Cable cars, a giant leap forward in urban transit technology when Andrew Hallidie invented them in 1873, dominated San Francisco streets until the earthquake and fire of 1906 decimated both cable machinery and the cars themselves. After that, cable cars were largely limited to steep hills while larger, faster electric streetcars carried the heavy loads on main routes. High operating costs gradually pared down the remaining cable car lines. In 1947, an attempt by a misguided mayor to junk the Powell Street cables was slapped down by a women-led civic coalition helmed by Friedel Klussmann, but even her heroic efforts seven years later could not avert the loss of half the remaining cable car trackage.
We’ve written before of the many Black barrier breakers in San Francisco transit. These are stories that must be retold every month, not just Black History Month. People such as Mary Ellen Pleasant, Charlotte Brown, Audley Cole, Larry Martin, Welton Flynn, Curtis Green, and Maya Angelou confronted racism and resistance; all moved the needle in our City toward equity and equality, a fight that continues today.
On Black Friday, San Francisco felt, well, BACK! Our Board chair Carmen Clark and I attended the kickoff for Union Square’s “Winter Wanderland”, with a European-style holiday market in Hallidie Plaza featuring live entertainment, with Union Square itself brighter than ever with the big Macy’s tree, the ice rink, and entertainment. Folks were enjoying it, as were the many SFPD officers very evident this holiday season.
If there’s a special heaven for photographers, greats like Dorothea Lange, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams, O. Winston Link, and many others are welcoming San Francisco’s Fred Lyon, who captured the essence of this city in the mid-20th century in images just as brilliantly as Herb Caen captured it in words.
Muni’s 21-Hayes bus line returned to service on July 9, 2022 after a 27-month pandemic suspension. Early in the pandemic, Muni management hoped that the crisis might give them an opportunity to rationalize the network by permanently shutting down some of the parallel routes that dated back to the 19th century. The 21 was one of several lines, including the 2-Clement and 6-Parnassus, on that list.
The 6-Haight-Parnassus trolley coach line returned to service July 9, 2022, after being shut down since the start of the Covid pandemic in Spring 2020. We recounted the history of this line in our exclusive member magazine, Inside Track, in 2019. We hope readers who enjoy this story will join us or donate, so we can keep telling stories like this.
On Saturday, July 9, Muni restarted service on several routes with long histories that were shut down at the beginning of the Covid pandemic; routes that at least some in Muni hoped would not come back at all. SFMTA’s blog has the whole list of Muni routes resurrected on July 9. We focus here on one of those routes, the 2-line, with a long history and possibly cloudy future. (We’ve also covered two other resurrected historic routes: the 6-line and the 21-line in other posts.)
NOTE: In late June 2022, a pandemic-delayed memorial service was held for Art Curtis, retired Muni Chief Inspector, long-time Market Street Railway Secretary and Board Member, and stalwart volunteer for many nonprofit groups. Art, who passed away in 2020 just after reaching his goal of his 80th birthday, was a great storyteller, and he had some good ones! A number of years ago, we asked him to share this one in our member magazine, “Inside Track”.
March 18 is Transit Driver Appreciation Day. Operating transit vehicles is a challenging job, in any environment. The past two years, it has been more challenging than ever in San Francisco, given justified concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus along with all the other issues they encounter every day. In our member magazine, Inside Track, we gave a shout out in 2020 to three vintage streetcar operators, emblematic of the many who show love for San Francisco’s historic transit vehicles and offer their riders great service.
Visitors to San Francisco today frequently comment on the multi-colored fleet of streetcars on Market Street. But it’s not the first time that’s happened.
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