On the Road Again

IMG_2221This just in…the first of 16 PCCs to be rebuilt under the current contract with Brookville Equipment Corporation is on the road back to San Francisco. Muni Car 1056, painted to honor Kansas City, has been thoroughly renovated and is on the road toward California right now. The shot above is the car leaving the Brookville facility in Pennsylvania.

Car 1056 had been out of service the past few years because of a cracked bolster (the piece under the body that sits on top of and connects to the trucks (wheel sets and motors). That critical piece must be expertly repaired or replaced to ensure the long-term operation of the restored car. It is one of the areas Muni will look at very closely before accepting the car and returning it to service. As Car 1056 was generally considered to be in the worst condition of the original F-line fleet covered by the current contract, it was sent first. Thus, Muni’s team will watch closely to make sure the car has truly gone from worst to first.

Logos and car numbers will be applied by Muni’s maintenance team after arrival. The car must be “run in” — tested extensively before acceptance — which requires 1,000 miles of service. That usually takes place on the outer ends of the J, K, and L lines.

We’ll let you know when the car has arrived at Muni Metro East! And we’ll have the inside story of the car’s rebirth and a full update on the Brookville contract in the next issue of our exclusive member newsletter, Inside Track, due out in early September.  Join Market Street Railway today so you don’t miss it.

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Join Us at San Francisco History Days

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This weekend, March 5-6, the historic Old Mint at Fifth and Mission comes alive again with city history. Dozens of city history groups will assemble to celebrate San Francisco’s history. Market Street Railway will again be among them, as we have been in the past.  (That’s us above at an earlier version of the event. The Old Mint is a great venue for this.)

SFGate.com has all the details here.

This year, the Mayor’s Office is running the event and it has opened up the opportunity for groups to sell more merchandise than in the past. And this year it’s FREE!

We’ll have an interesting selection of unique items, plus our displays. Come join us 11-5 on Saturday, 11-4 on Sunday!

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“Super Bust 50”

For three weeks, F-line streetcar riders from the Wharf had to transfer onto buses near the Ferry Building to reach destinations along Market Street, including the Castro. Many skipped the trip altogether.

For three weeks, F-line streetcar riders from the Wharf had to transfer onto buses near the Ferry Building to reach destinations along Market Street, including the Castro. Many skipped the trip altogether.

“Super Bust 50” is the headline of the new Castro Merchants monthly President’s Letter by Daniel Bergerac. You can read his entire letter here, but here’s the gist.

As the Super Let Down after Super Bowl 50 starts to fade, let’s remember who is going to end up paying the biggest price for Santa Clara hosting this huge sporting event – – we are: local merchants, especially in The Castro.  But, we are not alone, we hear, as local merchant associations all over San Francisco report down, soft revenues during SB50.  From all over The Castro and Upper Market neighborhood, I’ve heard from fellow merchants.  The nine days of official SB50 events in the City ballooned, for us, into over three weeks of SB50-related interruptions.  Customer traffic (locals and visitors alike) and revenues were some of their slowest on record during what had been promised as a “busy time.”   Nightmare predictions of over-crowded streets and traffic jams kept Bay Area local folks out of San Francisco.  Running “Bustitues” instead of the F Line historic streetcars between The Castro and Ferry Building for over three weeks further hurt our area’s local and visitor traffic and revenues.

It’s really important to point out that SFMTA leadership was not consulted before the City made the decision to shut down those easternmost three blocks of Market Street for three weeks, crippling the F-line and Muni bus service in the area.  Once they were handed a fait accompli, Muni staff worked hard to make transit work as well as possible.  They were responsive to the concerns the Castro Merchants — and we at Market Street Railway — expressed about the prolonged replacement of historic streetcars with buses on Market Street.  They agreed with our recommendation that the transfer between the substitute Market Street buses and the streetcars (which remained in service between Fisherman’s Wharf and the Ferry Building) be as easy and intuitive as possible. They put out lots of staff to help people make the transfer, next to our museum on Don Chee Way, the right-of-way linking Steuart Street to The Embarcadero). They put signage in Metro stations and on vehicles promoting the Castro as a destination for Super Bowl visitors. (We gladly did the same at our museum.)

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Shops and restaurants still suffered because only a small percentage of Super Bowl City visitors bought anything outside the event barricades, and because many regular workers and visitors stayed away after the repeated warnings of congestion. Our own San Francisco Railway Museum, right next to Super Bowl City, saw our sales of souvenirs drop 56% — more than half — over the same week in 2015, during  the week they were taking Super Bowl City down, but the F-line was still being “bustituted” on Market. Even the week Super Bowl City was open to the public, our sales ran 12% below the previous year, despite our efforts to play up football connections to transit at the museum and reintroduction of a Kezar Stadium dash sign tee-shirt aimed at fans.

The city has not finished adding up the net economic impact of the Super Bowl events in San Francisco, and it may be that additional hotel taxes and the like will more than compensate for the reduced take of sales taxes the city will get from the small businesses in the Castro and elsewhere who saw their sales fall off.

One clear lesson from this event: buses are no substitute for the F-line streetcars on a long-term basis. It has been shown over and over, in city after city: visitors do not trust, or feel comfortable on buses (with the possible exception of iconic vehicles like London’s red double-deckers). In San Francisco, the cable cars and historic streetcars, yes. Every time buses are substituted en masse for the cable cars and streetcars, ridership plummets. For so many people, the journey on these wonderful “time machines” is as important as the destination. And so, when buses replace historic rail, businesses along the lines, and especially near the terminals, suffer.

We hope the powers-that-be in San Francisco includes the community more thoroughly in planning for future events. Looking at the layout and extent of Super Bowl City, they clearly could have set it up in a way that could have kept the F-line streetcars running up Market Street to the Castro. That could have been a win-win.

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F-line, Our Museum Adapt to Super Bowl Week

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The foot of Market Street is very different this week. The streetcar tracks have PVC pipes stuck in the flangeways to reduce the tripping hazard for thousands of strollers visiting corporate-sponsored displays where the F-line and Muni buses usually run.

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Lower Market and the southbound lanes of The Embarcadero in front of the Ferry Building have been turned over to an event called “Super Bowl City”, demoting the F-line streetcars to a Ferry-Wharf shuttle service, with buses taking over for streetcars the entire length of Market Street (and connecting right in front of our San Francisco Railway Museum across from the Ferry Building, on Don Chee Way. By the way, our museum will be open regular hours, Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.)

This cross-platform bus-streetcar connection, which Market Street Railway proposed after Muni planners were ready to turn the buses back a block away, has been strongly praised by the Castro Merchants at the west end of the F-line, who were rightly disappointed to lose their streetcar service for three weeks.  We’ve posted their signs in our museum windows to help promote the connecting bus service.

 

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At the museum, we’re striking a football theme, drawing on archivist Grant Ute and our friends at the Bay Area Electric Railroad Association for a replica of an actual streetcar ad from promoting a semi-pro football game at Kezar Stadium in 1945, the year before the 49ers came into existence. Kezar was served by the 7 and 17 lines of the old Market Street Railway and by Muni’s N-Judah line. For this celebration, we brought back a tee shirt featuring an N-Judah dash sign from the 1950s. It’s on sale at the museum now, and will soon appear in our online store.

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Back on the street, the streetcar-bus connection seems to be working well, with saturation service of 15 streetcars the first day of Super Bowl City easily handling crowds shuttling between Fisherman’s Wharf and the Ferry Building/Super Bowl City entrance area. The streetcars carry banners celebrating the Super Bowl, an idea suggested by Market Street Railway to the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee. The banners will draw even more attention to the historic streetcars while they pass through the hundreds of camera shots of the Ferry Building taken from the various media platforms set up at the event. The banners are not considered advertising, which is forbidden on the outside of the historic streetcars.  They were applied carefully using cable ties by Muni’s great streetcar maintenance team to avoid marring the exterior of the historic cars.

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The buses, too, are heavily scheduled and include many articulated coaches. They loop clockwise around the museum and Hotel Vitale, while the streetcars loop counterclockwise. In the shot below, and inbound streetcar, with passengers on board, turns from Steuart Street to Mission, and will then head north on The Embarcadero to the Wharf. The bus has come south on The Embarcadero from Don Chee Way and is now headed west on Mission, again with passengers. It will turn north to resume the normal F-line route on Market after the Super Bowl City street closure.

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No question it’s going to be a disruptive week for transit, drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists in the area. We at Market Street Railway have two hopes. One: the streetcars get worthwhile and welcome exposure on the national stage through their high visibility next to Super Bowl City.  Two: the city leadership seriously reassesses the need to ever close down lower Market Street to transit in the future. We believe Super Bowl City could have been accommodated within the confines of Justin Herman Plaza, which would have allowed it to be better served by transit.

Remember, streetcars won’t return to Market Street until all the construction on Lower Market is taken down. The target date for that is February 12.

 

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Hoodline Reports on Our Agenda

The popular San Francisco neighborhood news website, Hoodline, reports on Market Street Railway’s priorities for improving historic streetcar service. We appreciate the coverage and hope it helps move these items closer to reality.  The tremendous popularity of the F-line has made a major impact on service quality, as anyone who tries to ride knows.  We do feel strongly that the line can operate more efficiently than it does and become even more popular with locals, including people moving into the many new residential… — Read More

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Super Bowl Sidelines Streetcars This Weekend

  It’s starting already! Disruption of the F-Market & Wharves historic streetcar line for the Super Bowl celebration — a game still one month away! In all the discussion about how Super Bowl City, an NFL concoction of sponsor-related activities, would force F-line streetcars off Market Street for up to three weeks starting later this month, nobody bothered to mention until the last minute that F-line streetcars will be replaced by buses from 9 p.m. this Friday, January 8, through the end of service… — Read More

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Red Lanes on Powell Seem to Work

Powell Street cable cars have some breathing room now, with the implementation of an 18-month test to ban private automobiles from Powell between Geary and Ellis Streets.  The SFMTA Board of Directors recently approved the plan, which Market Street Railway has been advocating for more than a year, and signage went up along with the signature red lanes San Francisco uses to denote “transit only.” While compliance with the new rules seems pretty good so far, part of that may… — Read More

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K is for Kenosha

  Big celebration in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Saturday, September 12, “Streetcar Day,” as they welcomed their newest PCC streetcar for their two-mile loop line from the commuter rail station to the new housing developments along Lake Michigan. Local angle? Just look at the paint job! Like San Francisco, Kenosha paints its PCC streetcars in different liveries that pay tribute to some of the 30 North American cities that operated this, the most successful streetcar design in history. For their latest… — Read More

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F-line Buses, No E-line Labor Day Weekend

  Suddenly, unexpectedly, with only two days notice to business and community stakeholders, including Market Street Railway, Muni’s parent, SFMTA, says it will replace all F-line streetcars this Labor Day Weekend with buses. Last weekend, Muni put out a notice that E-Embarcadero service this Labor Day Weekend would not operate, but there was no mention of the F-line switch. The stated reason for the “bustitution” of the F-line on virtually no notice is that construction work is going on at… — Read More

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Clearing Cars from Market Street

Market Street is fundamentally different today: private automobiles, including ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, are banned from turning onto the city’s main drag between Third and Eighth Streets. SFMTA, Muni’s parent, implemented the changes in support of the Safer Market Street initiative, designed to reduce the number of bicyclists and pedestrians hurt on Market. The Chronicle has a good story on this.  We thank them for the use of the photo above, by Liz Hafalia. The new… — Read More

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Driver Takes Stupid Pills

We get that driving an automobile in San Francisco is not easy, but c’mon! From our friends at SFist comes this photo taken last Thursday by Kendall Willets. Willets reports that the driver of the SUV tried an illegal left turn from the right lane from westbound Market onto southbound Tenth Street.  No injuries, no damage to the streetcar, which has been back on the road. As San Franciscans know, left turns off Market throughout downtown (except onto Drumm Street) have been banned… — Read More

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Sunday Streets on The Embarcadero March 8

The weather is scary-summery, leading us to wring our hands over the worsening drought. But there’s an upside: a beautiful day expected Sunday for the first Sunday Streets event of the season, March 8 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. (Daylight Savings Time!) on The Embarcadero between Third Street and Pier 39. Details here. This is the now-established event where automobiles are detoured, opening the northbound roadway for bicyclists, tricyclists, unicyclists, skateboarders, and users of virtually any other self-powered vehicle.  Including feet. But… — Read More

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1915 Fair Celebration

On February 20, 1915, the Panama-Pacific International Exposition opened. On that opening day, tens of thousands of San Franciscans and visitors paraded north along Van Ness Avenue to reach the fairgrounds at Harbor View (now the Marina District). Tens of thousands more rode streetcars, such as No. 11 (identical to preserved Muni No. 1) shown here on Van Ness in the vicinity of Vallejo Street. On Saturday, February 21, 2015, you’re all invited to a community celebration marking the fair’s… — Read More

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Party Like It’s 1915!

One hundred years ago this month, San Francisco launched perhaps its greatest party ever. Officially, the nearly year-long fair at Harbor View (now the Marina District) — the Panama-Pacific International Exposition — celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal.  To city leaders and residents, though, it was really a celebration of the city’s own resurrection from the devastating earthquake and fire of 1906. To build excitement about the forthcoming fair, the city installed lights in 1914 that outlined the Ferry Building tower… — Read More

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Now THAT’S a Storm!

STORMAGEDDON!  STORMPOCYLPSE! The breathless media hype aside, yes, we actually did have a pretty good soaker on December 11; biggest we’ve seen in a few years (which is like saying that first Budweiser tasted great … after a month in Saudi Arabia). Yet, in context… Now THAT’S a storm. Market, looking east at Church in 1931. That high riding 1550-class Market Street Railway car, on the 8-Market line, just skates across the pond, its Eclipse fender riding the waves.  That Willys Knight… — Read More

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