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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Boost for E-line Extension to Mission Bay, Dogpatch

Vintage streetcars already run through Mission Bay and Dogpatch on their way in and out of service, so why not run E-line historic streetcars here?

Vintage streetcars already run through Mission Bay and Dogpatch on their way in and out of service, so why not run E-line historic streetcars here?

Market Street Railway has been strongly advocating for extensions of the E-Embarcadero vintage streetcar line west from Fisherman’s Wharf to Fort Mason, and south from the Caltrain Depot at Fourth and King. The southern extension would use the existing T-line tracks via Fourth, Channel, and Third Streets to serve the proposed Giants’ Mission Rock development and Warriors’ Arena, UCSF Mission Bay, three new shoreline parks, and thousands of new residences now coming on line or in the pipeline in Mission Bay and Dogpatch.

A new opinion piece in the Examiner offers strong support for our idea. Penned by J. R. Eppler and Tony Kelly, the leaders of the influential Potrero Hill Boosters neighborhood group, it notes the benefits of the southern E-line extension to residents and businesses alike. The Potrero Hill Boosters join neighborhood and small business groups in  Dogpatch and Mission Bay/South Beach/Rincon Hill in supporting the extension. In fact, it was neighborhood initiative that led us to extend our vision for the E-line all the way through Dogpatch. (We originally envisioned an extended E-line turning back near Pier 70, but neighbors urged us to consider the projected explosive residential growth from there to Islais Creek, and we agreed.)

As the Examiner story points out, the historic streetcars currently run this route every day anyway, going to and from Muni Metro East at 26th and Illinois, where they are currently stored. maps vietnam An existing, underused loop track through that facility could provide a terminal for the extended E-line at no capital cost, or a new terminal track could easily be constructed on Illinois between Cesar Chavez and 25th Street, leveraging the existing switches at Third Street to keep costs to a minimum.

There’s no question more transit is needed in this fastest growing part of San Francisco.  We’re pleased that the Potrero Hill Boosters see the E-line as an important part of the solution.

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E-line Kickoff; Boat Tram Debuts

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San Francisco’s newest transit line started operation this morning, August 1, 2015, after an enthusiastic kickoff event on The Embarcadero yesterday. This photo, by Scott Badovick, captures the instant when dignitaries led by Mayor Ed Lee, Supervisors Julie Christensen, Scott Wiener, and Jane Kim, SFTMA Board Chair Tom Nolan and Vice Chair Cheryl Brinkman, SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin, and SFCTA Executive Director Tilly Chang, simultaneously snipped a red ribbon to mark the occasion.

In the background, PCC No. 1006, one of the regular double-end service cars you’ll ride on the E-line. Next to it, Muni’s latest historic streetcar acquisition, No. 233, our second 1934 “boat tram” from Blackpool, England, purchased by Market Street Railway and donated to Muni through a generous donation from The Thoresen Foundation, with shipping underwritten in part by FedEx Trade Networks.  Michael Thoresen represented the Thoresen Foundation and Cassandra Lirio represented FedEx Trade Networks at the event. Both joined the civic dignitaries who rode to the event at Mission Street and The Embarcadero from the new E-line stop in front of AT&T Park at Second and King Streets.

At the ballpark stop, San Francisco Giants President and CEO Larry Baer took a break from his last-minute baseball trade deadline activities to greet the dignitaries. He thanked Market Street Railway President Rick Laubscher for his tireless advocacy for the E-line and noted what a great connection it will make for Giants fans as well as all other people coming to enjoy the length of the Northeast Waterfront.

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After the ride up the Embarcadero on the boat tram, where Mayor Lee happily “rode shotgun,” standing in the morning breeze next to Muni trainer and motorman-for-the-ride Robert Parks, the dignitaries took turns praising the connectivity the E-line will bring between neighborhoods and attractions along its route from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Caltrain Depot at Fourth and King. Representatives of The Exploratorium and other attractions along the way were in the audience, while John Cannizzaro, President of the Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District and Katy Liddell, President of the South Beach-Rincon Hill-Mission Bay Neighborhood Association both spoke. Each called for extending the E-line as soon as possible: Cannizzaro saying the environmentally-approved extension from the Wharf to Fort Mason needs to happen “sooner than later,” and Liddell endorsing Market Street Railway’s proposal to continue E-line service south from Caltrain over the T-line tracks through Mission Bay and Dogpatch.

The immediate focus, though, is working to see that the initial E-line service runs smoothly. SFMTA, Muni’s parent, has posted signs and banners at the exclusive E-line stops south of Folsom Street to make it easy for riders to distinguish them from the high-level N- and T-line platforms.  Both SFMTA and Market Street Railway have ambassadors in place for the first few weekends of service to answer riders’ questions and provide information on the new service.

For now, the service is limited to Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. It is expected to be expanded to seven days a week, with longer hours, early in 2016.

On the SFMTA side, the E-line startup effort has been led by Ed Cobean, head of cable car operations, on a special assignment under the leadership of Director of Transit John Haley.  Deputy Director of Rail Maintenance Lee Summerlott has led the work on ensuring enough PCCs were available, ably assisted by Manny Enriquez, who also led the final preparations of boat tram 233.  Director of Communications Candace Sue and Director of Service Planning Julie Kirschbaum led their teams’ efforts in getting the E-line up and running.  Thanks to all who were involved on the SFMTA side.

On the Market Street Railway side, our efforts were led by our very able Board Chair Bruce Agid, with enthusiastic help from Board Member Katie Haverkamp. In an unfortunate coincidence, Bruce wasn’t able to make the opening event, because he was doing his civic duty — jury duty that is!  But he got shout outs for his tireless advocacy on the E-line by Supervisors Christensen and Kim, among others.

 

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Great E-line Startup Piece in The Examiner

Right after this shot was snapped, Mayor Dianne Feinstein (left) took the controls of Muni Car No.1 and personally piloted it down Market Street to open the first Trolley Festival in June 1983. That success led to the permanent F-line, and now the E-line.

Right after this shot was snapped, Mayor Dianne Feinstein (left) took the controls of Muni Car No.1 and personally piloted it down Market Street to open the first Trolley Festival in June 1983. That success led to the permanent F-line, and now the E-line.

 

The Examiner’s Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez gave us a ring in the morning, asking for the history behind the E-line. Among other things, he was curious why the line is named E when it’s starting service 20 years after the F.  We explained that the E-Embarcadero was originally given that letter in 1979, when Muni Planning first included it in its Long Range Transit Plan (very long range, as it turned out). It was envisioned to run from Fort Mason to the Caltrain Depot along the waterfront, following the old State Belt freight railroad route, an idea first proposed a decade earlier by San Francisco Tomorrow. The following year, they included the F-Market in their plan from the Ferry to Castro.

We explained to Joe that the Market line was dubbed F, simply because it followed E in the alphabet.  (Both had originally belonged to vanished Muni streetcar lines, the E-Union (now the 41 bus) and F-Stockton (now the 30 bus)). We also told him that some believed the “F” was for Feinstein, since then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein made the F-line a reality by personally championing the summer demonstration Trolley Festivals of the 1980s on Market.  (And by the way, we would be the first to sign up by making the F-for-Feinstein line official!)

Still, we were blown away to see such a strong endorsement of Market Street Railway’s advocacy for the E-line from now-Senator Feinstein in the Examiner article.

The story accurately portrays SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin’s role in bringing the E-line to reality.  We also pointed out the roles of his team in supporting the E-line startup, noting that bringing any new transit line into service is a complex task. And we singled out other community leaders, such as key waterfront businesses and neighborhood groups, and Dr. Mimi Silbert, President of Delancey Street Foundation, who have been staunch E-line supporters.

We also mentioned the key roles of Mayor Art Agnos and the late Doug Wright, his transportation deputy mayor (and later Market Street Railway board chair), in ensuring that the F-line tracks were connected to the extension of the Muni Metro subway along the Southern Embarcadero, completing that physical connection for the E-line. Those things, though, like the origin of the E and F designations, didn’t make the story, but understandably so, given its impressive length already.

We were also pleased to see that the Ex highlighted our call for volunteer docents to work the first few weekends of the E-line, starting August 1. You can sign up at volunteer@streetcar.org.  We thank MSR Board Chair Bruce Agid and Board Member Katie Haverkamp for their leadership in organizing our support for SFMTA in conjunction with the E-line’s opening.

Watch this space, and the SFMTA website, for more information on E-line startup activities.

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Our E-line Vision Gaining Attention

In the wake of several successful weekends of vintage streetcar service the length of The Embarcadero on the E-line, the Curbed website posted a story on our vision for an extended E-line service today. That, in turn, spawned a post on SFist. Curbed drew on the document we’ve been distributing around town, which you can download here. Recently restored E-line PCC streetcar No. 1008 switches off the F-line tracks onto the connector track that will take it the rest of… — Read More

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Milestone for Fort Mason Streetcar Extension

The National Park Service and cooperating agency project partners, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the Federal Transit Administration have announced the approved Record of Decision (ROD) for the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Extension of Muni’s historic streetcar service to Fort Mason Center. The document itself can be downloaded through the link above. Photomontage showing a PCC streetcar emerging from the historic Fort Mason railroad tunnel at the foot of Van Ness Avenue. This is an… — Read More

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Great Streetcar (and Other) Photos on View This Weekend

Photos by Market Street Railway calendar contributor Kevin Sheridan are on display at Fort Mason Center this weekend, along with nine other artists. (That’s one of his current calendar shots above.) It’s called Studio Nocturne 2012, and it runs Saturday and Sunday, October 13 and 14, from 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. on the ground floor of Building D in the Fleet Room. Further information is available. We’d love to tell you to take the streetcar, but the extension to… — Read More

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Taking Artistic License – With the Facts

Yesterday’s Chronicle carried a nice little David-Goliath story pitting starting artists against streetcars, suggesting that if a proposed stop on the planned F-line extension from Fisherman’s Wharf to Aquatic Park and Fort Mason stays where currently envisioned, that streetcar stop would greatly harm the street artist community. Well, as one of my cynical editors once said to me in my journalism days, “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.” That seems to be what happened… — Read More

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America’s Cup Plan Includes E-line Service, Mentions Fort Mason Extension

The “People Plan” to bring spectators to the shoreline of San Francisco Bay for the 34th America’s Cup races includes historic streetcar service on the E-Embarcadero line, plus the possibility of implementing the F-line extension to Fort Mason in time for the races. The streetcar part of the plan seems at least symbolically important to the America’s Cup folks, since they used the cool photo montage above at the top of their webpage discussing the plan. The plan, announced today… — Read More

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Fort Mason Streetcar a Step Closer

Historic streetcar service to Aquatic Park and Fort Mason came a step closer today with the release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the extension. The National Park Service was the lead agency on the DEIS because much of the 0.85 mile extension from Jones and Jefferson Streets to Fort Mason Center traverses federal parkland. However, the final design, construction, and operation of the extension would be done by Muni (part of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency).… — Read More

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SPUR Backs Fast Action on Fort Mason Streetcar Extension

San Francisco’s top planning organization, SPUR, is getting attention with a call for quick action to build a streetcar extension to Fort Mason in time for America’s Cup races on the Bay in 2013. SPUR’s position is that with 200,000 to 1 million visitors expected every race day, it makes sense to put out the extra effort to accelerate construction of the streetcar extension from Fisherman’s Wharf to Fort Mason Center to have it ready to carry the big crowds… — Read More

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Fort Mason Streetcar Extension: Questions Answered

Some of you may have seen the Examiner article discussing the proposed streetcar extension to the western Wharf, Aquatic Park, and Fort Mason.  We’ve talked about the extension here before.  The planning process has been moving along with preparation of a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS), expected to be ready for public comment early next year when, to the surprise of virtually everyone involved in the project, Supervisor Michaela Alioto-Pier pops up and asks that no city money be appropriated… — Read More

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