E-Embarcadero Line Service for Sunday Streets


Car No. 1 on E-line tracks at Folsom, 2001. Rick Laubscher photo.

Thanks to an initiative by Market Street Railway, there will be demonstration service on the E-Embarcadero line from Caltrain to Fisherman’s Wharf in conjunction with upcoming city events. Not only that, but rides will be free!

On Sunday, August 31, from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, two or more vintage streetcars will run on the E-line in conjuction with the Sunday Streets San Francisco program which closes northbound traffic lanes from the Bayview District to Chinatown along a number of waterfront streets to allow for various activities.

The vintage cars to be used haven’t been chosen at this writing, but they have to be double-ended, so they’ll be selected from among the three double-end PCCs and available vintage cars (sadly, the Boat Tram doesn’t count because — to gain ADA accessibility — only one side’s door is usable).

Then, on Sunday, September 14, from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, E-line cars will return to the route for eight hours of operation, covering the second Sunday Streets program in the morning and the neighborhood fair for the South Beach-Rincon Hill-Mission Bay Neighborhood Association, which occurs between 1:00 and 4:00 pm on the Bay side of The Embarcadero between Pier 40 and McCovey Cove.

Muni will use the days to evaluate various aspects of E-line street operation to aid in planning for the permanent line start up, now planned no sooner than 2010, when adequate numbers of vehicles will be available for full-time operation.

Come out both days for the free rides, and support the E-line!

We want to hear from you! Send us your photos and stories from your day on the E-line, and we’ll select a few to publish on the blog. Contributions from members and guests are always welcome.


Comments: 26

  1. I still don’t know why the E can’t turn around at the Metro East Yard since there’s a somewhat functioning loop at Cesar Chavez, but boarding along 3rd street wouldn’t be feasible, they would only board at the front…then single-ended streetcars can be used on the E!

  2. Technically possible but is more than three miles roundtrip from Caltrain. Lot of wasted time and cost to do that.

  3. Why 2010? How can we even make sure that is an accurate start date?
    Will I live to see this completed? I bet in another year it’ll be pushed back to 2020.

  4. @thamsenman: Muni’s too cheap to restore the cars then, they said they were going to start up in 06, but with lots of fails and most streetcars not ADA, as well as budget constraints and the TEP, it won’t be on until 2010. If it does get pushed back until 2020, then well…bull.

  5. Typical Muni…host a PR event and not do any PR for the PR event. Let’s face it, MUNI needs to stop shining their bells and blowing their whistles to focus on the daily experience of those of us depend on them.

  6. @shut up and drive
    This is not really a PR event so much as a simple demonstration service (besides, who needs Muni to do PR when you’ve got the MSR Blog!).
    Call me an optimist, but I really don’t think that running two streetcars on two Sundays over the period of a year is going to have the huge effect on the quality of Muni operations that you seem to envision.


  8. Actually, I understood your point perfectly. I don’t disagree that Muni needs to focus on improving operations, and Market Street Railway fights harder for that than you know. But running two whole cars in special service on two whole Sundays has zero negative impact on the system, and has absolutely nothing to do with F-line, bus, or Metro service levels.
    And STOP WITH THE CHILDISH SHOUTING… if you want to have a civil discussion about Muni’s historic transit operations, then this is the place. If you’re looking for a flame war, go somewhere else.

  9. @ shut up and drive
    Since when does a commenter posting his own views make a blog an apologist for the institution it focuses on? If you want to criticize MSR blog posts as “a Muni apology line”, fine. Fact is, MSR has advocated strongly for faster startup of E-line service since just after the F-line opened to the Wharf. Our record on that is very clear. We were the ones who have pushed and pushed for more vintage cars, and to get them restored properly, which was and remains the critical path item to getting the E-line running. When Muni has screwed up, which it has at several points along the way, we have said so directly, but always with an eye toward finding a solution, rather than just whining. We absolutely welcome support, whether as members of MSR or as independent advocates, from people who are willing to take positive action, by writing MTA Board members, SFMTA boss Nat Ford, the Mayor, etc., and saying you want to see the E-line start up sooner rather than later. As for the other Muni operations you talk about (beyond the F-line and E-line), I personally agree, but we keep the focus here on supporting vintage operation.

  10. @s.u.a.d.
    Sorry, I thought you were shouting … that caused me to read your comment as being a lot more antagonistic than I think it was intended to be.
    We’re all of a like mind here. We all want to see service improve, particularly on the F-line. In fact, Market Street Railway is going to present their specific recommendations for improving F-line service in their next member newsletter, and MSR and Muni leadership meet regularly to discuss exactly that.
    That being said, we think we can have the E-line too.
    And there’s nothing wrong with a little positive PR … quite the opposite. PR is what cultivates interest and awareness among the public and the media, drives the financial and political support to organizations like MSR that work behind the scenes, and ultimately results in the allocation of public funding which is critical to improving service throughout Muni.

  11. So who is responsible for these E-line endless delays? SFMTA and the mayor? The reason why this project has endless delays is because no one assumes accountability for completing this project, so basically….deadlines mean nothing.
    Does Muni hold any sort of community meetings or anything where this issue can be addressed? This line should be up by now. I will write to all those people you mentioned asking for this line to go up, but what else can I do?
    Also, another minor tangential question, why are E, F not considered part of the Metro system? They are light rail..

  12. Basically, SFMTA is responsible. Until the current leadership (Nat Ford, etc.) took over, there wasn’t much interest. The previous Executive Director, Michael Burns, had his hands full with the huge job of starting to turn that dysfunctional place around. Burns did a good job in my opinion (at the expense of his own health), which has given Ford a higher baseline to work from. At the same time, the mid-level planners and bureaucrats have run out of excuses. “We need more cars (restoration of which they then bungled and is now being fixed). “We can’t risk more streetcars on the southern Embarcadero until we get the T-line started up.” (Another bungled piece of planning, since straightened out by countermanding the planners and changing the line’s operation so it actually works.) Still lots of shortcomings all across Muni, but I personally believe this is finally going to happen.
    In terms of where the E and F fit into the “Metro” system, the only definition that matters now under the new Transit Enhancement Project is whether they’re classified as part of the “Rapid” system, which is slated for more $$$$ in the future, or part of the “Local” system. Some of those same planners who have stalled things with the E classified both the E and the F as “Local lines” in the first draft, even though the F clearly met EVERY criterion they laid out for “Rapid” qualification, and the E appeared to as well. MSR and some allies protested this vigorously, and in the latest draft, they’re categorized as “Rapid” lines along with all 6 Muni Metro lines (J, K, L, M, N, T) and several trunk bus lines.
    Community meetings on this are a good idea. Ask for them in your letters. We’ll talk to our South Beach-Rincon Hill-Mission Bay allies as well on this. Thanks for the suggestion.
    In terms of what else you can do, we’d welcome members (existing or new) who would like to help lead our organization on these kinds of issues. So to all who read this entry, we’d love to have your help.

  13. While the Boat will not be operating on the E tomorrow, we (Run 172) have every intention of having it on the regular F-Shuttle (Ferry to Wharf).
    ps: every modern device I’ve used to access the internet (phones, computers, etc) defaults to lower case, and setting to all caps requires at least one extra keystroke. Even if your device defaults to upper case, as a courtesy to the internet, where ALL CAPS is interpreted as shouting or yelling, usually by a newbie, please set your device to lower case.

  14. Let me know if you can arrange a community meeting around this or bring it up somewhere, I’ll gladly attend to show my support.
    I remember Gavin Newsom used to have some sort of community meetings through ActLocally SF but I’m not sure that’s around anymore. That would be a good area to bring this up.
    Another offbeat couple question: Has anyone brought up the idea of expanded (controversial I know) cable car routes? I’ve been curious about that for a while but haven’t found a forum to ask. Like maybe extending the California line or reintroducing B-Geary or another old route? It isn’t MSR’s PCC-style route but its still a historical railway and adds character to the city. I would think that there would be community support for it but I have heard MUNI has a hard time making money on the cable cars.

  15. Maybe running two cars from the Wharf to Caltrain on two Sundays won’t make that much difference is how well Muni runs during the morning rush on Tuesday, but I remember coming to The City back in Oct. 1987 (en route to Portland to ride their new light rail service) and riding the two single-truckers (Porto 189 or 122, and MSRy 578) on the old State Belt track with the help of diesel generators. Just a small test operation, but it was the precursor of today’s service.

  16. @ thamesnman – yes, expanded cable car routes have been talked about ever since they were last cut back in 1954. For all the background on that cutback, click the list in the blog’s right-hand nav bar on “complete archive,” then select “2004.06.01: 1954: Bitter loss.” We’ll start a discussion on cable car extensions with some background to foster discussion.
    By the way, the B-Geary was a streetcar, not a cable car, but there has also been constant talk about restoring streetcar service on that street since the line was turned over to buses in 1956.

  17. Historic streetcars should not share the N and T tracks south of market. There are enough problems running the two lines on this segment on a daily basis. Perhaps E-line service can be considered on weekends to serve the tourists, but during the week let’s keep the focus on commuters. I love the historic fleet. It adds a beautiful sense of nostalgia to the city. However, let’s be honest…I don’t rely on the F-line as a means to get from home to work. I have a hard enough time dealing with the hassles and delays of 5 MUNI lines converging in one tunnel.

  18. can’t you guys advocate for extending california cable car to like, west of presidio somewhere and maybe have them reintroduce the B as a hybrid route (historic and regular streetcar, but could cause meltdown problems)?

  19. @ Whole Wheat Toast — We advocate for the highest priority projects of our members, provided the advocates are willing to work hard on the project themselves, instead of just making a suggestion and expecting others to carry the ball.
    And the fact is, I can’t recall a member ever advocating extension of the Cal cable. Others have dreamed of it, but no one seems to be willing to do more than dream.
    As for the B-Geary, well, all the rail advocates in this town put together have not been able to move the needle on that, even for LRV service. The Richmond merchants have them stymied. Adding historic streetcars to the proposal won’t improve the chances of streetcars on Geary, probably the opposite.

  20. There’s a website called “transbay blog” that has had quite a discussion of rail service on Geary Blvd in the past week or so. It cited a 1936 plan to convert the streetcar line into a subway and asked whether it’s an idea whose time has finally arrived; one respondent commented on how the merchants along Geary would probably take a dim view of the disruptions caused by subway construction. Then there’s the fundamental problem of money; all but the really wealthy are feeling squeezed on all sides at this time, and a bond issue would probably not be welcomed with open arms (and “yes” votes).
    As far as extending “CalCable”, Muni may have enough double-ended cable cars, but finding gripmen and conductors could be a problem, and we’d have the “construction disruption” and money problems here too. This is one of the reasons why many of the new light-rail lines are built on abandoned or lightly-used railroad rights-of-way–much less interference with people’s everyday lives. (Consider that the “F” line is a combination of a long-standing streetcar line and a route that had been used by the State Belt RR in the pre-container-cargo days.)

  21. Rick,
    You are right. We hear a lot of dreams, talk and not enough action and hardwork.
    I am willing to do hard work to get the California line extended. What do we do? Start a petition for a ballot initiative for an earmarked tax-hike for these projects? Let’s try to set something up and be proactive.
    I am not the only one sick of having the city locked in gridlock and anguish about transit projects because of NIMBYism and anticommons issues.
    Let’s have some sort of discussion or forum or meeting on Market Street Railway about cable car extension/return of B-Geary/more light rail routes. Then let’s move forward on getting something real on the city ballot.

  22. I think this is why the Central Subway is actually going forward. Like the Central Subway or not, Chinatown is far more receptive to development and transit projects than the Richmond/Geary crowd.

  23. @thamsenman: I would like to sign it!
    @rick: how surprising. Maybe it might be interesting to extend the california line, so that way more tourists would ride it, instead of riding the 1 and probably more people would go to the legion of honor!
    I would like to host webspace on looking into possible extensions of the california cable line to…eh…probably Presidio at the farthest and possibly into the richmond someplace.

  24. @ Whole Wheat Toast: I’ll start a thread on this in the next couple of days. There are some technical limitations to the cable car technology in terms of extension length, and more than that, there are enormous potential NIMBY issues to consider on any route. But let me start a thread before we all hijack this one. Thanks.

  25. @Rick
    I’ll be eagerly awaiting that thread too.
    There will always be enormous NIMBY issues, and in my view they will only get worse and the project will only get more expensive (right of way, etc) unless we do something and plan for the future now.

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