E-line: Maybe Not ‘Eventually’

Eight years ago, at the opening celebration for the F-line extension to Fisherman’s Wharf, several Market Street Railway directors were discussing Muni’s delays in committing to start up the E-Embarcadero line. (The trackage for that line, from Fisherman’s Wharf to Caltrain, was just being completed along with the F-line extension.) The discussion was interrupted by a familiar voice saying, “You’ll get your E-line.” It was then-Mayor Willie Brown.

He might still be right, but not yet. What wags have started calling the ‘E-Eventually’ has seen its start-up delayed time after time. Operational costs have been one issue cited by Muni leaders. Another reason cited has been a shortage of vintage streetcars to serve the line, which may finally be addressed by the PCC renovations now seemingly poised to move forward.

Whatever the frustrations experienced in the past, the current leadership of the Municipal Transportation Agency, Muni’s parent, seems to be looking at a start-up date for regular E-line service in 2010. That target date comes from Julie Kirschbaum, who is helping lead MTA’s Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP). The TEP, still in draft form, calls for the largest overhaul of Muni service in more than a quarter-century, including elimination of a number of bus routes and service reductions on others, to provide capacity on core lines that carry the bulk of Muni passengers. (This latter category includes the F-line, which would receive more frequent service every day under the draft plan.) The draft plan also proposes new service in developing neighborhoods, particularly Mission Bay and South Beach. The E-line fits into this category.

In a briefing, Kirschbaum told Market Street Railway leaders that the
E-line is needed to absorb unmet demand on the northern Embarcadero
that the current overcrowded F-line cannot accommodate, even with the
additional shuttles added between the Wharf and Ferry Building. With
numerous high-rise and mid-rise residential developments coming online
in Rincon Hill, South Beach, and the northern edge of Mission Bay,
demand for trips along the waterfront will certainly increase. Proposed
additional attractions along The Embarcadero, such as an expanded
cruise ship terminal and relocation of the Exploratorium, would only
exacerbate the streetcar overcrowding.

pcc-progress-2.jpg

1948 Muni PCC No. 1006, shown here last year in storage, is one of four additional double-end cars that need to be renovated in order to provide an initial fleet for the E-line. Market Street Railway photo.

Currently, only double-end cars can be used on the E-line, due to the
lack of turnaround capability for single-end cars at the south end of
the line. This is the prime reason for restoring four more double-end
PCCs. Until they arrive, though, the potential E-line fleet is limited
to the three currently operational double-end PCCs and four operable
all-weather historic cars (Muni “Iron Monster” nos. 130 & 162, Melbourne tram no. 496, and New Orleans “Desire” streetcar no. 952).
Allowing for spares and projected F-line needs, that seven-car fleet
would limit the practical number of daily runs to four or five,
requiring headways of at least 12-15 minutes between cars.

But even with the four extra double-end PCCs, the E-line fleet would be
constrained. Given how much the demand could grow, either restoration
of additional double-end vintage cars with high capacity or a
single-end terminal at the south end of the line seems essential.
Market Street Railway continues to advocate for both.

Fort Mason progress

Meantime, work continues on an environmental impact statement (EIS) for
an extension of historic streetcar service from the current Fisherman’s
Wharf terminal eight-tenths of a mile west to historic Fort Mason
Center, using a 1914 freight railroad tunnel running underneath the
former army post from the foot of Van Ness Avenue to Laguna Street. The
preferred route runs westbound one block on Jefferson, then one block
south on Leavenworth to Beach, thus bypassing the current F-line
terminal and allowing for separate terminals for the E and F, an
important operating feature. The westbound extension would then run on
Beach Street until it dead-ends past Polk, then angle through San
Francisco Maritime National Historical Park to reach the 1,000-foot
tunnel, which by necessity would be the only single-track portion of
the extension, controlled by signals and safety interlocks. The return
trip from Fort Mason would follow the same routing back to Leavenworth,
then stay on Beach Street one more block to join the current F-line
line at Jones. At the west end of the tunnel, a variety of turnaround
arrangements is being considered.

The draft EIS is scheduled for completion in early 2009. After
public comment and adoption of the environmental document, final design
and construction could move forward promptly if funding arrangements
can be completed.

The Market Street Railway Blog will keep you posted on new details as they emerge.

Comments: 2

  1. It seems to me the E line should use Jones to Beach and the F Line terminus should be on Leavenworth. That would give the F better penetration into Fisherman’s area and relieve pressure from the E for passengers to/from such places as Maritime Park.
    The E Line should go to the Palace of Fine Arts, but I know that is just a dream that won’t be financed.

  2. Dale,
    If the E-Line gets extended any further, I’d like to see it go all the way to the Presidio with perhaps a loop around the parade grounds. I don’t think they’ve found a successor to fill the Palace after the Exploratorium move to the Embarcadero yet, but I don’t see any single attraction can make that a successful terminal because it’s just too far from everything else. The parade grounds would still serve the Palace along the way and gets you pretty close to the Bridge and Crissy Field (and a clear view of both once Doyle Drive is rebuilt) along with any attractions the Presidio manages to draw with the renovations they’re working on.
    As for F-Line short turns at Pier 39, it would fix that problem with cars filling up at the first couple stops before they get back there, but only by cutting F-Line service to Jones & Beach and Mason & Beach.
    That doesn’t address the demand for more capacity and face it, the mostly tourist crowd, will still be waiting at Jones or Mason except now if they are heading towards Union Square they’re going to have to transfer to an F-Line car. And we can figure they will probably end up transferring at the last shared stop at the Ferry Building where there’s already enough delays and confusion among tourists before adding the complexity of two different streetcar lines heading in different directions.

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