Thank You, SPUR!

SPUR is one of the great urban planning non-profits in the world. Formally named San Francisco Planning and Urban Research, the organization is widely respected as a powerful and responsible advocate for making our city more livable as well as economically strong and esthetically beautiful.
Market Street Railway President Rick Laubscher was one of four San Franciscans honored last week with Silver SPUR awards, given annually for helping make “San Francisco and the Bay Area a better place to live and work.” Here’s the video SPUR showed of Rick.

2011 Silver SPUR Awards: Rick Laubscher from SPUR on Vimeo.

SPUR’s announcement of Rick’s award said, in part, “Rick Laubscher is most well known for his transformative impact on Market Street’™s historic streetcars, but his transportation advocacy and commitment to San Francisco’™s important historic treasures extends well beyond the Market Street Railway. A fourth-generation San Franciscan, Rick and his family have long been engaged in the vibrant life of Market Street. Among his civic contributions, Rick served as founding board chair of The City Club of San Francisco, on SPUR’s board and transportation committee, and on the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce board. Over his career, Rick has been a radio and television news reporter, a corporate public relations executive and a civic activist.”
In his acceptance remarks to the 2,000 people attending the awards luncheon at Moscone West, Rick said he considers the honor to belong to all those who have worked so hard to keep historic transit a vibrant part of our city’s present, and, through expansion to Fort Mason and Mission Bay, an even bigger part of its future. He noted that It is the collective work of dozens of champions, both inside the city family — at Muni and other departments and in the political leadership — and among citizen-advocates in Market Street Railway and other organizations, that have brought San Francisco the F-line, the promise of the E-line, and enhanced cable car service.
Rick also invited those in the audience who share Market Street Railway’s view that Muni’s historic streetcars should be an even more important part of the city’s future to get involved as advocates for the streetcars, either by joining MSR or by acting independently to let city decision-makers know of their support. He said, “We especially welcome the involvement of a new generation of San Franciscans in helping us integrate the historic streetcars with better bicycle, pedestrian, and transit infrastructure, especially on the street where I grew up, Market Street.”
SPUR produced great videos explaining the work of each honoree. They tell their stories succinctly. Here are the links to the videos for Natalie Berg, Art Gensler, and Dale Minami.
The Silver SPUR award recipients this year, as in past years, demonstrate the many ways individuals can contribute to a better city. Congratulations to all of them.

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Congratulations, San Diego!

This week, they publicly unveiled San Diego’s new PCC streetcar. Here’s a video clip.
On August 27, the streetcar will start weekend service on a clockwise loop called the Silver Line around downtown, using the San Diego Trolley (light rail) tracks (that’s why it has to have that pantograph). The streetcar itself, No. 529, is an ex-Muni car, bought secondhand from St. Louis Public Service in 1957 and retired in 1982. (And yes, you sharp-eared ones, the TV reporter did make a mistake: confusing the year PCCs last ran in San Diego, 1949, with the year No. 529 was built, 1946.
Here’s an online story about the streetcar’s roll out in San Diego.
Congratulations to Harry Mathis, the driving force behind this initiative, project manager Dave Slater, and the whole team at San Diego Vintage Trolley for turning their dream into reality.
By the way, they’ve got five more PCCs awaiting restoration and hope to grow the service as resources allow, perhaps fulfilling Harry Mathis’ dream of restoring PCC service to Balboa Park, the most famous San Diego PCC destination.

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Toothpick Cable Car — and City

We admit it’s pretty peripheral to our historic transit preservation mission, but this video is worth a look for anyone who loves San Francisco. Scott Weaver certainly does. He’s the fellow who took 100,000 toothpicks and 35 years to create a kinetic sculpture of San Francisco. Complete with California Street cable car (admittedly a tiny part of the sculpture, but enough to give us an excuse to share this with you).

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Cargo Streetcar

Muni’s hunting for more revenue almost everywhere these days. Check out this video at about the two minute mark for an idea: cargo streetcars. Volkswagen moves parts to its Dresden factory on special cargo-carrying streetcars (trams to them). Maybe Muni could do the same…oh, wait, that’s right, we don’t have industry in San Francisco anymore. Never mind. 🙂
Thanks to MSR Member Roger Goldberg for the link.

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The Best Version of the Market Street Film Profiled on 60 Minutes

Did you see the story that was just on 60 Minutes about the now-famous “Trip Down Market Street” film? Although the film is more than a century old, a version of it with just an instrumental sound track suddenly starting spreading like wildfire on YouTube in 2008. That version has 1.8 million views right now, even though the film itself is so grainy and dirty you can’t see much detail. But thanks to archivist Rick Prelinger, who digitally restored the… — Read More

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Visualize This: Modern Streetcar Service in Downtown Los Angeles

As part of an effort to bring a streetcar line to Downtown Los Angeles, two LA filmmakers produced this tidy little video. It extols the economic and social benefits of streetcar service, and provides nifty computer-generated visualizations of what modern streetcars might look like operating in downtown LA. As an added bonus, the introduction to the video includes some nice historic footage of LA’s streetcar fleet before it was abandoned in 1963: Here’s the complete video:

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Truth about the “Trip Down Market Street” video on You Tube

How does a video suddenly “go viral” after more than a century?  Amazingly, we’re hearing from people all over the world, asking about a video (or more accurately, a film) made on Market Street that has gained 1,100,000 views on You Tube at this writing. Here’s the You Tube version — but it’s only a shadow of what we have. The film has been in the public domain for decades, but had always been thought to have been made in… — Read More

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Video: How to Replace a Streetcar Railbed (In 56 Hours)

Over the course of a few days last weekend, Muni replaced a large section of streetcar railbed around the intersection of 18th and Church streets near Dolores Park in San Francisco. The project is part of the J Church Improvement Project, but the vintage streetcars of the F Line will benefit as well, as they too traverse this stretch of rail while traveling to and from their base camp at the Geneva Yard. Happily, a few amateur infrastructuralists were on… — Read More

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Milano Nocturne

Muni tries to pull its Milan “Peter Witt” trams in from F-line service by 9:00pm because of community complaints about their noise. No such restrictions in their hometown. Check out this incredible parade of various Milan trams, from twins of Muni’s Milanos to the latest seven-truck supertram.

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