Trip to Europe on the Waterfront

With Blackpool, England Boat Tram pulling an temporary “Brexit” from this summer’s special waterfront streetcar service on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Muni Chief Julie Kirschbaum is sending in fun substitutes to fill in.

The coming two Tuesdays and Wednesdays (July 23-24 and July 30-31), 1952 Euro PCC 737 (which operated in Brussels but is painted to honor San Francisco’s Sister City, Zurich, Switzerland) will be cruising the waterfront. As a bonus, it will also operate on Swiss National Day, Thursday, August 1. (The past few weeks, 1929 Melbourne Tram 496 has filled in.)

It’s a fun ride, smooth as silk, and entertaining inside. Muni’s Euro PCC combines a Brussels interior (complete with signage in Flemish and French) with promotional ads about Zurich above the windows, and Zurich’s famous blue livery on the exterior. The car was turned into this hybrid when the Zurich-San Francisco Sister City Committee asked then-Mayor Gavin Newsom for a “Zurich” streetcar to join the fleet, and the idea of a genuine Zurich vintage tram had to be abandoned because their very narrow bodies and meter-gauge trucks could not be adapted for use in San Francisco (not that there were any offered to San Francisco in any event).

But hey, in San Francisco, we celebrate diversity, so come ride the “Zurles” tram (or is it Brussich?).

Meanwhile, there appears to be good news on Boat 228: the shop has taken the motors off the car and believe they can fix the problem that took it out of service within two more weeks. Muni Rail Maintenance Chief Randy Catanach passed along these photos of one of the trucks, before and after the shop team pressure washed it. That boat is going to look great when it’s back.

We do expect at least one of the two boats to operate on Muni Heritage Weekend, September 7-8. We expect the Euro PCC to be out as well, along with the Melbourne tram(s!) and Muni’s famed 1912 Car 1, plus, of course the every popular 1896 “Dinky” 578 (although it can no longer traverse the route it’s signed for, “Ellis & O’Farrell” via Devisadero [cq]. Make sure you leave time to ride the buses and cable cars too!

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Thank You, Ed Reiskin

Note: A version of this article is contained in the current edition of the Market Street Railway magazine Inside Track, reaching mailboxes now. It has been updated here.  

By Carmen Clark, MSR Board Chair and Rick Laubscher, MSR President

Ed Reiskin, a daily Muni rider, on a Milan tram
(Courtesy San Francisco Chronicle)

Edward D. Reiskin, Director of Transportation (the top executive) of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, is moving on from his post. His last day in the office was this week. We at Market Street Railway will greatly miss his leadership.

The top job at SFMTA is more demanding than that of almost any transit agency CEO, in large part because SFMTA itself is more than just a transit agency. It is in charge not just of San Francisco’s buses, light rail vehicles, cable cars, and streetcars, but also of its parking, taxis, bicycle and pedestrian safety, and even the operation of the streets themselves.  

Ed Reiskin came into this multifaceted job at the behest of the late mayor Edwin W. Lee in 2011. Reiskin had succeeded Lee as head of the Department of Public Works, and Mayor Lee believed his knowledge of the city and its processes for getting things done would serve San Francisco well. He certainly brought impressive credentials to the job, having been Deputy Mayor of Washington DC and holding Master of Public Administration degree from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, an MBA from New York University, and a Bachelor of Science degree from MIT.

At SFMTA, Ed devoted much time trying to build a more unified culture from the disparate departments that had been combined into the larger agency, to deliver services more efficiently to the public. Importantly for us, Reiskin also recognized the importance of putting his agency’s best foot forward to the public. He was a consistent supporter of historic streetcar and cable car service, not at the expense of reliable daily bus and light rail service, but still as a core part of the basic transit network, one that brought the public delight. 

During Reiskin’s tenure, Muni Heritage Weekends became an annual event after being started as a one-time Muni Centennial event in 2012. The second historic streetcar line, the E-Embarcadero, finally began operations after being a dream for decades. The renovation of the 32-car PCC fleet was completed, and a new track loop at Civic Center has been approved and funded, allowing for future expansion of F-line service in the most heavily traveled portion of the line. As Ed prepares to depart, proposals are being solicited to restore five more priceless double-end vintage streetcars, and planning is again proceeding to extend historic streetcar service from Fisherman’s Wharf to Aquatic Park, the first step in the eventual extension to Fort Mason.  

Ed Reiskin provided the leadership to achieve all these things for the historic streetcar operation in San Francisco, and much more. Though his schedule was jammed with demands and meetings, he found time to meet with us every month, bringing in his top lieutenants to go over projects in process and ensure they were moving forward, and listening to our ideas for further improvements. 

All the while, he oversaw the replacement of virtually Muni’s entire bus and light rail fleet and responded to demands from bicyclists and pedestrians for safer streets by implementing safety measures at a pace unprecedented in San Francisco’s history, even as fast-growing population, increased congestion, understaffing, and worn out infrastructure made his job tougher. 

After eight high-pressure years, Ed Reiskin has elected to seek new professional challenges, while the SFMTA Board faces the very big challenge of finding a new Director of Transportation that can balance the priorities and deliver services to the people of San Francisco as well as Ed Reiskin has.

On behalf of the members and friends of Market Street Railway, we extend our deep thanks for his steady and consistent leadership and wish him well in his future endeavors.

UPDATED: At the SFMTA Board of Directors Meeting on July 15, MSR President Rick Laubscher made this statement on behalf of Market Street Railway.

Our organization has been supporting Muni for 40 years.  When I first met Ed Reiskin eight years ago, the only thing we asked is that he be honest with us.  Tell us where he agreed, where he didn’t, what might be possible, what wasn’t.  

In other words, open communication and fair dealing.  That should be the norm, but it often hasn’t been in the past.

With Ed, it was.  We have accomplished a lot of positive things together, and we appreciate that.

And though we focus on Muni’s cable cars and historic streetcars and buses, our organization is passionate about the success of SFMTA as a whole.  We have been transit-first advocates for decades.  And we know a lot about how SFMTA works – and sometimes, why it doesn’t work as well as we’d all like.

That’s why we want to thank Ed for his leadership in every area of SFMTA’s responsibilities.  You, as a Board, have made an excellent decision in our view by making Tom Maguire the interim director.  You face a daunting decision in finding a permanent director who can match up to the standards Ed Reiskin has set for humble yet passionate service, for collaboration, and for his love of this city and its transportation networks.

Thank you, Ed. A great transportation chief. A great San Franciscan.

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Boat Tram Still Sidelined

Update: 1928 Melbourne Tram 496 will continue to substitute for 1934 Blackpool (England) Boat Tram 228 on The Embarcadero Tuesday and Wednesday, July 16-17, while Muni maintenance crews analyze the problem with one of the motors or bearings. We will provide updates on the progress of fixing the boat tram as available.

Muni Maintenance management tells us they will work to get the other Boat Tram, 233, operational for Muni Heritage Weekend, September 7-8, should the problem with 228 be worse than expected.

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Melbourne Tram Subs for Boat This Week

The popular 1934 Blackpool (England) open-topped “Boat Tram” encountered a problem at the end of its service week last Wednesday and is being worked on this week, so 1929 Melbourne Tram 496 will substitute for it on the special waterfront service Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Muni assures us they’ll make every effort to return Boat service as quickly as possible.

The Melbourne tram is a sweet ride, and with windows that drop all the way down and an open center section, it provides great views and a breezy ride too. Come take a cruise, on the “Wonder from Down Under”.

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Showing Transit Pride

Check out this article in the San Francisco Examiner by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez about this Pride Month initiative taken on a personal basis by our board member, Chris Arvin. Chris’ design work is on display on our website in the engaging streetcar icons featured on the live streetcar map designed by fellow board member Kat Siegal. We offer stickers of those icons at our San Francisco Railway Museum and online store. A wide variety of Pride-related items, including tee shirts… — Read More

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Flashback to 1906 on June 26

In the latest installment of Market Street Railway’s series of history talks, called Inside Track Live, you’ll be able to see the famous 1906 Miles Brothers film, “A Trip Down Market Street”, as you’ve never seen it before. On Wednesday, June 26 at 6 p.m., at our San Francisco Railway Museum, MSR President Rick Laubscher will present the highest-quality transfer of this precious film ever made, showing a 12-minute ride from Eighth Street to the Ferry along Market Street, shot… — Read More

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Great Start to Summer Boat Service

The first day of summer boat tram service, May 28, went very well. Some highlights: The Boat ran great, the banners Market Street Railway prepared looked great; thanks to Randy Catanach’s rail maintenance crew. The operating crew (Angel Carvajal and Juiel Rice) were great with riders, very welcoming. Market Street Railway had docents on board all day answering questions. Loads were good all day; full both directions on final few trips. Lots of waves and positive feedback from onlookers all… — Read More

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Boat Tram About to Land

You may have already caught a glimpse of it along the J-line, or Market Street, or The Embarcadero, this week. Here are a couple of shots from Jeremy Whiteman’s Behind the Lens Facebook Group. Blackpool, England Boat Tram 228 is celebrating its 85th birthday this year by taking San Franciscans and visitors for a cruise along our waterfront boulevard, The Embarcadero, from the Ferry Building to Pier 39 (gateway to Fisherman’s Wharf) starting the day after Memorial Day. The past… — Read More

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Muni Heritage Weekend Sept. 7-8

The premier vintage transit event of the year, Muni Heritage Weekend, happens September 7-8 this year. Rides will be offered each day from 11 a.m. through 5 p.m. For the first time, this popular event, co-sponsored by SFMTA and Market Street Railway, will kick off San Francisco Transit Week, an event co-sponsored by SFMTA and the San Francisco Transit Riders organization (SFTR). Details are still being finalized, but for Heritage Weekend at least, you can expect, at a minimum, several… — Read More

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Sail the Boat Starting May 28

As a Summer gift to San Francisco, Muni will be operating the fabulous Blackpool Boat Tram in regular service on Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting May 28. The special service will last at least through Labor Day, perhaps longer, running from the Ferry Building to Pier 39, adjacent to Fisherman’s Wharf along The Embarcadero. (The Pier 39 terminal will allow more trips per day, avoiding the long queue of E- and F-line regular service streetcars taking their layover at Jones Street.)… — Read More

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The E is Back!

After a hiatus caused by project work on two of Muni’s light rail lines, the E-Embarcadero line has returned to service. Nice writeup in the SFMTA blog. Show your support for the E-line! Take a ride anywhere between Caltrain and Fisherman’s Wharf along the waterfront, from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. seven days a week. We’re going to be strengthening our advocacy to expand the hours of service and extend the line to Aquatic Park and then to Fort Mason Center.

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Best Version Yet of Iconic 1906 Movie

In 1906, it didn’t get more high tech than this iconic 12-minute movie, filmed from the front of a cable car headed down Market Street. If you’re a San Francisco history buff (or transit buff), you’ve probably seen it before, but not like this. A new digital transfer by the noted film archivist Rick Prelinger breathes more life into it, sharper and wider-screen. (Back then, the image was captured to the edges of the film, even between the sprocket holes;… — Read More

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Happy Centennial to One “L” of a Streetcar Line

On April 12, 1919, the first L-Taraval streetcar hit the rails, overcoming obstacles to begin a century of service that continues today. The Twin Peaks Tunnel had opened fourteen months before, bringing fast streetcar service from downtown to the nearly empty southwestern quadrant of the city. Initially, there was just one line, the K, but property owners in the areas above and west of the tunnel, who had paid for its construction, expected – and demanded – more. So, Muni… — Read More

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Welcome to our new site!

Led by our great volunteers Chris Arvin and Kat Siegal, we’ve revamped streetcar.org to have a fresh look and much more utility, especially for mobile users. The freshest part of the new site is the live streetcar map created by Kat and Chris. You can read all about it in this story from the Examiner. Easier to use than our former map, it tells mobile users not only how far away the next streetcar is from their stop, but also… — Read More

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Thank a Muni Operator Today

Today is Transit Drivers’ Appreciation Day. It’s a hard job, and it has gotten harder over the past decade with the increase in traffic on our streets. Muni has painted more “red carpet” lanes for their vehicles’ (and taxis’) exclusive use, but many automobile drivers ignore them. If you have a favorite SFMTA operator, one you think provides good service and makes your day a little easier, fill out a commendation form. It just takes a couple of minutes. Or… — Read More

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