F-line Buses, No E-line Labor Day Weekend

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Suddenly, unexpectedly, with only two days notice to business and community stakeholders, including Market Street Railway, Muni’s parent, SFMTA, says it will replace all F-line streetcars this Labor Day Weekend with buses.

Last weekend, Muni put out a notice that E-Embarcadero service this Labor Day Weekend would not operate, but there was no mention of the F-line switch.

The stated reason for the “bustitution” of the F-line on virtually no notice is that construction work is going on at Fourth and King Streets. They’ll be putting in new “special work” — switches and crossings — to create a connection to the new Central Subway, scheduled to open in 2019.

We have been told that Muni’s construction division knew they were going to do this for at least six months, but that Muni Operations only learned about it a couple of weeks ago. The work involves taking one of the two tracks on King Street out of service at the intersection of Fourth.  The N-Judah and T-Third light rail lines run through that intersection, as well as the E-line historic streetcars on weekends. Muni has hurriedly slapped together a temporary boarding platform on King, have cut back the T-line trains to end at the Fourth and Berry T-line station, and will run the N’s in and out of the Caltrain Station at Fourth and King on a single track.

Did we mention there’s a Billy Joel concert that will bring 40,000 people to AT&T Park on Saturday night, in the middle of all this?

With just a single track going through the intersection, Muni planning and operations people apparently decided at the last minute that they didn’t want the F-Market cars going through there as well, on their way to and from their car barn down the T-line. But the thing is, the F-line has been physically cut off from the car barn on several occasions due to past construction. In each case, Muni successfully stored the F-line streetcars overnight on The Embarcadero, between Mission and Folsom Streets.  They could have done that for Labor Day weekend too, but they didn’t.  We don’t know why.

Market Street Railway has already heard howls of outrage from merchants along the F-line who are furious both about the bustitution on what is one of the busiest visitor weekends of the year for many of them — and equally furious about the total lack of notification that would have allowed them to plan.

Market Street Railway has shared its objections to this precipitous move with SFMTA leadership. We believe it disrespects a wide range of stakeholders and shows no concern for both the visitor industry and the many businesses that believe having streetcars, not buses, on the F-line is important, especially on a key sales weekend.

Compare the way BART has gotten the word out about its Labor Day Weekend Transbay Tube shutdown. Decisions made and understood within the BART organization months in advance, providing their staff time to get the word out repeatedly. Clear and consistent messaging that gave the public easy-to-understand options,and plenty of time to make alternative arrangements.

Not much of a comparison, actually.