E-line Gets Going

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The E-line had a successful first day of operation August 1. Five double-end PCC streetcars cruised the waterfront from Fisherman’s Wharf to Caltrain from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., the standard weekend schedule that will be in place until full-time, seven-day-a-week service starts early next year.

The stations south of Market Street were very well marked with clearly worded signs and banners in multiple languages, created by SFMTA’s Communications Division. The signs, on both the low-level E-line side platforms and the high-level center platforms used by the light rail vehicles of the N-Judah and T-Third lines, directed people to the appropriate stop for the line they wanted.IMG_0198

People who had been given a brochure by an SFMTA ambassador or Market Street Railway volunteer docent (both there to help riders navigate the new line’s stops) climbed on board for a single-seat ride between South Beach and the Wharf, including the woman in the top photo of the post, who boarded at Brannan.

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Some cars took good-sized loads north from Caltrain, particularly those whose departures from Fourth and King Streets coincided with the hourly arrival of the Peninsula trains from San Jose. Others only carried a few people on the southern part of the line; not surprising as the word will take awhile to get out to people, and operating on weekends, in and of itself, is not a true test of the drawing power of the E-line. Market Street Railway considers this initial Saturday-Sunday operation “Spring Training in the Summer,” with the Regular Season arriving with seven-day service.

Even the cars that weren’t crowded on the southern part of the route, though, served an important purpose. When they joined the F-line tracks immediately south of the Ferry Building, they sucked up people from the packed platforms of the Ferry Terminal, many of them already having been passed up by jam-packed F-line cars heading north to the Wharf from Market Street. This has always been a key goal for the E-line: relieving the chronic overcrowding of the F-line on the northern Embarcadero, and it passed that test with flying colors its first day.IMG_0228

While the signage south of the Ferry was wonderful, signage was lacking at the southbound stops north of the Ferry, which now serve both the E- and F-lines. Some riders were confused, despite clear signage on the E-line cars themselves about the destinations along that line. Market Street Railway has recommended to SFMTA that signage be installed on those southbound combined stops as well (northbound combined stops don’t need it, since both E- and F-line cars go all the way to Jones and Beach Streets at the Wharf.

Market Street Railway’s Board chair, Bruce Agid, was on hand to monitor the day’s activities, along with MSR President Rick Laubscher, and numerous volunteer docents, coordinated by MSR Board member Katie Haverkamp. SFMTA’s operations team was led by Ed Cobean, who has handled the whole startup. Ed was on top of the few gaps in service that did develop (caused by what seemed to be more automobiles than usual interfering with the streetcars on Wharf streets — possibly related to the shutdown this weekend of the BART Transbay Tube). Generally, the 15-minute headways were kept pretty close. Cars on the line the first day were Nos. 1006 (painted in its original Muni Wings), 1007 (Philadelphia Red Arrow Lines), 1009 (Dallas), 1010 (Muni blue and gold), and 1011 (Market Street Railway tribute “zip stripe” livery.

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All in all, a good start for the E-line, made extra special with a bit of history. One of Market Street Railway’s longest serving members, attorney Will Flynn, became the first revenue passenger for regular E-line service when he boarded the first pullout joining the line from the Muni Metro East car house.  As he passed AT&T Park on that first trip, Will completed a double play. He was also the first passenger on the first regular service car on the permanent F-line, September 1, 1995!