E is NOT for Excellent This Weekend

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After three weeks without the E-Embarcadero streetcars, they came back this weekend. Sort of.

The E-line, which currently runs weekends only from 10 a.m.-7 p.m., was scrubbed during the Super Bowl period. Its tracks weren’t blocked (unlike the Market Street portion of the F-line), but Muni operations felt that the extra service they planned on the N and T lines would conflict with the E-line, so they dinged it.

Yesterday, the E’s first day back, service was crippled because two of the five scheduled operators called in sick. Muni has an ample “extra board” of operators in all divisions to cover this common occurrence, but every one of the extra board operators was sent out to drive an F-line bus instead.  (The F-line was “bustituted” this weekend.)

This left three E-line streetcars to cover the entire route on Saturday, February 13. And that wasn’t just a normal day — it was the Giants’ FanFest at AT&T Park, an annual event that draws tens of thousands of visitors. The E-line is supposed to run every 15 minutes.  With only three cars, gaps of 45 minutes were common. Sometimes even longer. Around Noon, all three E-line cars were on the south 20 percent of the line (below Brannan Street), leaving no service between there and Fisherman’s Wharf. (Update: Sunday was better. All five E-line runs made it to the street.)

We don’t know why Muni chose to cut E-line service Saturday when they should know that F-line demand goes down when buses substitute for streetcars. The F-line would have been fine if they ran 15 buses yesterday instead of 17.  That would have been a 12% reduction in F-line capacity, as opposed to the 40% reduction in E-line capacity from the switch.

The de facto E-line service cut came one day after Market Street Railway leaders met with top SFMTA operations and planning staff to discuss seven-day service on the E-line, now slated to begin in late April. While those events aren’t directly connected, it does point up the need for a clear commitment on SFMTA Operations’ part to ensuring the scheduled service actually reaches the street.  The E-line cannot succeed when the streetcars don’t show up…which unfortunately has been a regular occurrence on the E.

We will continue to work closely with SFMTA to improve reliability of E-line service.