Chron: F-line “too popular for own good”

In his column today, Chuck Nevius of the Chronicle has essentially repeated a story the paper’s Carl Nolte wrote a couple of years ago: the F-Market & Wharves line attracts more riders than the streetcars can handle. (This just in…!)

Nevius quoted me out of context in the article (I’m shocked, SHOCKED!) when he seemed to suggest that Market Street Railway is in favor of doubling the streetcar count on the F-line. What I said was that the line had the structural capacity to run twice as many vehicles as now, but we’d have to see what the demand actually warranted — and we should look at measures to speed up operations as well, especially pre-paid fares and continuation and enforcement of the Muni only lanes all the way from Van Ness to Drumm on Market. The story is here.

Once again, scores of reader comments on the online version provide insight as to how San Franciscans view the F-line. A sampling:

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Comments: 10

  1. You guys can double the amount of cars on the F (well I’m aware there are 16 cars up for rehab), but what about the boeings? sure there’s no technology stuff like that and that it’s too modern, but it could hold up to double the capacity of a normal PCC, which might alleviate the crowds…

  2. Noticed you posted a similar comment on sfgate. First, wanted to make sure you and everyone else knows that MSR does not “control” the F-line if I remember your sfgate post wording correctly, especially in terms of adding LRVs to the line. That, like all operational calls, is part of Muni’s purview, not ours. Beyond that, though, the antipathy for the Boeings comes from Muni and from the Fisherman’s Wharf Association, which has made it clear since the planning days of the F-line they don’t want large streetcars [specifically the Boeings back then] on the Wharf streets. Biggest problem with the Boeings (and there are only two left on the property) is that they are now non-standard cars for Muni, with all kinds of odd first-generation electronic boards and components. Muni maintenance feels parts procurement would be a nightmare, making it very tough to keep them running. Other one-of-a-kind streetcars, like the Boat, are at least very simple in technology.

  3. @WWT
    Glad to see you here from the Flickr group.
    Don’t apologize. This is exactly the place for this kind of dialogue about all aspects of the F-line, and the cable cars for that matter. But Rick is right about the Boeings.
    That’s one of the thing’s that is so attractive about the PCCs — that they’re all basically built on the same standard, which makes their maintenance and operation much more palatable for Muni. We focus our advocacy on the most feasible solutions that can actually get accomplished.
    I wouldn’t say that’s the only reason that most of us aren’t interested in seeing the Boeings in any kind of regular service, but that’s the most practial reason.

  4. also, i have another question. other than the reason that 1040 is the last pcc car built in the united states, how come the other single-ended original muni cars aren’t being restored for service? i understand the E and that you guys don’t speak for the SFMTA…

  5. It’s about money. Not only are the double-end PCCs immediately usable on the E-line, they’re also the highest capacity unrestored cars Muni has, which is why they’re first. We fought to include 1040 because of its historic nature. But that’s all the money there was this round.
    As you may know, several years ago we bought from a private party and gave to Muni four of its ex-Baby Ten PCCs (same class as 1040). We’d like to see them restored. But we agree with Muni the largest cars (torpedoes) should be done first, and then the 16 first-generation F-line cars (1050-class plus 1007, 1010, and 1015) need to get overhauled after the intense service they’ve been through. If passenger demand warrants it, we would be first in line to advocate restoration of Muni’s remaining retired PCCs as needed — but money is a big issue.

  6. I noticed in the above comment by “jusher” that he or she assumed that the “Birmingham” car really is from that city. Several times I’ve had to gently correct some people’s impressions that 1061 ran on the Pacific Electric, although the PE PCC’s were double-ended air-electric cars and none have survived. Just a few days ago I was working on LA 3001, the “prototype” for the “LA Ry” paint job on 1052–the big irony here is that LA Ry had no all-electric PCC’s with standee windows. The closest LA cars to the ones in The City are the 1948 group that was bought by LA Transit Lines after the Huntington Estate sold the streetcar operation to the National City Lines subsidiary.
    A comment on the “native” Muni PCC’s: There was a saying in the late 70’s, when the Boeing LRV’s were supposed to have replaced the PCC’s–“If Muni ever runs out of duct tape and baling wire, it’s all over.” In other words, from all I’ve heard, the shop forces did the best they could with what they had, but the cars were not well maintained, and will need a lot of “fixin'” before they’re ready for 18-hour a day duty.

  7. Bob, just to note: we are rigorous in explaining, both on the cars themselves and in all our educational materials, exactly where the cars actually operated. We explain the history of the PCC and note that the cars are painted to HONOR the cities that operated them. But we’ve learned over the years that people see what they want to see. I’ve been in several discussions with visitors who look me in the eye and tell me I’m wrong when I gently say that particular car didn’t actually run in their town! As for the rebuilds of Muni PCCs, you are right. That’s why, with the double-enders, 1040, and other ex-Muni cars, both Muni and MSR have resisted calls to “slap some paint on them and stick ’em out there.” That’s the problem with the ex-Newark cars. When they arrived, Muni management of the day felt that because the cars had been well-maintained in Newark, with no street running and covered storage, they didn’t need to rewire them. That turned out to be incorrect and has delayed their getting to the street in a reliable way.

  8. I tried to explain to Mr. Nevius (who recently sent me a note apologizing for the butchering of our conversation about DPT tickets and MUNI because…well they fired a lot of people) that you can bitch all one likes about the F line but the fact is there are NOT any Bredas available to pick up the slack.
    The F line serves a tourist purpose and a local purpose, just as cable cars do. Plenty of folks rely on cable cars for shopping (no really!) and more to the point, whatever capacity issues MUNI has, it’s not the fault of MSR or the F line, there are bigger issues that need to be dealt with.
    My only semi-regret is that we don’t see an old street car on our Mighty N once in a while, but perhaps I shall charter one for my birthday later this month. 🙂

  9. MSR has proposed to Muni that — when sufficient cars are available — they occasionally run vintage cars on surface portions of LRV lines, ideally in support of neighborhood events. Problem with the N is that the wheelchair ramp at 9th and Judah, inbound, was misdesigned so that a few of the vintage cars won’t clear it. The response of Muni operations, when this problem was discovered more than a decade ago, was to ban ALL vintage cars from the N west of the switchback at Arguello Blvd. MSR would like to get that decision reviewed. Perhaps the N-Judah Chronicles could weigh in on it… As information, we know that the double-ended PCC “torpedoes” Nos. 1007, 1010, and 1015 won’t clear that ramp, we’re virtually sure that the two 1914 Muni cars, Nos. 130 and 162, won’t clear it, but we believe the 1050-class PCCs would, along with the Milans and several other cars. Tests would have to be done in the middle of the night to confirm. But with the continuing car shortage on the F-line itself, we haven’t pushed on this yet.

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