the historic streetcar fleet and not usually open to the public.

Then we’ll head all the way back up the waterfront to Pier 39 and turn around, finishing at The Exploratorium at Pier 15. Your tour package includes VIP admission to one of the world’s great interactive science museums, which you can enjoy right up until closing time at 5 p.m. It’s a great afternoon out, enhanced by expert commentary along the route by our own Paul Lucas.
The package is $45 for Market Street Railway members, $55 for non-members. Under 18: $30. More information and sign up here.

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Improving Our Website

Some of you may have noticed problems with our website, particularly objects appearing where they shouldn’t and the like. Our website is built on a platform that was okay years ago, but is now obsolete and not supported by its creator. All kinds of creaks and aches appear, as with lots of things that have gotten old. You occasionally get unexplained surprises, like this morning, when our automatic email notification service (for those of you who subscribe to our blog)… — Read More

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F-line PCCs Move to Metro East on Friday

Muni’s 32 streamlined PCC streetcars will move their home base from Cameron Beach Yard to Muni Metro East (MME) at Illinois and Cesar Chavez Streets this Friday, June 20, and will operate out of MME starting Saturday. The ten Milan trams have been operating out of MME for almost two years. Milan trams stored together with LRVs at Muni Metro East shortly after their move there, August 2012. Peter Ehrlich photo. The move is tied to major track replacement at… — Read More

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Muni Operator Shortage Hits F-line

Muni is currently facing a systemwide operator shortage, according to this article in today’s San Francisco Examiner. This situation is not new, but it appears to be getting worse. It affects all modes of Muni vehicles, including the historic streetcars. And based on anecdotal evidence we’ve received, it’s not just the quantity of people applying to be operators, it’s the quality as well. We were told by authoritative sources that recently a higher percentage of prospective F-line operators have been… — Read More

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Sickout Ends; F-line, Cable Cars Back

Muni announced this morning that it has 90 percent of its scheduled service on the street and declared the “sickout” by operators to be over. The cable cars are running again today after a three day absence. The F-line is running its full route from Castro to the Wharf after being limited to the waterfront portion of the route due to lack of operators. Here’s the Chronicle’s blog coverage of the last day’s developments. You can see a live map… — Read More

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Sickout Day 3: No F-line on Market, No Cable Cars

As the “sickout” by Muni operators hits its third day, participation is dropping and more Muni buses and light rail vehicles are getting out onto the streets. However, Muni is still not attempting to operate any of the cable car lines and, as of 8:45 a.m. at least, F-line service is restricted to the waterfront, operating between the Wharf and the Ferry Building, with riders asked to use the Muni Metro subway along Market Street. It appears from our live… — Read More

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Muni “Sickout” Continues, Crippling Service

Despite widespread rider outrage and a warning from management, a large number of Muni operators called in sick again today in protest against a contract offer they rejected in a vote last Friday. Under city law, the contract matter now enters binding arbitration, but the unhappy operators aren’t waiting for that to show their displeasure. Muni management last night sent a memo to operators telling them they would not be paid for their alleged “sick days” without a valid doctor’s… — Read More

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Don’t Try to Ride the F-line or cable cars June 2

A quick post to say Muni operators are stating a “sickout” in protest of their proposed contract today (Monday, June 2). As of 8:45 a.m., there are exactly TWO streetcars out on the F-line, plus two buses, at an hour when there are usually 20 vehicles on the line. Check our live F-line map for up to the minute information. It’s no better on other Muni lines; in fact, reports are that Muni management is not even trying to run… — Read More

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“San Francisco Repurposes Old for the Future”

It has become as predictable as summer fog on Great Highway. If you’re planning a project in the red-hot mid-Market neighborhood, or reporting on it in the media, you’ve simply got to have one of those colorful F-line historic streetcars in the frame. The New York *Times* is the latest bigfoot to jump on this, with this main photo (left, click to enlarge) on a long but very worthwhile story describing how the tech-driven mid-Market revival is focused on adaptive… — Read More

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Maya Angelou, SF Streetcar Conductor

Maya Angelou has passed away, at the age of 86. As an adult, she gained global fame as a writer. Well before that, as as a teen-ager, she broke barriers right here in San Francisco, when she was hired by our namesake, Market Street Railway, as the first female African-American streetcar conductor in the city. She first told this story in “I Know Why the the Caged Bird Sings,” many years ago. She didn’t name the line she worked, but… — Read More

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Celebrating Dashiell Hammett’s 120th Birthday

Dashiell Hammett was born May 27, 1894. He essentially created the modern detective novel. His most famous fictional character was Sam Spade. To celebrate Hammett’s 120th birthday, and the enduring greatness of the Spade character, we’re providing a link to a Feature article that appeared nine years ago in our member newsletter, Inside Track. It tells the story of how Hammett wove his own rail riding experiences in San Francisco (both streetcars and cable cars) in to his novels. Check… — Read More

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Tipple Your Way Along the F-line

The Twin Peaks bar is right at the F-line Castro terminal. Photo (c) Elrond Lawrence. We’re not in the business of promoting booze, but San Francisco is, after all, a great drinking town, and if you’re going to do that, you need a designated driver. How about letting an F-line operator fill that role, by patronizing establishments along the route? Our friends at Thrillist have put together a list of bars and restaurants all along the F-line with dandy libations… — Read More

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