Muni Heritage Weekend postponed

The very popular annual Muni Heritage Weekend is being postponed at least into spring of 2021. No exact date has yet been sent for the rescheduled event.

The postponement has seemed inevitable for weeks, given the course of Covid-19 through San Francisco, and the enduring shelter-in-place orders. SFMTA and Market Street Railway, which co-sponsor the event, agreed this week that it was not feasible to hold it on August 22-23, its scheduled 2020 dates. As a result, we’ve jointly set a goal of holding the event next spring on a weekend to be determined.

2019 Muni Heritage Weekend

SFMTA has just released a “Transportation Recovery Plan” with six levels, tied to the resumption of business and personal travel in the city.

Six levels of SFMTA’s Transportation Recovery Plan. Click to enlarge.

These levels of service restoration would be implemented in concert with improved public health and business conditions, which will drive service demand. Rail service is scheduled to resume in Level 4, coincident with “Schools Open” among other milestones. That won’t happen before August. The final level, 6, occurs with “end of crisis; large events and tourism returns; increased demand for travel to downtown”. Again, no date on this.

Social distancing guidelines on Muni transit vehicles are very likely to still be in place this August, as are prohibitions of gatherings of 50 or more people. Even if the virus were to fade faster than currently anticipated, it would take longer than the three months between now and August 22-23 for Muni to properly organize and staff for the event.

While the postponement of Heritage Weekend is disappointing to all, it is in tune with the cancellation of myriad events that attract crowds. In a way, it may present an opportunity at the same time.

It has been harder to find workable dates for Heritage Weekend the past few years, as special events in the fall have proliferated, putting more demands on Muni to provide operators and work around street closures for races, Giants games, and the like. We (Market Street Railway) have been contemplating whether spring would be a better time. This looks like a chance to find out.

Meanwhile, streetcars continue to pop up periodically on the streets, either on operator training or testing missions. Pat Garvey posted the photo above to our Market Street Railway Facebook group the other day, with PCC “Green Hornet” 1058 out for exercise on Market Street, passing two masked bicyclists.

Market Street Railway will continue to press for the earliest feasible return to the streets for San Francisco’s historic streetcars and cable cars, consistent with operator and passenger safety. And we will be working with SFMTA to make the next Muni Heritage Weekend the best ever.

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Status update, April 15, 2020

Muni has put into effect the dramatic service cuts we told you about in our last update. Muni is currently operating just 17 core routes (out of 87), all served by buses. No rail service of any kind currently. Given our focus, we won’t discuss details of that here, but if you read the public comments at the bottom of SFMA’s announcement, you’ll see a lively debate.

The cable car machinery is completely shut down, though some cosmetic and restoration work continues on individual cable cars. The past week did see some additional operator training on vintage streetcars, as captured in this memorable photo by Traci Cox — memorable in large part because Pier 39 is empty and closed down in what would normally have been a very busy pre-Easter week. (When this ends, we hope you will visit and support Pier 39, because they, and other Wharf businesses, including Ghirardelli Square, Cioppino’s Restaurant, and others, have been generous supporters of our work.)

Yesterday, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced six critical indicators that would guide his decision on when to modify the state’s lockdown order. He said there is no precise timeline for modifying the stay-at-home order, but from what we’ve seen, it seems clear it will extend at least through the end of May, and likely longer. At that point, transit agencies, including SFMTA, will have to make decisions on when and how to resume various service levels, depending on demand. The governor has said the restart of activity will be phased and gradual. We don’t know at what point cable car or vintage streetcar service might resume, so we won’t speculate, but we will keep you informed here as we get additional information.

Our San Francisco Railway Museum will be closed at least through the lifting of the stay-at-home order, and probably for some time after that. The most likely reopening would be tied to the resumption of F-line streetcar service, but that hasn’t yet been decided. In the meantime, we continue to offer popular items from the museum shop in our online store. Thanks so much to our wonderful museum and operations manager, Alison Cant, for fulfilling incoming orders on a once-a-week basis. She is so important to our organization.

In the meantime, we pass along a message and photo from former MSR board member Steve Ferrario, sent to us on April 9. “Strange days.  Castro end of the F-Line, now terminal for the T buses.  🤨”

Thanks once again to all the SFMTA employees on the job during these most difficult time, maintaining some level of mobility for San Franciscans. Be safe out there!

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Status update April 6, 2020

Muni has announced its most drastic system cutback yet, going into effect the next couple of days. Here is their announcement. It includes a map of the routes that will continue to operate and details on why the service is being further reduced.

This follows last month’s shutdown of, first, the cable cars and historic streetcars, on the grounds that operators had no separation from passengers akin to light rail vehicles and most buses. That was followed by the shutdown of the Market Street Subway, substituting surface buses on all the light rail line. Now, with 40% of operators expected to be off work, mostly self-quarantining for safety purposes, Muni service will be cut down to 17 key lines, focused on serving hospitals and other destinations for essential workers.

Last week did see some vintage streetcars on the streets, though not to carry passengers. Some were test runs by the vintage streetcar maintenance team, still hard at work, catching up on various projects. Above, from an “Orange Milano” training on the J-Church line (at Church & 29th Streets), is the first “Lemon Milano” to appear on the streets in more than two years: Car 1807, which has been out of service. The testing revealed it still has a traction motor problem, which is now being addressed.

Another shop test, of Twin City Rapid Transit PCC 1071, in its original Minneapolis-St. Paul livery, on Church Street, on April 3.

Shop trials weren’t the only vintage operations of the past week. On April 1 (no fooling), PCCs 1051 (the Harvey Milk car) and 1055 (in its original Philadelphia 1940s livery) went out the L-line, resulting in this great shot at 35th Avenue and Taraval, with Car 1055 resting “in the hole” of the track wye on 35th, awaiting a road call from maintenance (remember, these cars haven’t been operating in awhile now). These cars were training new streetcar operators, and this piece of training finished last Friday. Next step is line training, involving supervised operation during regular service, which obviously has been put off. The trained operators have been reassigned to buses for the duration.

Before the training was suspended, though, a clean sweep of Milan liveries, with “Mint Milano” 1814 at the L-line terminal at 46th and Wawona, following “Orange Milano” 1815.

Thanks to the photographers who grabbed these shots. They come from our Facebook Group, which is seeing a big increase in activity with great historic photos being posted and discussed. If you’re not a member, here’s the link. Join us!

And special thanks to all the operators and maintainers doing their very best to keep critical Muni service running. We will get through this!

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Streetcar-cable car shutdown

Residents of six Bay Area counties have been ordered to stay in their homes, except to buy groceries or medicine or visit doctors, until at least April 7. They may take walks as long as they remain at least six feet away from people who are not members of their own household. This unprecedented action triggered ripple effects on public transit, including the shutdown of E- and F-line historic streetcars and all three cable car lines for the duration of the shelter-in-place order. 

Essential services, including police, fire, and enough transit for essential trips will continue to be provided.  The cable cars and a shortened F-line from the Wharf to the Ferry Building will be served by buses, while the E-Embarcadero line has been suspended altogether. Riders looking to go from the Wharf past the Ferry Building up Market will have to transfer to Muni Metro at Embarcadero Station or to a surface bus. 

Muni leadership said the bus substitution is being undertaken in part because the cable cars and historic streetcars have no partitions between operators and riders, unlike the light rail vehicle and most buses.  Market Street Railway agrees with the temporary substitution, as operator safety must come first.  Our San Francisco Railway Museum is also closed until the shelter-in-place order is lifted, as are all non-essential businesses in the Bay Area.

There is no point in speculating how long this shutdown will last. “At least through April 7” is the official language, but officials have made clear it could be longer if public health requires it. As you have certainly read by now, these measures are being taken to “flatten the curve” of infection – that is, keep the number of cases requiring treatment at any one time within the resource capabilities (beds, ventilators, etc.) of hospitals and clinics. This could mean that requiring people to self-isolate may go on for some time beyond April 7. We just don’t know.            

We salute the dedication of all transit operators at this time of extra challenges, including those who have been operating and will again operate Muni’s cable cars and historic streetcars. 

We will continue to report meaningful developments here. Be careful out there!

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Car-free Market Speeds Up F-line

A new study, plus research by our board member Chris Arvin, shows that the first month of the ban on private automobiles on Market Street is making Muni operations, including the F-line, faster, according to this story in the San Francisco Examiner. For the F streetcar, in particular, the impacts are “really noticeable,” Arvin said. Most morning commute streetcar trip from Ninth and Market streets to First and Market streets took more than 15 minutes. Since the car ban, about… — Read More

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Boat Tram Marks Market Street’s New Era

Can a tram be entrancing? Sure seemed that way yesterday at the ceremony at the foot of Market Street celebrating the elimination of private automobiles on San Francisco’s main thoroughfare. After an opening serenade by eight-time cable car bell ringing champ Byron Cobb and a round of speeches that included Mayor London Breed, SFMTA Board Chair Malcolm Heinicke, SFMTA Director of Transportation Jeff Tumlin, and several mobility advocates (from Walk SF, the Bicycle Coalition and MSR’s Rick Laubscher), the celebrants… — Read More

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Boat Tram to Help Celebrate Car-free Market, Jan. 29

At 11 a.m. on Wednesday, January 29, Market Street will wave good bye to private automobiles from 10th Street to the Ferry. The boat tram will help. To symbolize the continuation of rail transit on Market (which began in 1860!), Muni has chosen one of its wildly popular 1934 open-top streetcars from Blackpool, England (both of which came to San Francisco thanks to Market Street Railway). The boat will join a parade up Market from Embarcadero Plaza at Market and… — Read More

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Future Meets Past in Muni Art

A few days ago, we were honored to participate in awarding prizes to the winners of this year’s Muni Art Program, organized by San Francisco Beautiful, whose write-up notes, “The 2020 Muni Art Project theme, ‘Hidden Gems of San Francisco’ is the fifth year that the The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), San Francisco Beautiful and The Poetry Society of America (sponsors of Poetry in Motion®) have collaborated to bring art and poetry to Muni commuters.” As it turns… — Read More

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107 Years Ago Today

On December 28, 1912, ten shiny gray streetcars with brick-red roofs lined up on Geary Street, from Kearny Street to Grant Avenue. The first, Numbered 1 in gold leaf outlined in black, opened its black scissor gate. Up stepped the Mayor of the City and County of San Francisco, James Rolph, Jr. From his pocket, he took a Liberty Head nickel, with a large “V” on the back (people knew back then that was the roman numeral for “five”). He… — Read More

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Jeff Tumlin New SFMTA Leader

Bay Area native and long-time San Francisco resident Jeffrey Tumlin will take over Muni’s parent agency, SFMTA, on December 16. Mayor London Breed announced Tumlin’s new position as Director of Transportation at a City Hall news conference this morning, subject to appointment by the SFMTA Board of Directors (expected to be a formality). Tumlin will take over the permanent job held by Ed Reiskin for the past eight years until Reiskin announced his resignation earlier this year. SFMTA’s Director of… — Read More

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Pier 39 is now E/F-line terminal for at least a year

This morning, operators on Muni’s E-Embarcadero and F-Market & Wharves historic streetcar lines started rolling their destination signs past “Fisherman’s Wharf” and stopped at “Pier 39”, the big visitor attraction a block east of what’s traditionally considered the Wharf. And those Wharf destination signs are supposed to stay dark for at least a full year, maybe longer, while the city makes changes to three blocks of Jefferson Street, from Powell to Jones, changes that do NOT include the F-line tracks… — Read More

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Fabulous Fleet Week

This year’s San Francisco Fleet Week (October 7-14) saw more vintage streetcars participating than ever. It all came together quickly, once SFMTA (Muni) was able to sign up operators for overtime work. Muni’s 1934 Blackpool Boat Trams delighted riders with open-air rides in perfect weather past Navy Ships tied up along the Embarcadero. Some lucky riders, like our Board member Chris Arvin, got to see the Navy’s famed Blue Angels flight team streak by as they rumbled along the pavement… — Read More

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A Stealth Boat

USS Zumwalt

Take a quick ride on Blackpool Boat Tram 233 during San Francisco’s Fleet Week, where you’ll see a slightly newer boat, the US Navy’s first stealth destroyer, USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000), and get the sights and sounds of this authentic 1934 streetcar from England on a perfect fall day. You can ride the boat until Sunday afternoon, October 13, at 6 p.m., as part of Muni’s tribute to Fleet Week. And it’s FREE!

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Boat to Cruise on Fleet Week Weekend

UPDATE, FRIDAY MORNING, OCTOBER 11 — The Boat is out today as well, a bonus day! The copy below has been adjusted to reflect this. Thanks to initiative by staff at SFMTA, led by Randy Catanach, chief of rail maintenance, one of Muni’s two 1934 Blackpool, England, open-top Boat Trams will cruise the waterfront from our San Francisco Railway Museum to Pier 39 on Fleet Week Weekend — Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, October 11-13, from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.… — Read More

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Back On Track — After 77 Years Off!

Early this morning, a cable car originally constructed in 1883 became Muni’s oldest operating transit vehicle. Early this morning, Sacramento & Clay Sts. cable car 19 made a full trip on the California Street line pulled by the cable. It was the first time this cable car was pulled by a cable on the street in 77 years, since its retirement in 1942. This news, and these wonderful photos, come from Market Street Railway member Traci Cox who documented the… — Read More

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