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.

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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!